Film review: The Avengers

posted at 8:01 am on May 5, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

The long-awaited Marvel’s The Avengers hit screens nationwide yesterday.  Most of the characters in the film have already been featured in their own films, such as Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, and Captain America.  Two more characters made appearances in those films and are included among the Avengers, Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow and Clint Barton/Hawkeye.  They must team up to defeat Loki and keep him from opening a portal to another universe, where an army stands ready to help Loki conquer Earth.  Meanwhile, the government agency SHIELD that brought them together has a deep secret that may just make their mission a moot point.  Can the Avengers put aside their personal differences and defeat Loki and his allies?

Frankly, if you don’t know the answer to that question, this may be your first movie ever.  No one goes to these comic-book films to see the villains win, after all.  What counts is whether they make it interesting, stylish, or at least entertaining.  The Avengers mainly succeeds on the latter point, thanks to elaborate effects and primarily the work of Robert Downey Jr, whose Tony Stark is by far the most interesting of the characters in the film, including the antagonist Loki.  Otherwise, the affair seems more like a retread of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, with updated toys and effects.

Downey’s Stark is the only actor to break out of the cliches that rule the plot and most of the characters.  Mark Ruffalo has a couple of interesting moments as Bruce Banner, but the rest of the cast seems satisfied with archetypes.  Stoic determination is in large supply, as are the interpersonal conflicts that will eventually all get resolved.  It’s a remarkably grim affair, made even more so by Samuel L. Jackson’s performance as Nick Fury, who seems less furious and more cheesed off.  Usually in this genre, the villain gives us the most entertainment, but Tom Hiddleston’s Loki isn’t much more interesting or nuanced than his opponents.  The cinematography deepens the grim feel; at least Thor had a visual presentation that was stunning and creative.  With a couple of momentary exceptions — including a very funny one near the end with the Hulk that had me laughing out loud, and a cameo from a veteran character actor that is the slyest of inside jokes — nothing unexpected happens.   At two hours and twenty-two minutes, that’s a long time for grim and predictable.

Still, The Avengers isn’t a bad popcorn film.  Fans of the Marvel series on which the film was based should enjoy themselves, but everyone else had better lower their expectations to that of an average comic-book movie.  Given the talent and the resources behind The Avengers, and especially with Joss Whedon as one of its writers, it should have been something more special.

The Avengers is rated PG-13, but it has a significant amount of screen violence and some mildly gory sequences in the film.  It will be too intense for younger children, but teens shouldn’t have any problems handling the material.

Update: It’s only fair to point out that Rotten Tomatoes has a critic-rating Tomatometer on this film of 93%, so I am in a small minority on this film.  Keep that in mind.  I’m much more excited about The Dark Knight Rises to see whether this comic-book series maintains its ascendancy over the genre.


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Expendables 2 trailer looks fantastic. Much better than the first, it looks like they are really capturing that old 80s charm which action flicks used to have.

Daemonocracy on May 5, 2012 at 9:13 PM

Expendables 2 trailer looks fantastic. Much better than the first, it looks like they are really capturing that old 80s charm which action flicks used to have.

Daemonocracy on May 5, 2012 at 9:13 PM

That, and Chuck Norris. What’s not to love?? :)

CantCureStupid on May 5, 2012 at 9:22 PM

FUN……explosions…..no Pixar cute little animals…..end of the world…..great casting……nice story……great special effects…..people dressed up…….laughs…..applause……..America at its Summertime best.

Nope nothing to see here…..more depressing serious murder and violence movies please……ugh!

PappyD61 on May 5, 2012 at 9:29 PM

Ed, I think you missed the point of the movie. The entire movie was a character development.

The team was the character that developed. At the beginning of the movie there were just seperate heroes. At the end, each had either grown or had their true value revealed as part of the team.

David Banner grew to accept his alter ego.
Hawkeye and Black Widow found their greater purpose as part of the team than as assassins.
Iron Man made the choice to sacrifice himself for the greater good.
Thor… ok well I got nothing there.
And the most important character showed his true quality. Captain America may be a super soldier but his greatest asset is his leadership. When he took command and the others accepted his leadership, the Avengers finally existed as the Avengers.

The movie dealt with the same types of themes as the Batman series, (which I am looking forward to as well) but without the darkness. Freedom and slavery, sacrifice, honor, and authority (both legitimate and illegitimate).

And how could a review on HotAir not mention that the typical politician at the end calling for the Avengers “to be held responsible for their damage” was a Democrat Senator from New York. I still smile at that little jab.

makattak on May 5, 2012 at 9:30 PM

Looks like Ed was hoping for a little more from this movie than he saw. I thought it rocked and I will see this movie again. I’m not a big 3D fan, but I guess they’re getting better at it because I didn’t end up with my usual headache. It was actually unavailable except in 3D. That’s put me off of going to see some of the movies I wanted to see in the past because I’ve had some horrible 3D movies (Spacehunter: Adventure in the Forbidden Zone anyone?) It was well used, but I don’t think I’ll miss it when I buy this movie…and I will buy this movie. That’s the real test of success with me.

So what about the teaser ending? Was that Thanos? Will there be an Infinity Gauntlet movie? Can we get Joss Whedon to stay onboard and direct? I hope so!!!

The comic book geek in me gave this movie the highest rating: 2 Vulcan thumbs up because it lacked suckage. I appreciate that.

CitizenEgg on May 5, 2012 at 9:45 PM

And how could a review on HotAir not mention that the typical politician at the end calling for the Avengers “to be held responsible for their damage” was a Democrat Senator from New York. I still smile at that little jab

lol, yeah I caught that and got a grin, there were a lot of easter eggs in that movie. Looking forward to enjoying it again with my sons.

CitizenEgg on May 5, 2012 at 9:49 PM

Went and saw the movie tonight. It was pretty good. About as good as any superhero movie can be. And I am hard to please as far as this genre goes. Hated original Batmans. The new trilogy is decent to good. Never really enjoyed the Spiderman series. Never got into the XMen movies. And the Hulk movies were terrible to mediocre. So I was honestly going in with low expectations. I am glad I was pleasantly surprised. Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man probably helps the movie a lot. The Iron Man movies are pretty good, especially with Downey as Iron Man. Hulk really does steal the last 1/3 of the movie though, but then again he was always my favorite comic book character, so maybe I’m a little biased. :P

Otherwise, the affair seems more like a retread of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, with updated toys and effects.

That was an awful movie and you should be ashamed of yourself Ed for making that comparison.

NotCoach on May 5, 2012 at 10:22 PM

When he took command and the others accepted his leadership, the Avengers finally existed as the Avengers.

makattak on May 5, 2012 at 9:30 PM

And he was smart enough not to try and micromanage Hulk. :P

NotCoach on May 5, 2012 at 10:25 PM

Well. The movie isn’t for EVERYONE. Some people like fun and entertainment. Some people want “The Piano”.
Ed is one of those “Piano” types. Which is fine.

The rest of us like fun! SO EVERYONE!! AVENGERS ASSEMBLE!!!

:D

Handel on May 6, 2012 at 12:11 AM

I loved it.

I would watch it again, but for Me, what happened to one of my favorite characters, “Because they needed someone to…” remains an icy pit of darkness in an otherwise uplifting movie.

I think I would have been less disturbed by Nick Fury or Thor, or Odin, or Hawkeye or even Pepper dying.

So here’s hoping that they pulled a “Wrath of Kahn” moment on us. (Because Spock comes back in the next movie)

Jones Zemkophill on May 6, 2012 at 12:35 AM

I loved it.

I would watch it again, but for Me, what happened to one of my favorite characters, “Because they needed someone to…” remains an icy pit of darkness in an otherwise uplifting movie.

I think I would have been less disturbed by Nick Fury or Thor, or Odin, or Hawkeye or even Pepper dying.

So here’s hoping that they pulled a “Wrath of Kahn” moment on us. (Because Spock comes back in the next movie)

I thought it was an act. I thought I saw him on the bridge at the end but I guess we’ll see.

redeye on May 6, 2012 at 12:53 AM

So here’s hoping that they pulled a “Wrath of Kahn” moment on us. (Because Spock comes back in the next movie)

Basic rule of thumb is that no one ever stays dead in comics.

Rip Ford on May 6, 2012 at 2:17 AM

I’m much more excited about The Dark Knight Rises to see whether this comic-book series maintains its ascendancy over the genre.

Well Ed. This explains a lot.
You’re a DC guy.
Nuff said.
Humph!

Badger40 on May 6, 2012 at 9:38 AM

a cameo from a veteran character actor that is the slyest of inside jokes

Ok esplane Lucy….

mechkiller_k on May 6, 2012 at 10:18 AM

Thanos!!!!!

mechkiller_k on May 6, 2012 at 10:18 AM

Best. Moive. Evah!

Nuff said.

D.GOOCH

DGOOCH on May 6, 2012 at 11:04 AM

Stop the presses! I want the headline to read, “Noted DC fan negatively reviews Marvel Comic movie!”

“Yes Mr Jameson!”

No wait, make it “Not brooding and pretentious enough, claims Morrissey!”

“Yes Mr Jameson!”

No wait, “How about… “What is this fun enjoyable well directed nonsense?!? Cries political writer in dark colors over a cappacino”

“Yes Mr Jameson!”

Perfect! Parker, I need photos of angst!

Irritable Pundit on May 6, 2012 at 12:14 PM

Being over here in AFG we have to wait for our “haji” copy and I cannot wait to see it. Of course at times you have to put up with someone standing up in the middle of the movie to go get popcorn on your dubbed copy.

g2825m on May 6, 2012 at 12:45 PM

When he took command and the others accepted his leadership, the Avengers finally existed as the Avengers.

makattak on May 5, 2012 at 9:30 PM

And he was smart enough not to try and micromanage Hulk. :P

NotCoach on May 5, 2012 at 10:25 PM

Captain America: “And Hulk,”
Hulk: “Rhur?”
CA: “Smash.”
Hulk: “Hrherherhe!”

Voyager on May 6, 2012 at 2:57 PM

Irritable Pundit on May 6, 2012 at 12:14 PM

LMAO.

JJJ takes no one’s bulsh!t.

Tim_CA on May 6, 2012 at 3:49 PM

I liked it. I went in expecting not much in the way of a cohesive story line, but I was, thankfully, wrong. With so many super heroes involved I feared that the movie would end up being just a series of hero-specific, action-packed scenes edited together and called a plot. It wasn’t. It was a fun movie that didn’t leave me wondering why I had actually paid money to waste over two hours of my own time.

Robin888 on May 6, 2012 at 4:36 PM

200.3 million dollar opening weekend. Beat that, Batman.

Full Disclosure, while I am a fan of both DC and Marvel, my favorite super hero of all time is Captain America (my second is Booster Gold, so make of that what you will).

Wolftech on May 6, 2012 at 5:34 PM

Saw it today and liked it. Note for those who’ve read this far down – there are TWO cookies after the movie. One during the credits and one at the end.
As for the politics I noted 3 liberal plugs as 1 conservative one.
Nick Fury making a sly accusation to America making recent mistakes in abuses of world power.
Capt. America referring to the Stars and Stripes being out of date. (it’s possible Whedon was trying to discuss the controversy but I don’t think Capt. America would’ve asked that question of his uniform)
And, lastly all the news stations at the end were CNN, MSNBC, CSPAN (Showing Obamas press secretary), CNN headline news and most of NYs local stations… FOX being noticeably absent.

Skywise on May 6, 2012 at 7:10 PM

Otherwise, the affair seems more like a retread of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, with updated toys and effects.

the graphic novel that league of extraordinary gentlemen is based on is great-the movie sucked.

gerrym51 on May 6, 2012 at 7:55 PM

I would watch it again, but for Me, what happened to one of my favorite characters, “Because they needed someone to…” remains an icy pit of darkness in an otherwise uplifting movie.

agent coulson is a fave of mine too-i have seen his mini-movies-but the avengers movie is great and I will see it again.
and in comics and movies you never know. although fury said coulson was dead we actually did not see him die.

fury was not above using a possibly dying in a hospital bed but not dead coulson as a rallying cry for avengers.

gerrym51 on May 6, 2012 at 7:59 PM

God love ya, Ed, but I could not disagree more. Sure, Avengers isn’t Oscar-level cinema, but in the world of big-action blockbusters and more painful comic book movies than you can shake a stick at (Green Lantern, anyone? YEESH), it’s AWESOME.

No, awesomer than awesome. It’s EPIC.

GO SEE IT. EVERYONE. GO NOW.

Joss Whedon, we love you forEVAH: you gave us Browncoats and Avengers!

*fangirl off*

Animator Girl on May 7, 2012 at 1:41 AM

Husband and I are going to see it this Wed, when the seats have cooled off a little. =)

Too bad about the liberal plugs; heard conflicting stories about Joss… that’s he’s libertarian, liberal, whatever. *sigh*. Wish we had a strong guy in the fight for us.

As for Green Lantern, I really liked it. It was a difficult story to make into a movie and I think it went well. Ryan Reynolds looks EXACTLY as I would imagine Jordan to look like. Blake Lively was skinny, and that’s all I can say about her. Other than that, I liked it.

RD Jr. is just brilliant. Can’t wait to see him.

linlithgow on May 7, 2012 at 4:53 AM

Skywise, I took a different view of the 3 ‘liberal’ plugs then you did…

When Fury was talking about recent mistakes, I took that to be because SHIELD had just FUBARd bigtime and lost the Cube to Loki. He was handing Cap the file at the time, so in context it appears that that was what he was talking about.

Cap asking about his uniform being out of date because of the Stars and Stripes…that was a reflection of the despair he was feeling over the way America had changed since WWII, back when Patriotism was important. It was more a statement on how America had changed, and his struggles to acclimate to a new world then Cap thinking it was outdated. Remember how happy he was to finally…FINALLY…get a reference?

Yeah, noticed Fox was absent, but they DID have a Dem Senator being a buttock. Perhaps Fox wouldn’t give permission? That happens.

I thought it was a good enough movie to see twice this weekend.

wolfva on May 7, 2012 at 5:04 AM

It’s only fair to point out that Rotten Tomatoes has a critic-rating Tomatometer on this film of 93%, so I am in a small minority on this film.

I’m more interested in the audience rating (96%). As usual, the critics can bite me. Will probably see it this weekend. It can be my Mother’s Day gift to my wife (She’ll love it…it fits and is the perfect color).

swinia sutki on May 7, 2012 at 8:27 AM

“If it’s all the same to you, I’ll have that drink now.”

ZK on May 7, 2012 at 9:28 AM

I think the movie played out exactly like a comic book, which is how I like my comic book based movies. All comic book team ups have the heros fighting each other (Ironman/Thor, Thor/Hulk, Steve Rogers/Tony Stark, etc.) before they join up. I wondered how they would do that in the movie, and I think it was very well done. I really got into the individual characters, which made the short clip after the full trailers even more funny.

AverageJoe on May 7, 2012 at 11:22 AM

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