Like anybody with more comics than sense, I was incredibly eager to see The Avengers – the chance to see Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s magnificent creations on a big screen, doing what they do best, was just impossible to resist.
So after convincing my long-suffering wife that we were still young and cool and could go to a midnight screening of the movie, I ended up seeing the film for the first time in the early hours of Wednesday morning - and I enjoyed the hell out of it.
It’s not a great movie, but it is a very good one. It’s almost certainly the best Marvel movie produced so far, and it’s most definitely the best Hulk movie so far, with the Green Goliath actually put to some good use for once.
There was a lot to like, a few things that just didn’t work and one major thing that I didn’t like, and here they are:
(Warning: Semi-spoilers abound, I’m not about to ruin anything important, but most of this probably won’t make much sense unless you’ve seen the film yourself.)
27 things I liked about The Avengers
1. It opened in New Zealand a week before the USA, and after waiting months and months and months to get things like Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy or Attack The Block or Cabin In The Woods, it’s bloody nice to get one back.
2. My lovely wife freakin’ loved the film, even at that late hour, and actually suggested seeing it again because she said she missed too much when she was laughing..
3. I was laughing too - the comic timing of the Incredible Hulk is impeccable.
4. In fact, a lot of the success of the Hulk in this film is thanks to Mark Ruffalo’s performance as Banner, which is really nicely done. So much more zen than Bana or Norton, so that when he loses his shit, it has real impact. And his last line before his final transformation in the big climax is just terrific.
5. The other great thing about the Hulk is that he gets to totally cut loose and smash things, and that never gets old.
6. Beautiful women in SHIELD uniforms.
7. One surprisingly long shot in the climactic battle, when you get to see everyone spread out over a wide Manhattan battlefield.
8. The way the easy charm of Robert Downey Jr’s Tony Stark gets him what he wants, and the way it hides his insatiable (and dangerous) curiosity.
9. The fact that I never saw the joke in the last shot coming, even though it is totally set up.
10. The completely unexpected, but still familiar, face that pops up in the mid-credits sting, and the way the guy in the seat behind me at the screening lost his shit over it. (He said what I was thinking.)
11. Hulk versus Loki.
12. Captain America coughing up his ten bucks.
13. Thor returning a headbutt to a man with an armoured face.
14. The sheer sight of these insanely powerful creatures kicking the living crap out of each other.
15. Agent Coulson’s great stiffness.
16. “I watched you while you were sleeping.”
17. Loki’s grin.And his magnificent hair.
18. The Black Widow’s interrogation technique.
19. Hawkeye’s utter lack of fear.
20. The best Galaga joke ever seen in a movie.
21. Harry Dean Stanton’s brief appearance
22. And the fact that they got Jenny Agutter and Powers Boothe in there as well.
23. It’s no surprise that Joss Whedon handles the mix of action, humour and melodrama so well – he’s been doing that on a regular basis for nearly twenty years. But that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable.
24. Every one of the Marvel films put out so far have had a shared tone – an absurd realism that takes incredibly goofy concepts and treats them incredibly seriously, and if The Avengers work as a team and concept to build films on, it is because of this shared vibe.
25. There is a bit where Captain America has to move a lever at a crucial time, and he STANDS HIS GROUND.
26. In fact, I am surprised by how successfully Captain America has been integrated into this film universe. He is a bit corny, but there is nothing wrong with a bit of corn in your diet, and even the ultra-patriotism thing is easily digestible, when you’ve got a hero with guts, who always does the right thing, stands up to all bullies and has an excellent tactical brain.
27. Stories about ordinary people with gifts and guts, facing off against cosmic threats, are always welcome..
One thing I didn’t like about The Avengers
1. Would it have killed them to put Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s names in a prominent position in the credits?
And some things I was indifferent about:
1. The dull score – a decent theme is imperative for a great superhero film, and this, like almost all of Alan Silvestri’s scores, is just functional.
2. The crowded nature of the story was unavoidable, with so many lead characters, and while everybody got a moment or two, there wasn’t much room in the story to breathe. Efficiency sometimes comes at the cost of the emotional.
3. The alien menace was never really given any weight, no matter how many giant robot fish things they fired at New York.
4. Even though there is a definite Marvel vibe, The Avengers is almost totally style-less. The really great superhero films all have a definite and distinctive style – you can’t mistake a Tim Burton Batman for a Christopher Nolan Batman. The Marvel films all skew to the retro side, but there are times when they could really do with a really idiosyncratic eye.
And that’s about it.
Look, I know there are some people who would really like to see Avengers fail, because they love to politicise everything, and can’t help but see The Avengers as a symbol of a huge and heartless company that made its fortune by exploiting its talents over the years.
And I know there are other people who are so desperate for The Avengers to succeed, because they pray that any new genre blockbuster will cross over into a wider audience and legitimise their grubby little comic habit.
But I just wanted to see these beautiful characters and concepts in a film that isn’t unbearably cheesy or embarrassingly stupid. I just wanted to see some crazy super-punching, and good people with guts doing the right thing
And that’s what I saw.