A huge percentage of folks have probably already seen this film this weekend, based on the record smashing boxoffice it produced. For a change, I honestly feel the earnings are well deserved. And despite the number of reviews and how many have seen it, I’m still going to go through some of my impressions, as much to express my relief at its success and to capture at least some of my thoughts, “just ’cause.”
I have to admit, I dreaded the arrival of this movie for many reasons. There was a several year lead-up that started with Iron Man. Multiple Hulks. And, far from least, the opportunity (and inherent danger) for Joss Whedon to show what he really can do with a movie. While long respected as a script doctor, he has never had the respect as a film maker from Hollywood.
As it turns out, I didn’t have to stress a thing. The movie is a near perfect balance of action, comedy, adventure, suspense, effects, and pacing. I’d venture to say it also a near perfect movie, but as genre, that isn’t likely to ever be acknowledged. Much like Serenity, which fewer of this weekend’s viewers have seen, the power of the story and the characters plays past all genre boundaries. It is simply great story telling and entertainment. As a side note, I hope it has the same level of commentary on the disc that Serenity had, which was the best lessons in film making crammed into 90 minutes that you’ll ever hear.
Whedon had a huge challenge with this installment of the franchise. The other films had one or two origin/introduction stories to tell (the hero’s and, at times, the villain’s). And they were all told well. For The Avengers, there were 3: Black Widow, Hawkeye, and The Avengers team itself.
While much of the cast are returnees from the previous releases, there are several new introductions and cast members to provide new foils. Most notably was Ruffalo’s Banner/Hulk, filling those big green shoes that have been handed down twice now. While I really liked Norton in the previous installment, Ruffalo tapped into those aspects that Bixby created and that are lacking in the previous 2 actor’s performances. And, he managed that connection without mimmicing Bixby’s mannerisms or voice, only taking on his truths.
Renner has proved many times in the last years, he is a solid and compelling performer. He is quickly becoming a go-to guy for major action with Mission Impossible just behind him and Bourne coming up later this summer. However, the biggest surprise performance was Johansson. I have never found her a very compelling actor. Something always feels off to me whether in Match Point, The Prestige, Vicky Christina Barcelona, well, frankly, anything she’s done. However, as Black Widow, she is solid and perfectly directed. She exudes control and confidence while never losing the sensuality that is her trademark.
The only weak link in the entire cast for me was Cobie Smulders (from How I Met Your Mother), as agent Hill. The issue for me was really her voice. Her choices, intelligence, and physicality were perfectly fine, but her voice felt at odds; it is just a bit too high in timber and weak in force for that character. Every time she spoke, it pulled me out of the film. Fortunately, she didn’t have that large a role and I’m hoping she will improve for the inevitable sequel.
The summer movie season has officially kicked off with a bang and promises great things… but I’d hate to be anything that follows. Even with all the anticipation for the new Spiderman, the finale for the Dark Knight, the return of Men in Black, and even the resurrection of Alien in Prometheus, this is going to be one hell of an act to follow. The Avengers may or may not herald the peak of the super-hero craze in Hollywood. Perhaps it all goes down from here, but I wouldn’t have missed this view for anything. It’s been a long time since a movie has taken me on such a great ride; many of my fellow audience did laugh and cheer and applaud–I was right there with them.