The Avengers (w/ spoilers)


I saw THE AVENGERS yesterday with my son. He loved it, naturally, and so did I. While we waited for the bus home, I asked him which Avenger he would most like to be (a sure way to tell which he that was the most awesome) and his answer, after a moment’s thought, was Hawkeye.

Hey, who could argue with that? Or with a kid pretend-shooting arrows at all sorts of unlikely targets as we walked home.

Here are my thoughts on the movie: (Spoilers behind the cut)

Things I didn’t like:

I’m not sure there’s a way to do Captain America’s uniform in a way that would look good in a movie. This was maybe the best possible version of it they could do, but it still doesn’t look right for much of the film. It’s that mask. The mask just doesn’t fly.

Samuel L. Jackson is pretty disappointing as Nick Fury. There are few moments where he seems particularly tough or commanding. Jesus, can’t he put a little energy into it?

Too many villains. Tom Hiddleson is genuinely excellent as Loki, but there’s an alien warlord behind him pulling his strings (let me say that again: pulling Loki’s strings) by giving him gear and soldiers, and that warlord has another Big Bad beyond that. Worse, many of the villain scenes are so dark that I couldn’t really make out the chain of command.

But Loki as someone else’s pawn? It just doesn’t work. There should have been a plot point where Loki manipulated things so he took control of the alien army for himself, cutting out the shadowy behind the scenes villains.

Thor’s accent. I’m the last person in the world to judge an accent in a movie, but was he doing British Guy or something?

Things I liked:

Yes, a lot of people are praising Mark Ruffalo’s performance (it’s very odd and affecting–he made a lot of terrific choices as Bruce Banner) but it was Scarlett Johanssen who knocked her performance out of the park. She played her scenes with a natural realism that made the other actors (who all did a fine job) seem almost mannered.

I’m glad they bumped off Agent Coulson. Yes, he was an audience favorite, but if the villain only kills faceless extras, I’m not going to be particularly caught up in the story. His death was well set up and genuinely powerful. Thanks, Joss. Don’t listen to the haters.

Every other performance. Chris Evans looks too young to be Captain America, as far as I’m concerned, but when he’s actually playing the part I believe him. Accent aside, Chris Hemsworth brings a believable complexity to his scenes with Loki, trying to get his brother to wake the hell up and return to the family even when it’s clear to everyone else that Loki doesn’t see that as an option. And Robert Downey Jr. has the best role of all of them: snarky, clever, and when they shoot the fight scenes he just has to act with a hood pulled over his head; the cgi does all the running, punching and falling over.

And Jeremy Renner could bring back action movies.

Why it worked:

It was funny without being cloying, mean, or condescending. What’s more, it was the character interplay and dialog that carried the humor. There’s something very appealing to witty people.

The superhero characters all had personal moments with each other. Masks may be great in comics, but in a movie I want to see the actor’s face. More importantly, the scenes between the characters had weight. There was conflict and connection between them, especially between Stark and Banner. It was really nicely played.

The action sequences were genuinely fun. Seeing Captain America jump and climb around on the ruined Helicarrier at 30,000 was genuinely tense, and so was the fight between Hawkeye and Black Widow. What’s more, the fights were paced nicely, were shot with a sense of place, were not nausea-inducing with the shaky cam, and the cgi was more than passible. What’s more, the violence walked that careful line between genuinely threatening and Too Much. (That’s harder than it looks, says the Too Much Guy)

Yeah, people have been talking about these characters as corporate properties, which they are. Why worry about the fate of a hero who has sequels already in pre-production, right? But I’d like to know how that’s different from any big studio movies? Does anything think Captain Jack Sparrow is likely to take a sword in the gut and die screaming? That Marty McFly might fall out of his Delorean as a smoking skeleton? Sure, secondary characters die all the time, but the hero?


It’s a good movie. It’s even better the second time. And I want to try shawarma, too.