Some scattered thoughts on “The Avengers”

by Sonny Bunch on May 7, 2012

Spoiler-free (mostly) until the jump; after that you’re on your own.

  • First—and perhaps most importantly—I enjoyed it a great deal. It’s an extremely fun picture with a surprising amount of humor and the perfect smattering of whiz-bang, yippie-ki-yay action sequences. I highly recommend it.
  • I (begrudgingly) saw it in 3D; it was fine. The only time I’m actually impressed by the 3D effect (here and elsewhere) are in sequences in which people are using those translucent, Minority Report-style touch screens. The extra depth of field gives them an intense realness that is lacking in 2D. You saw the same thing at work in Avatar, in the sequences where the corporate stooges were in their control center trying to figure out how to best rape the land and murder the noble savages, or whatever. Is that worth an extra $3 and the risk of a splitting headache? Probably not.
  • I’d recommend seeing Thor before watching The Avengers. It’s the only of these movies I hadn’t seen and, um, I was a little lost at times. Fortunately my background in geekery has left me with a basic understanding of Loki, Asgard, et cetera, but still. Even I had trouble picking up what was going on at times.
  • It’s not quite as tightly plotted as, say, The Dark Knight. (But then, what is?) Apparently Nick Fury has a boss in the form of a shadowy cabal of jerks headed by Powers Boothe. Who are these people? Are they government officials? What’s their role with SHIELD? Is this something that was answered in Thor? They’re just kind of thrown out there as a deus ex machina to ratchet up the tension/provide a solution in the final epic battle sequence (more on that below the jump).
  • At two-point-five hours, it’s long, but it doesn’t feel bloated. The whole Black Widow/Hawkeye subplot probably could have been lost, but whatever; as far as extraneous characters go, they weren’t too bad. And Marvel needs to set them up for their own spinoffs because you can never have too many huge-grossing action pictures, right?
  • Speaking of which: What’s the ceiling on The Avengers’ box office? Before this weekend, I would’ve said $400M; I would’ve been very, very wrong. Assuming a 50% drop next weekend, and figuring in the weekly gross, it could be sitting at $350M domestic after 10 days.Is Titanic ($658M) in reach? Probably not. But I wouldn’t bet my life against it: Avengers scored an A+ from Cinemascore and word-of-mouth must have been through the roof considering the strength of the Saturday and Sunday grosses. The biggest question regards competition: I don’t see Dark Shadows putting up much of a fight, but Battleship/The Dictator the week after, MIB3 the week after that, and Snow White and the Huntsmen the weekend after that are all prime competition, both for general audiences and the (growing but still limited) number of 3D screens on which to grab that $3 to $5 surcharge. We shall see. My official final tally: $580M. But I could be wrong.

More thoughts after the jump, including some spoilers.

  • So, my one serious complaint about the film regards the final action sequence, in which the Avengers, having overcome their own petty divisions, do battle with a murderous, faceless, alien horde…of which we know nothing and have seen little. In this, Avengers comes dangerously close to Green Lantern territory in terms of emotionally unfulfilling finales against an enemy who we care little about and against whom little is at stake. (I mean, really, was one of those giant worm things going to kill Iron Man? Or even Black Widow, who is comically armed only with her tiny little-girl guns?) Whedon manages to avoid this trap via the scheming and sneering of Loki (the really very excellent Tom Hiddleston, who looks kinda like Michael Fassbender, does he not?), who puts a face on the invasion for Hulk to smash. Another plus is that we finally get to see Captain America engage in some captaining—he leads the battle as a genius of strategy should, something that was sorely missing from the actual Captain America film.
  • Also, the aforementioned weird shadowy council thing that orders a nuclear strike on Manhattan probably should’ve been explained a little better. Just sayin’ is all.
  • I could probably write a thesis based on a Straussian reading of the scene in which Loki demands a crowd of Germans kneel, tells them they’re better off ruled by the Gods, and then tries to kill the one (elderly, probably Jewish) man who stands up and says no only to be stopped by, literally, the American flag (as embodied by Cap’s shield, which deflects the blast). It was hot. USA! USA!
  • That being said, there’s a weird moment where Tony Stark, arms dealer, argues that nuclear deterrence hasn’t saved lives/stopped wars. This strikes me as wrong, but I think I’ll go into that more at a later date.
  • The (first) post-credits sequence reveals that the guy behind the guy behind the guy was Thanos, the death-obsessed, nigh-omnipotent-and-all-powerful dude who used the Infinity Gauntlet to kill half the universe. Does this mean the upcoming sequels (Iron Man 3, Captain America 2, and Thor 2) will involve the Infinity Gems in some way? All signs point to “Who knows?”
  • As I said, the film is surprisingly funny: the Hulk is used to great comic effect several times, including the whipping he hands Loki at the end of the film. It’s the first time I’ve ever heard an audience laugh uproariously (intentionally!) at the defeat of a comic book villain. Good work, Joss!

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Judith May 7, 2012 at 10:57 am

A Joss Whedon film was “surprisingly” funny? The surprise would be…

I suspect I’ll enjoy it also, although I also enjoyed Anthony Lane’s sustained damning with faint praise review, e.g, “like being mugged by a gang of rowdy sociopaths with high muscle tone.”

I recommend “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” – entirely unoriginal plot and theme, but well-executed: funny and great acting.


Jack B. May 7, 2012 at 12:00 pm

One of your best blogs to date.


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