REVIEW: The Avengers save the world & save the comic book movie at the same time
To start with, this article is going to contain numerous spoilers towards the Avengers film (or Avengers Assemble as it is known in the United Kingdom. However for the purposes of this article I shall continue to refer to it as The Avengers). Since the film does not go on general release until next week in the United States. If you are among those who are trying to avoid the film. Then it would do best to ignore whatever I am about to say.
From the beginning comic book movies have always been something of a curious sort. Mostly the attempts to translate from comic book to the big screen have most often resulted in failure due to a director’s incompetence to adapt the story or the hype not being able to live up to the fanbase.
The only comic book movies I have seen that have lived up to the hype, mythos and background of its source material have been Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies. Since the day of its release I have always held Batman Begins as the definitive comic book movie adaptation. So yesterday after viewing the Avengers movie. Batman Begins was replaced at the top of the pile.
Before I go on about the Avengers. A little bit of comic book movie history. Marvel Studios have in recent months turned things around when it comes to the movie adaptations of some of their most popular titles. The line of movies which I have taken to call the Avengers Initiative consist of 6 movies and 2 short films. These films have successfully relaunched Marvel after a while of lagging behind.
This is not to say that they are not without fault. The X-Men movies are still a complete mess. X-Men: First Class may have delivered in the money but there were so many continuity problems and errors that the list was almost endless. It is a huge shame though since X-Men 1 and 2 were almost faultless when it came to the story adaptation and character telling. Things went completely overboard when X-Men 3: The Last Stand was released. Such a complete mess it was that I walked out on the film at the cinema. Only twice that has happened (the other time you will hear about shortly). X-Men:Origins – Wolverine was only bearable because it had Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine to keep it going. X-Men First Class failed on so many levels to successfully reboot the X-Men franchise that the only way it can continue would be to do another reboot and hand the reigns over to someone who knows what they are doing. There is not much chance of this happening since X-Men Origins – Wolverine 2 is on its way and will no doubt continue to run roughshod over X-Men comic history. I still don’t understand why they keep using Magneto as the main villian when there is such a wealth of villains to be used. The biggest name is of course Apocalypse, but there is also Mr Sinister, the Sentinels and too many others to list.
The Amazing Spider-Man is due for release soon as the next attempt to reboot the Spider-Man franchise after the abysmal Spider-Man 3 which was the other film I had walked out on. In fact I often refer to Spider-Man 3 as the that Batman movie which i will not name and featured George Clooney. They made the stupid mistake of taking 3 villains and trying to fit them all into the 2 hour film. On top of that they also took one of the most famous characters from the comic books, namely Venom, then just turned him into a moron (again, shadows of that Batman film which i shall not name and their version of Bane). The Amazing Spider-Man is an unknown quantity to me at the moment. I’m willing to give it the benefit of the doubt but i’m not expecting much. Perhaps by not expecting anything, they will be able to deliver the goods.
This all brings me to the Avengers Initiative movies. Beginning back in 2008 with Iron Man. Robert Downey Jr. showed to be perfect casting as the flawed playboy Tony Stark. This was then followed by an Incredible Hulk movie, an Iron Man sequel, Thor and finally Captain America. What makes these movies work, is the fact that they are all existing within the same shared universe. That is, events in one film are being reflected in others with Samuel L Jackson and his S.H.I.E.L.D organization being the glue and thread that brings them all together. It was only a matter of time until they would all come together.
The Avengers is a true masterpiece of the comic book medium coming together with the visual medium of movie making. Joss Whedon was the perfect choice to be the one masterminding it all. Not only is he responsible for the tv shows Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel and Firefly. But he also worked with Marvel in the past to launch the Astonishing X-Men comic book and bringing Colossus back from the dead. His experience shows and he allows each character and actor to bring all of the elements that made their films remarkable. Robert Downey jr. is as always perfect playing Tony Stark. In some of the scenes he steals the show, the way he tries to make Bruce Banner angry. The Incredible Hulk’s Edward Norton was replaced in the Avengers film by Mark Ruffalo. Typically a cast replacement is a warning sign to me. However within moments of his first appearance in the Avengers it was more of a case of “Ed who?” Chris Evans continues to play Steve Rogers perfectly and Chris Hemsworth’s Thor is still perfect. Jeremy Renner is given a lot more screentime after a small appearance in Thor as Clint Barton’s Hawkeye. Scarlett Johansson is as always at her best, although I could not help but think that she was slightly out of her element. With Thor’s Hammer, Stark’s Tech, Capt’s Shield, Hawkeyes arrows and Hulk’s brute strength. She felt a bit underpowered when wielding two pistols. However she does play the character so well, especially when she manages to work out Loki’s scheme on the S.H.I.E.L.D Heli-Carrier.
Joining them are Cobie Smulders as Maria Hill, Nick Fury’s second in command. Clark Gregg returns as the ever lovable Agent Phil Coulson as well as Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury. This does lead into my one small annoyance with the Avengers. Joss Whedon frequently has the habit of killing of popular characters and when Agent Coulson is killed by Loki. It is incredibly annoying. Mostly because I had grown to like the character so much since his first appearance in Iron Man. I had hoped that Coulson would continue to appear in future movies.
To say one character steals the show completely in the film would be an lie. There are scenes where each character is awesome. The fight between the Hulk and Thor is jaw-droppingly amazing, Iron Man’s entrance to the fight between Captain America and Loki with AC/DC playing in the background is enough to raise a cheer. On top of this there are moments which are comic book fans dream. The closing punch with the Hulk against Thor in New York’s Grand Central Terminal and the Hulk using Loki as a ragdoll in Stark Tower are the first moments that spring to mind. However there is so much more and it would just simply take too long to list them all.
Going ahead into the future, the closing scenes hint at who the Avengers will face next. It was also one of the rare moments that i yelled “HOLY F**KING S**T!” in a cinema because of who is featured at the end. The story doesn’t end for the individual Avenger’s films either. Iron Man 3 goes into production in a few weeks. Jon Faverau being replaced by Shane Black and Ben Kingsely apparently coming on board as the villain. Early reports suggest that the film is going to be based upon the Iron Man: Extremis Storyline. The Incredible Hulk 2 and Captain America 2 will follow soon with Mark Ruffalo and Chris Evans each returning for their respective characters. and Thor 2 can’t be that far behind. To top this off there are rumours of a Scarlett Johansson Black Widow spin off and who knows what may end up being added to the Avengers Initiative storyline.
For Comic book fans, Marvel is forging ahead and the future looks very bright.