Thursday, May 17, 2012

PCP in Theaters - The Avengers

So I had a chance to catch The Avengers in theaters, taking advantage of a Friday afternoon off from work to go see what has quickly become a box office behemoth, shattering records throughout it's first 10 days of release.  I saw it with my wife at a 1:45 show on 5/11 that was about half full, which is pretty impressive considering that most schools have not let out for the summer yet.  All in all, it was a great film that I enjoyed immensely.  In the days before having my son, this would have been a movie that I would have seen twice by now, instead I'll probably have to wait until the Blu-Ray comes out to catch it again.  As the first blockbuster of the summer, The Avengers kicks the season off to a great start.

The Avengers - 2012, Rated PG-13.  143 minutes.  Starring:  Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Samuel L Jackson, & Tom Hiddleston.  My rating:  10 out of 10.  Note:  I saw this in 2D, not in 3D.

Large ensemble comic book adaptations can be extremely difficult to pull of well on film.  You have to balance giving each character worthy screen time, depth of character, and their own moment in the spotlight, without having the movie feel too overcrowded, cluttered, or disjointed.  For examples of films that have thrown too many characters into the pot and failed, one needs look no further than Batman & Robin or Spider-Man 3.  And both of those films had less characters than The Avengers, so when Marvel first announced they were making this film, I was a little bit nervous that they wouldn't do the property justice.  Then Marvel announced that they were bringing on board Joss Whedon to co-write and direct the movie, and suddenly most of my fears evaporated.  If anyone knows how to balance a deep cast of characters it's Joss, given his television shows with huge casts, especially those in the Buffy/Angel universe.

Read the rest after the jump!

I have to admit I'm definitely not the most unbiased of reviewers when it comes to this film.  I've been a huge Whedon fan ever since my wife got me hooked on Buffy and Angel years ago, and I'm also a big fan of comic books and comic book movies (though I do not collect comics, I do draw the line somewhere).  So The Avengers was likely to be a movie I enjoyed, as long as it wasn't too clunky or poorly executed.  As it turns out, it is very well executed given the constraints of such a large cast, and it was very enjoyable to watch on screen.  I haven't had this much fun in theaters in awhile now.

A viewer familiar with Whedon's work can definitely feel his presence in the dialogue on the screen (and they can also see 3 actors from his last project Dollhouse pop up in small roles: Ashley Johnson, Enver Gjokaj, & Alexis Denisof ).  The banter between the characters is both biting and funny, and several of the jokes or visual gags had the audience laughing aloud.  My personal favorites included when the out of time Captain America (Chris Evans) finally getting a pop culture reference another character makes, because it was to the Wizard of Oz which came out before he got frozen into a "Cap-sicle" in Iron Man's terms; when Cap forked over $10 to settle a bet to Nick Fury about a line of dialogue from earlier in the film without saying a word; when Tony Stark (Downey) called out a tech on the aircraft carrier bridge for playing Galaga instead of actively working, then minutes later they go and show us him switching back to playing Galaga once no one is paying attention to him; Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) absolutely decking Thor (Hemsworth) out of nowhere; and finally when Hulk has an encounter with Loki (Hiddleston).  The Hulk vs Loki encounter had the largest laughs of the film from the audience.  Downey as Tony Stark got to have the best lines of the movie.  I think the longer that he plays the character, the better he gets with Stark's snarky delivery and cockiness.  He even has his own entrance music when he arrives to a fight scene, a call-back to Iron Man 2, using AC/DC's Shoot to Thrill. 

Despite how awesome Downey is in this, he's not the best performance in the film.  Tom Hiddleston's Loki is great, even better than his performance in Thor of the same character.  He really captures the trickster god's character so well.  I also liked Mark Ruffalo as the Hulk.  Taking over the role from Edward Norton (who previously took it over from Eric Bana), Ruffalo turns in a great performance as scientist Bruce Banner.  He actually showed that the recasting was a great idea, as he was better than both of his predecessors.

The movie itself starts out semi-slowly, having to build up the team and bring everyone together.  As it builds, we get to see great interactions between the different heroes as they actually fight each other before coming together in the 2nd half of the film.  There are some great fights between different characters in fun and interesting combinations.  I liked the Thor vs. Iron Man fight early in the film quite a bit.  All of the fights in the beginning of the film are just an appetizer for the main course, however, the climactic running battle to protect New York City from alien invasion.  That fight is epic in scale, and quite enjoyable to watch.  Every character in the ensemble gets their moment in the spotlight, and a number of moments in the fighting leave your jaw on the floor.  The climactic battle ends the film on such a strong note that it erases from your brain any thoughts of negativity about the slowish pacing nearer to the start of the film, leaving you simply in a great mood from having watched a perfect popcorn movie.  All in all, I recommend this movie to everyone (and based on its box office totals, I'm not the only one saying this).  If you haven't seen it yet, get your but to the theater and see it now!  Also, don't be like everyone else that was in the screening with my wife and I and leave as soon as the credits roll.  There's not 1 but 2 scenes after the credits start, one about midway through the credits and one at the end.  For the screening we were at, we were the only 2 people there for the scene at the end of the credits.  If you go see a Marvel movie and don't know to stick around after the credits, you should be ashamed of yourself.

Anyways, that's all for today.  As always, thanks for dropping by CRAPOLA for a hit of PCP!

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