Friday, May 4, 2012

Thank You, Joss Whedon

Yep. You heard me. I need to offer the man a round of applause. Why? Because The Avengers (Marvel’s The Avengers, technically) was pretty much awesome. I’ve already read a few of the reviews, some agree, some disagree and that’s half the fun. But I had a darned good time with the movie.
I wasn't actually planning on seeing the movie, mind you. I’d planned on staying at home on my day off and writing like a demon and maybe seeing the movie sometime next week, but my brother was talking anbout seeing it, and the ticket prices were right and I really, really liked the idea of seeing The Avenegrs early enough in the day that the theatre would not be overwhelmed with patrons. How early? 9 AM. Seriously. Seems if you go early enough to some theatres the prices are lower and the crowds are nonexistent. That’s two of my favorite things together. So despite my original intentions me and my sister and my brother all got our geek on together and went to see The Avengers.
Now I have to be honest here and say I anticipated having a good time. I expected it because Marvel has been doing a really good job with their movies since they decided to link them. Yes, I even include The Incredible Hulk, which a lot of people didn’t like and I thought was genuinely fun. Was it art? Maybe not, but I still had a good time with it.
Joss Whedon gets it. That’s what I loved about this flick. Not only did Whedon direct, he co-plotted and scripted the movie and he actually knows the characters as well as he should in order to be making a movie of this scope. I suppose that as a standalone movie it might be considered weak, but not for me. I understand the characters, their histories and motivations and I appreciate the interplay between them. And I was pleased with the pacing of the entire affair. One reviewer who panned the movie accused Whedon of making big scenes with very little plot. While I disagree, I can understand where said reviewer is coming from. There’s some major action going on here, and it’s often breathtaking. There aren’t very many quiet moments, but as this is a movie based on a comic book, frankly, there shouldn’t be a lot of quiet moments. The quiet moments and the exposition are saved for the individual films for each character. In the Avengers comics, the same is true. Oh, sure, you get a little hint here and there, but if each issue dealt with the lives of each major player, you’d have one page of combat and little else per monthly installment. And you know what? Whedon didn’t get a monthly installment here, or even a weekly episode. He had to play with a little over two hours to tell an entire story of fairly epic scope and he had to do it with characters that needed a quick introduction each. In that  time the characters had to meet, find a common threat, unite and then open a monumental can of whoop ass. All of which was accomplished with typical Whedon style, which is to say with action, moments of pure terror, sequences of spectacular visual combat and, of course, a great set of witty one-liners that are carried off flawlessly by the talented cast.
Robert Downey Jr is perfect as Tony Stark/Iron Man. He’s not just a cocky so and so, he’s also a super genius who is normally ahead of the curve by leaps and bounds. He knows it, he’s comfortable with it and he carries the part off as I seriously think only he could. Chris Hemsworth reprises Thor just as well, with that same slight arrogance and the sure knowledge that he’s the baddest of the bad (The Hulk, portrayed very nicely by Mark Ruffalo who had some mighty big shoes to fill on that front) disagrees a few times and does so with style. It says a lot for Ruffalo that he conveys so much despite being hampered by limited lines as the Hulk (voiced by Lou Ferrigno) and his portrayal of Bruce Banner is as good as I’ve seen. Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye/Clint Barton is better than I had hoped for and I had high expectations from the man who has yet to disappoint me on the acting front and best of all, Scarlett Johansson carries off the part of Natasha Romanoff/ the Black Widow brilliantly. Chris Evans as Captain America/Steve Rogers shows exactly why a guy with far less punch than Thor or Iron Man can successfully command Thor and Iron Man and Samuel Jackson is, as almost always, a delight. His Nick Fury works very well. Really, there wasn't a weak member of the cast. I mean that. It’s rare that I can say that for a movie.
Thor’s half-brother Loki is back as the heavy in this one and Tom Hiddelston plays him perfectly. Before the Thor movie I’d never heard of Hiddelston. As it stands now, I’ll be seeking out other things he’s worked in because he stands out that well in what is, frankly, one hell of a strong cast.
And back to Joss Whedon for a moment: I thought he’d be an excellent choice for The Avengers because he’s so very good with a large ensemble cast and he proved me right. I must assume he knows that everyone will have a favorite character and for that reason he made sure that all of the players got screen time. There isn’t a single character who didn’t fit in when necessary and who didn’t progress the story in a beneficial way. Whedon is known for strong female characters and he surely doesn’t disappoint in this one with either Johansson’s Black Widow or Cobie Smulder’s unexpectedly fine portrayal of SHIELD agent Maria Hill. I’ve only ever seen Smulder on the TV show How I Met Your Mother, and seldom seen her in a dramatic or action sequence. Wow. The Widow’s only moments of emotional weakness are when she is playing against a person she’s manipulating  (She IS a spy after all and very good at her job) and shortly after having a half ton green monster ripping walls aside to get to her. As for Maria Hill, damn, I think I like her better now than I ever did in the comic.
Marvel’s The Avengers has it all, as far as I am concerned. It ties to the other movies well, it runs with the mythologies that Marvel has created and it also examines additional threats for somewhere down the line. Foreshadowing and character development and of course, massive doses of serious comic book action. Marvel got it right this time.
So I’ll say it again: Thank you, Joss Whedon. You did not disappoint this particular fan on any level.

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