REVIEW: THE AVENGERS (PLUS the fallout of its massive success, and looking ahead in the Marvel movie universe)

Before we get into the review, I just wanted to do a little bookkeeping, especially with regards to the money this thing is bringing in. The Avengers is officially a cultural phenomenon. People who don’t normally see movies in theaters have seen it. People who don’t normally see comic book movies have seen it. People who don’t talk about these kinds of movies are talking about it. People who don’t talk about box office results are talking about it. The fact that everyone on earth was talking about how much money it made helped it make even more money. I was watching Bill O’Reilly‘s show the Monday after that huge opening, and even he made mention of the crazy records it’s breaking. It’s insanity. I am finishing this piece after seeing it 3 times (at 3 different theaters!) and having thus contributed $19 to that billion-plus dollar haul. Let’s face it, without me, this movie is a total bomb. You’re welcome, Marvel.

The fact that it broke the opening weekend box office by such a large margin (beating Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2‘s not even 12-month old record of $169.2M by almost $40 million) is incredible. It takes a lot to shock people like me these days with box office numbers (I’ve been tracking box office stats since 1996, when I used to cut out the weekend results from the newspaper each week), but this is almost unfathomable, and it didn’t even have the widest release ever (it ranks no. 7 on that list). Prior to its opening, I kept saying that no matter what The Avengers made, it would only be 2½ months before The Dark Knight Rises beat it. I figured TDKR was a lock for the new opening weekend record, assuming it would do around $175 million. With a $207.4M opening weekend for The Avengers, you have to rethink that assumption. I’m having difficulty envisioning a scenario where TDKR, without the assistance of 3D surcharges (the biggest factor here), grosses $200M+ in 3 days. I’m very curious how important it is to Warner Bros. to try and beat Avengers. Will they give TDKR the widest release ever and hope for the best? It’ll be interesting to find out come July.

I’ll now predict Avengers will not only keep that opening weekend record, but it will also be the biggest overall grosser of 2012. Both films will gross over $1 billion worldwide, but Avengers is more appealing and accessible to the international audience (everyplace outside North America), which is increasingly becoming the target audience for Hollywood’s big budget extravaganzas. If the studios don’t think it can make a large chunk of change overseas, it probably isn’t getting made these days. (Which is incredibly sad, by the way.) For whatever reason, Batman has always been a bigger deal in America than around the world. As evidence, of The Avengers‘ $1.2 billion worldwide gross (as of Tuesday, 5/22), $723.3 million of that (61%) has come from outside the U.S. In contrast, of The Dark Knight‘s $1 billion gross in 2008, $533.3 million of that (53.2%) came from North America. That’s an incredibly rare split for movie grossing that much. In fact, of the 12 movies that have grossed $1 billion or more around the world, only one other (The Phantom Menace) took in more than 40% of its gross in the U.S. Sorry to ramble on about numbers, but obviously I find this stuff fascinating.

I’m reviewing the film after seeing it thrice. The first time you see a movie like this, you’re just absorbing it, geeking out, and forming general opinions. For me at least, and the way I like to review movies, this is just too much to take in after one viewing, especially when that first viewing is a sold out midnight show that brings out the loudest, craziest moviegoers out there. I had a blast at my midnight show. The crowd was loud in all the right ways, laughing hysterically, ooo-ing and ahh-ing and cheering at all the right moments. There was no douchebaggery whatsoever, and I thank the movie gods for that. The only problem is that sometimes the residual laughter and talking of 250 people after a great scene drowns out the ensuing dialogue, which kinda sucks. If you didn’t experience this movie for the first time with a big crowd, I feel bad for you. Nothing beats it on a movie like this. But again, the first time through, I’m just taking it all in and enjoying it. The only thing I could write about it when I got home was, “Holy shit!” I knew I’d have to see it again before I’d be able to put together a string of complete thoughts, which is why this is being posted 3 weeks after the movie came out. I would say what I lack in punctuality I more than make up for with perspective. I dare say there are ZERO other reviews on the internet that cover the entire story like I will for you here. You’re welcome.

My second viewing was a $5 11:00am matinee, in which there weren’t even 10 other people in the theater with me. It was quite a contrast. I was able to watch the movie much more objectively the second time and even brought a notepad with me to list the minor details I wanted to mention in this review. I only went a third time because a couple of my friends here hadn’t seen it, and I often feel it’s my responsibility to get people’s asses into theater seats if they won’t go see a movie by themselves. I keep forgetting how strange most people think it is to see a movie alone.

SO! General thoughts before we get specific? I fucking loved it. The people who had seen it early and were praising it were dead on. This is easily the best of the “Avengers movies” (Iron Man, Iron Man 2, The Incredible Hulk, Captain America: The First Avenger and Thor), which is exactly what the fans hoped would be the case. It’s so rare for those expectations to be met these days that I’m shocked now even as I type it. It was basically everything I wanted it to be. It isn’t perfect, and there are things I’d have done differently, but for what it was trying to be and what it should’ve been, I’m giving it a 9 out of 10. I don’t know exactly where it will end up on my all-time favorite movies list, but looking at it now, it’s definitely going to break the top 100, which hasn’t welcomed a new member since The Dark Knight in 2008. Sadly, that means Letters from Iwo Jima gets bumped out of the top 100, and Kindergarten Cop is now my 100th favorite movie of all time.

I’m not in awe of The Avengers simply because was so good, so fun and so entertaining. I’m more in awe of the simple fact that they actually pulled this off. It really is remarkable, and this is the culmination of one of the most challenging and complicated feats in all of movie history. Though there have been bumps along the way, when it came time to pull it all together, Marvel and their collaborators were victorious. Funny, in that way, this entire web of Marvel franchises has played out much like the story arc of The Avengers film itself. I for one am extremely happy for the film’s success. I find it’s uncommon for a movie to make this much money that actually deserves it. Tim Burton‘s atrocious Alice in Wonderland grossed $1,024,299,304 around the world. Need I say more? Does Avatar deserve to be the most successful movie ever? Fuck no. If shitty and horrifically overrated movies can be smash hits, I won’t begrudge a penny a great movie like The Avengers makes.

Aside from the terrific performances, the awesomeness of seeing these characters on screen at the same time, and the spectacular visual effects, I believe the primary reason this movie works so well (and thus its financial success) is the script and vision of director Joss Whedon. Now, I am not a Whedon fanboy. I haven’t seen a minute of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, or the lone season of Firefly. I saw Serenity because of all the praise Firefly had received, and enjoyed that quite a bit, but other than that, my only exposure to Whedon’s sensibilities was seeing The Cabin in the Woods, which he co-wrote but did not direct. I was less than impressed with Cabin to say the least, but I remember being excited in 2010 when they announced Whedon would be directing The Avengers, because I thought it was a good match.

If you were a fan of Whedon’s prior to this, the movie definitely has his touch. It feels like this movie was written and directed by someone with a clear vision. It’s remarkable that he was able to balance so many storylines this well, and the film does not feel disjointed at all. So often these summer blockbusters have 3 writers, sometimes 4 or more, which tells you that it isn’t a singular vision, merely a collection of ideas. Rarely are these smorgasbord scripts any good on the whole. I’ve talked about how the first Captain America and Thor films are mediocre on the whole. While Captain America: The First Avenger had but 2 credited writers, Thor had no fewer than 5. To be fair, the first Iron Man had 4 writers, but my point is that more often than not, a conglomeration of writers does not equal a solidly crafted story.

Time to get into the specifics. There will be spoilers in this review, so you’ve been warned. However, I’m not too worried about ruining it for anyone, because, well…the movie has made $523.9 million domestic in 25 days. Either you’ve already seen it, or you’re probably not going to see it in theaters and you don’t matter to me. I kid. I love you. Some of you.

WHAT I LIKED/LOVED

Who da man? This da man.

Joss Whedon’s script, Joss Whedon’s script, and Joss Whedon’s script. If you’re able to dismiss the utter absurdity of what you’re watching and just dive into this world, this writing is about as good as it gets given the circumstances. Whedon’s ability to write character-specific dialogue in this genre is probably unmatched. He’s like the geek version of Aaron Sorkin, which is one of the highest compliments I can pay him. There are enough great one-liners here for 5 individual movies, and every major character gets their individual dramatic and comedic moments. The fact that Whedon was able to juggle this balancing act over the course of 2 hours, 20 minutes is simply incredible. That can’t be stressed enough. I don’t feel any of the major characters got short-changed. Sure, Hawkeye gets by far the least amount of screen time, but his actions are pivotal to the plot early on, and he gets some great action moments throughout. Everybody does. Would I like to have seen Nick Fury be a little more directly involved during the climactic battle? Yeah, but the reasons he isn’t down there on the street make sense, so it wasn’t a glaring issue.

My #1 concern going into this film was that it might be Iron Man and the Avengers instead of truly being The Avengers. Well, I’m happy to say that wasn’t a problem. While Robert Downey Jr.‘s Tony Stark gets many of the best punch lines in the film, they’re perfectly within his character, and it didn’t feel like a deliberate attempt to make Downey feel more important. It seems Whedon was especially careful in balancing screen time for each of the major characters, and it’s one of the best aspects of the film. All of the heroes have at least one important interaction with each of the others. Downey is wonderfully Downey as Stark once again, and we get to see some sweet new Iron Man tech. They don’t explain why Stark is now based in New York, but that’s something Iron Man 3 can easily address next summer. Not much else I can say about Downey that hasn’t been said a hundred times…he was perfectly cast in the role back in ’08 and it continues to fit him like a glove.

Incidentally, Vulture was kind enough to do a tally of each hero’s screen time, and Tony Stark/Iron Man came in second place (by just 40 seconds) to Captain America. Closely behind them was Black Widow, showing again how much Whedon respects his female characters. In fact, she gets the most extended dialogue scenes of any of the 6 heroes. Regardless, I never felt that Stark was “the main character” or that they were actively trying to cash in by featuring Iron Man prominently.

The conflicts between the heroes. They came in every form; physical, verbal and emotional, a further compliment to Whedon’s script. The battles between the heroes were often more impressive than the Avengers fighting Loki‘s army at the end of the film. You’ve got Iron Man vs. Thor in the forest, which awesomely becomes Iron Man vs. Thor vs. Captain America. The Hulk chasing Black Widow through the bowels of the ship becomes an epic Thor vs. Hulk battle. How awesome is it when the Hulk tries, but fails, to pick up Thor’s hammer? I don’t even read comics and I had a geekgasm there. The people who didn’t like the movie usually say the first hour, hour and a half of the movie are boring prior to Loki’s army showing up. Frankly, those people are fucking idiots. If you don’t have any drama between 6-8 protagonists, THAT is boring. If they come together right away and are all on the same page, THAT is boring. To me, these conflicts made up for the fact that you know going into the film that none of the main characters are going to die, which alleviates one of the concerns I talked about in my previous post, My Top 5 Concerns Going Into The Avengers (we’ll discuss if my other concerns were addressed throughout the review).

The cast. Duh. We’ve already discussed Mr. Downey Jr. and Iron Man in depth, so a few notes on the rest of the primary cast:

I think Chris Hemsworth‘s casting as Thor remains pitch perfect. He might actually be my favorite of the Avengers, at least in this movie. He brings some Old World gravitas to the group, and in theory he’s the most powerful among them. He gets to do a lot of cool fantasy shit in this movie, which warmed my geek heart. By the way, I want Thor to have his helmet back on for Thor 2 and the Avengers sequel. He just looks cooler with it on.

I’m encouraged for the Thor sequel that Robert Rodat is one of the listed writers (at least for now). There has to be an improvement when the guy who wrote Saving Private Ryan and The Patriot (two of my all-time favorites) is working on your script. Though now that I think about it, shouldn’t the guy who wrote Saving Private Ryan and The Patriot be working on the Captain America sequel instead? D’oh! At the very least, we can expect Thanos to make his first real appearance in this Avengers movie universe at some point during Thor 2. I don’t read comics, but I know The Infinity Gauntlet is Thanos’ primary source of power, and we saw it on display in Asgard during the first Thor. At some point, we’ll have to see him come and get it, or at the very least, someone else will have to get it and bring it to him. Point being, whether it’s during the movie or during a post-credits scene, we should see Thanos in his full glory next November. And how fuckin badass would it be if Idris Elba‘s Heimdall showed up in the Avengers sequel? OMG. Let’s not get too ahead of ourselves…

I’m liking Chris Evans more and more as a leading man, and I love the counterbalance Steve Rogers brings to the group. His sense of duty and honor really shines through against the spies and scientists of the group. He’s a true soldier, and I loved that that aspect of his personality was a sticking point in the script and in his actions. I love how put off he is by Stark’s brashness, and despite that, the two of them work together to save the S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier from falling out of the sky. I love that he embraces the leadership role, and that in the critical moments at the end of the film, the rest of the team looks to him for orders. I thought the first Captain America was average at best, but regardless of that, I can’t wait to see Evans in the role again in the sequel. Since it doesn’t open until 2014, they’ve got plenty of time to work on that script and make it that rare superior sequel. Or so I hope.

The Hulk. It seems most people end up liking The Hulk the most out of our heroes, and it’s easy to see why. First, credit Mark Ruffalo for doing such a fantastic job making us like Bruce Banner. Without that, it doesn’t matter how fun it is to watch Hulk smash if we don’t care about the human underneath the beast. It’s tough to compare Ruffalo’s take to that of Eric Bana or Edward Norton in the prior Hulk movies, since they had each their own 2-hour movies to flesh out the character. Regardless, in just a half dozen or so scenes, Ruffalo takes the keys and runs with it as smoothly as if he’d already played the part in a prior film. It’s a credit to how good an actor he is, but I’ve known that since his breakthrough role in You Can Count On Me 12 years ago. I love the bromance between Banner and Tony Stark. (The fact that they literally drive off together at the end of this movie leads me to hope Ruffalo may make a cameo in Iron Man 3.) It takes a long time before we finally see “the other guy”, but the buildup makes his appearance all the more awesome when the Hulksanity does come. The brief Hulk/Loki “puny god” scene may have elicited the biggest crowd reaction I’ve ever heard in a sold out movie theater. In my midnight show, you couldn’t even hear the “puny god” line because the crowd was cheering and laughing so loudly after Hulk threw him around like a rag doll. And of course, pretty much everything Hulk does in that final battle is jawdroppingly awesome.

By the way, I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who was mildly confused by how Bruce Banner could control the Hulk in his second transformation (on the street), but in his first one aboard the S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier, he succumbs to the uncontrolled rage that we’re used to. Well, Devin Faraci at Bad Ass Digest
explained it to my liking.

BFFs!

Scarlett Johansson LOOKS amazing in this movie as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow. Amiright? Okay fine, her acting is really good, too. She leaps from a glorified cameo in Iron Man 2 to having just as much screen time as Tony Stark in The Avengers, and she no doubt has Joss Whedon, lover of female action heroes, to thank for that. I imagine if anyone else short of James Cameron had made this movie, this character would have easily drawn the short straw with regards to screen time and overall relevance. Whedon gives her an important role in every big battle, and she’s the one who ultimately closes the portal at the end of the flick. I was worried about how her mere human abilities would hold their own amongst her genetically, supernaturally and mechanically enhanced counterparts, but her fight scenes are really good, and she holds her own on the street against the aliens by using their own weapons against them, which I thought was a clever idea (though it still looks silly when she’s shooting her pistols at them at one point).

Jeremy Renner is terrific as Hawkeye. I always love seeing cool archery in movies, and I like the various special-purpose arrows and tricks he’s got in his electronic quiver, especially when he jumps off that building and uses one as a grappling hook. Between Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol and this, there can be no doubt this guy is a movie star. He gets it. Between The Hurt Locker and The Town, we already knew he was a great actor, but being a movie star requires something more than pure talent. I have no concerns whatsoever about his ability to carry The Bourne Legacy later this summer. Does this mean Hawkeye deserves his own movie? Ehhh, probably not. I’d certainly see one if it were made, but I’d rather see a standalone Black Widow movie before a Hawkeye movie. Renner gets the short stick in screen time and comedic moments, but I bought every moment he shared with Scarlett Johansson, and I really liked their scenes together. Maybe a Black Widow/Hawkeye team-up movie is the solution! BAM! Do it, Marvel. Do it.

Finally, Clark Gregg is once again the man as Agent Phil Coulson. I don’t like that he died, but the way he went out was pretty cool, and somebody we care about had to pay the ultimate price in this movie. As the Klingons would say…it was a good death.

The individual moments and one-liners. I’ll just quickly list some of my favorites; Coulson’s geeking out at Captain America, asking to get some autographs on his vintage cards. The Galaga joke on the S.H.I.E.L.D. bridge. Bruce Banner’s look of regret to Black Widow just before his first Hulk transformation. During the final battle, every time more than one hero was fighting together in the same shot, I was having a joygasm. Iron Man using Cap America’s shield as a reflector for his energy weapon. The Hulk stopping that giant alien bug ship dead in its tracks. Thor’s hammer smashing on Cap’s shield and causing that shockwave. Thor holding his hand out and waiting for the hammer to come to him as Hulk charges, then the ensuing uppercut to Hulk’s jaw sending him flying into the jet. The Hulk disemboweling that other jet before he’s sent plummeting to the earth. Tony Stark’s new system where he can just walk into his building casually while his robots take the Iron Man suit off of him. The whole scene between Tony Stark and Loki, ending with Loki’s staff having performance issues. At the end, when Stark’s new Iron Man armor attaches itself to him in midair. And of course, when we finally get that epic circular dolly shot of all the heroes coming together in the middle of the street, with Alan Silvestri‘s Avengers theme blasting over it, I was ready to stand up and cheer. Moments like that, the combination of visuals and music, are what the movies can do that no other medium can.

Nick Fury to Loki: “You say peace. I kinda think you mean the other thing.”

Nick Fury’s callback to one of Loki’s first lines, when he’s imprisoned: “Ant. Boot.”

Loki to Thor as he traps Thor in the cell: “Are you ever not going to fall for that?”

Black Widow and Bruce Banner discussing the Tesseract: “It has the potential energy to wipe out the planet.” “What does Fury want me to do? Swallow it?”

Captain America before he jumps out of the S.H.I.E.L.D. jet: “There’s only one God, ma’am, and I’m pretty sure he doesn’t dress like that.” (this got some applause in my midnight show)

Stark vs. Captain America: “Following’s not really my style.” “And you’re all about style, aren’t you?” “Of the people in this room, which one is a) wearing a spangly outfit, and b) not of use?”

“Big man in a suit of armor. Take that off, what are you?” “Genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist.” “I know guys with none of that worth ten of you.”

Stan Lee in his cameo at the end of the movie: “Superheroes? In New York? Gimme a break!”

There are countless other one-liners, but those are my favorites off the top of my head.

The visual effects. There are reportedly 2,200 effects shots in this film, and 99% of them are absolutely flawless. The 3 biggest, best VFX companies in the industry (ILM, Weta Digital and Digital Domain) each contributed heavily, along with at least 10 other effects houses. This may be the first time all 3 of those big companies have worked on the same movie. The Hulk has looked great in all 3 movies he’s been featured in, but this is probably the best he’s looked in action sequences. I love the S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier effects, particularly the first time we see it take off from the water. I also really liked the underground implosion of S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters at the beginning of the movie. Iron Man looked awesome as always. Really, the CGI Iron Man effects look better than when Robert Downey Jr. is wearing a practical costume, which they still haven’t perfected (it still looks plastic-y). The aliens looked convincing, even if I’m not the biggest fan of their overall design. The destruction of the New York buildings by the big alien ships was awesome. What I always appreciate most is when CGI is mixed convincingly with practical effects, which was done a lot in this film. This was not one of those movies where every single effects is created in the computer. What more can I say? I see Oscar and Biggie nominations looming for these guys come early next year.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE/DISAPPOINTMENTS & NITPICKS

The 1.85:1 “flat” aspect ratio. If any movie was screaming for 2.35:1, it was this. Whedon and cinematographer Seamus McGarvey were still able to give it proper scope and grandeur with the more squared frame, but still- this deserved as big a canvas as possible. At times the movie does feel a big “stagey”, a good example of which is the confrontation between Thor and Loki atop that mountain, which felt like it was a tiny little set surrounded by green screen walls on a soundstage (and it probably was exactly that).

The opening sequence could have been better. Most critics and geeks have said as much. The setup is good, but compared with how effective the rest of the action sequences are, the first 5 minutes were a bit underwhelming once Loki arrives, though as I said the implosion at the end of the scene was really cool.

The S.H.I.E.L.D. ‘Council’. This kinda came out of nowhere. Apparently there’s a select group of people from all around the world who oversees Nick Fury’s operation, led by Uptight Powers Boothe. Cuz that’s what something like S.H.I.E.L.D. needs…a bureaucracy.

The Chitauri. As expected, the aliens invading was the least interesting plot element, as the attackers served as nothing more than typical “Random Movie Thugs” whose sole purpose was to give The Avengers practice dummies to show off their powers and fighting ability. Nor did they seem to have any idea what they were gonna do once they got through the portal. Either they were arrogant with regards to their ability to display overwhelming force or they really had no plan of attack. Was the idea just to come in blind, blowing up everything they can find? There was no strategy whatsoever? Not gonna take out our satellites to disrupt communications? You’re just gonna show up and shoot at things? And it appears as though these guys can be killed easily enough without using superhero powers. You’re telling me if the American military were able to mobilize against a bunch of guys jet skiing in the air, we wouldn’t fuck them up? The only thing The Avengers appear to have done is contained the attack within Manhattan. Of course, they also closed the portal, which is kind of a big deal.

-One of my biggest fears going into the movie was that Loki wouldn’t be a great villain, and I’m gonna say he was 50/50 cool/lame. He was certainly elevated by the quality of the script with some good dialogue and a few extended dramatic scenes (who doesn’t want to be in a situation where they can call someone a “muling quim”?), but he didn’t really have any cool fight sequences, which is a shame. I’d love to have seen a Loki vs. Thor & Captain America battle. The least they could’ve done was kill him off, and it would’ve been a really nice tragic moment if Thor somehow ended up killing his own brother. Instead, Loki survives, and the setup is there for him to feature prominently again in the Thor sequel. Yay. We just can’t get rid of this guy. And again, this has nothing to do with Tom Hiddleston‘s performance. I think he was solid once again. I just don’t think he’s that interesting or intimidating a villain. But that’s me.

Whenever The Avengers sequel happens, please Joss Whedon (or whoever is at the helm), let Thanos be a worthy villain with some lieutenants capable of inflicting actual damage. We no longer need to see The Avengers bonding and resolving their issues, so it’s time to give the bad guy some real attention, especially if you’re gonna use one of the baddest mothafuckas ever put in comics.

Sheeeeee-it.

The lack of any real tragedy. Like I said in that previous post, we already knew going into this movie that none of the heroes would die, so there was a sense the ending would be anticlimactic and predictable. Yeah, the aliens are repelled, but that was a foregone conclusion. Yeah, Loki kills Agent Coulson, and I thought that sequence was handled well, both in its execution and with regards to the fact that it becomes the moment The Avengers finally get on the same page (“They needed the push”, as Nick Fury says after manipulating the moment), but you never feel he or any of the aliens were ever a real threat to our heroes’ safety. Again, this needs to change in the Avengers sequel. I like the notion that the self-involved Tony Stark is willing to sacrifice his life at the end, but who actually believed he was gonna die? You have to raise the stakes next time. Thanos is a character obsessed with death, so there better be some death.

-I think they did need to at least acknowledge the existence of the James Rhodes/War Machine Don Cheadle character from Iron Man 2. If you bring Gwyneth Paltrow back for a couple scenes to play Pepper Potts, you’re acknowledging this movie exists in the same universe as the Iron Man movies. We already know Cheadle is coming back for Iron Man 3, so why does he simply cease to exist during The Avengers, particularly when a second Iron Man suit would’ve been quite helpful? Oliver Lyttelton of IndieWire said it perfectly:

given the damage done by Downey Jr. in his Iron Man suit, does it not cross anyone’s minds that there’s another hero with equal abilities knocking around, say, Don Cheadle’s War Machine? It’s not his exclusion that annoys us: it’s one more character that Whedon would have had to juggle. But at least include a line about how Rhodesy is on holiday, or something.

-I thought Alan Silvestri’s score was very good, and he hits the big moments when he needs to, but I think he could have elevated the impact of the images with a more consistent score. This was a chance to give us the best score ever in a comic book movie. I do like his Avengers theme, but I also feel it could’ve been 21.8% stronger. That’s made even more disappointing because Silvestri (the Back to the Future trilogy, Predator, Forrest Gump) is one of the best creators of themes in movie history. I like the score and I own it, but I wanted more, that’s all. I think a score is one of the most important pieces of the filmmaking puzzle, so I’m never going to lower my standards in this area.

Here is the main Avengers theme, as heard at the start of the end credits:

THE AFTERMATH

-The overall quality of The Avengers and audience’s positive reaction to it instantly increases the credibility of the connecting franchises. I was already jacked up for Iron Man 3, if only because Shane Black is at the helm and having him put words in Downey’s Tony Stark’s mouth is gonna be amazing. But now, thanks to The Avengers, I’m twice as excited as I was a month ago for the Thor and Captain America sequels. Shit, I’m also hopping on the bandwagon that says let’s give The Hulk another movie, this time with Mark Ruffalo, who now totally owns the character. Based on how popular he was in Avengers, if they’re not gonna do a standalone film, they MUST find ways to cameo Ruffalo in one or more of the other sequels (as I suggested, Iron Man 3 would be the perfect opportunity given how much Banner and Stark bond during this film). The next time we see Bruce Banner can’t be 3 or 4 years from now in the Avengers sequel.

I wanna know what happens next in all these storylines. I want to see how each film will hint at the Avengers sequel as Marvel tries to repeat this whole process. I want to see how the events of The Avengers impact the upcoming stories, particularly with Thor. I want to know which characters will do cameos and what new characters might be introduced. Iron Man 3, Thor 2 and Captain America 2 still need to be better movies than their predecessors, but they’ll all get an opening weekend boost because of how much audiences want to see more of these characters. The possibilities are very exciting. It’s just a shame we can’t have Joss Whedon write and direct the entire Marvel universe going forward.

Speaking of Whedon, perhaps no filmmaker in Hollywood right now other than James Cameron, Christopher Nolan and Michael Bay has this much clout. He can literally do anything he wants next, which opens all kinds of doors, but also puts in place quite a bit of pressure. I think he should do what Nolan did with his Batmovies, which is to use them to get his pet projects made. Warner Bros. made The Prestige and Inception no questions asked just so Nolan would do The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises. Once TDKR is in the rear view, Warner Bros. will again let him do anything he damn pleases at any budget, and that’s great news for us as the audience. Joss Whedon shouldn’t even think twice about doing the Avengers sequel (he was only signed up for the first one, so it will be a tough negotiation with the notoriously cheap Marvel execs), because he can parlay these Marvel movies into getting his other projects made. That’s just good sense. The only thing that concerns me is that I’m not quite sure Whedon’s pet projects will be nearly as interesting as Nolan’s.

From what I understand, almost all of the major players are signed up for an Avengers sequel already, but that won’t happen until these other sequels get done first. I wouldn’t even guess at a release date, but no sooner than May 2015, even 2016 for another 4-year interval. With the immense success of the first one, the studio will no doubt push hard for 2015. The only actor definitely not locked in for the Avengers sequel is Robert Downey Jr., who originally signed for 4 Marvel movies (an Iron Man trilogy and The Avengers). Marvel likes to sign their stars and filmmakers for as cheap as possible, but Downey has ALL the leverage in this upcoming negotiation. Tony Stark simply can NOT be played by anyone else anytime soon, so they’re gonna have to give him huge bucks up front, plus a piece of the backend on the Avengers sequel that will land him a windfall the greediest Wall Street bankers would envy. And who could make the argument he doesn’t deserve it? I imagine they’ll try to sign him up for 2 more Avengers movies plus a 4th Iron Man movie. And as I said, Joss Whedon should sign up for 2 more Avengers movies…but only if he likes money and creative freedom. Just sayin’. An amusing bit of trivia: Samuel L. Jackson signed on for NINE Marvel movies, so don’t worry about Nick Fury dying anytime soon.

While there will certainly be better movies released this year, I seriously doubt there will be a more purely entertaining film in 2012 than The Avengers.

P.S. I can’t comment on the quality of the 3D, because I didn’t see the fuckin thing in 3D! Blazoom! The next movie I’ll see in 3D is Prometheus, and then perhaps nothing until The Hobbit this December. If you didn’t shoot it for 3D, I ain’t seeing it in 3D unless it’s a post-conversion by James Cameron and his team. Glorious 2D for the W.

The Avengers – PG-13 – 142 minutes of bliss

IMDb rating: 9/10

4.5/5 stars

We’re almost there…

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3 Responses to “REVIEW: THE AVENGERS (PLUS the fallout of its massive success, and looking ahead in the Marvel movie universe)”


  1. 1 Chris Mo'land June 4, 2012 at 4:51 AM

    You’re positively batshit if you think Bay, Cameron, or Whedon have Nolan’s clout at the moment.

    Cameron has what he has because he’s financing everything his own goddamned self now, so that kinda doesn’t count (though, to be fair, okay, yeah, he probably COULD get anything made with studio money if he really wanted to, but then again, his autonomy could easily backfire on him in a studio financed environment, but whatevers).

    As far as Bay goes… well, the last time he tried to make something he was “interested” in, we got The Island, one of the most exquisite bombs in recent summer movie memory. I think it’s pretty keenly understood by the powers that be that Bay is good for one thing and one thing only: Transformers movies, and I fear that even those will see diminishing returns (3 making $50 million less than 2 – in spite of the 3D surcharges, should be a tad concerning for 4’s well-being, even in spite of 3’s significantly increased foreign performance). Sure, he’s doing a ‘personal’ film with “Pain & Gain”, but the budget on that is only $20 million, which, honestly, is the probably most I’d imagine the man would be able to get from any studio right now for any movie that isn’t already a proven property, since it’s widely accepted he’ll never make a critically accepted movie (which is seemingly becoming more important to a films success), and the days of the “original” Simpson/Bruckheimer-style action flicks he used to traffic in just aren’t big guarantees anymore (and neither are big dumb action flicks in general – see: Battleship).

    Whedon undoubtedly has a great deal of clout at the moment, but he still hasn’t presented a wholly original idea to the world that has caught on outside of a cult audience. And this is coming from someone who fucking LOVES Whedon. My personal hope is that he makes a sequel to ‘Serenity’ (watch ‘Firefly’ already!) but I highly doubt that will happen. I imagine he’ll be given a good deal of lee-way in whatever he chooses next, but as you said – Marvel is notoriously cheap, and they’ll only finance Marvel projects. And Disney I’d imagine is a little gun-shy about cutting blank checks to anybody after ‘Mars Needs Moms’ and ‘John Carter’. So, I’d say he’ll only have so much freedom for his next project, whatever it ends up being. It’s making something from absolutely nothing that really gets you the freedom to do crazy shit, like, say, making a pretty personal movie about dream thieves (!?) that makes close to $300 million bucks (!!!?) and permeates the pop culture consciousness more than any sci-fi film since the first Matrix (!!!!!?)…

    … So if we’re being totally honest here, Nolan is probably, really, the ONLY filmmaker on the planet right now who can demand ANYTHING he wants for ANY project, as evidenced by the fact that Warner gave him final cut (!!!) on DKR, which is unprecedented for a summer tentpole for as much money as the WB has sunk into it. I mean, dude… FINAL CUT. He could literally have filmed shit in a can for two hours (or THREE hours in DKR’s case, if early word is to be believed) and Warner would have to either never release it or eat the distribution costs. I don’t think anyone can say they have that kind of non-self-financed power, now or maybe even ever before (maybe Spielberg after ‘ET’ and again after ‘Jurassic Park’, or Zemeckis after ‘Back To The Future’ and ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit?’. MAYBE.)

  2. 2 Biggie June 7, 2012 at 12:33 PM

    Hmmm. It was more a generality than a ranking. I was just noting that those are the most “powerful” directors in the land at this moment. However, if you do want to rank them, I still think Cameron is at the top of Clout Mountain right now. ANY studio would give him anything he wants. Avatar alone outgrossed Nolan’s last FOUR movies combined going all the way back to Batman Begins. They’d especially give Cameron more leeway because they know he’s going to use 3D and get those extra surcharges, whereas Nolan (thankfully) is still a 3D holdout. I don’t know where you’re getting that Cameron is independent. Fox paid for Avatar and will do so again on the sequels. Cameron may be able to fund his documentaries, but I’m willing to bet that’s not what actually happens. He’s got sponsors and such for all those science projects.

    It’s strange how most of these super-rich filmmakers aren’t willing to put their own money on the line. Think what you will about Mel Gibson, but he put up every dime for Passion and Apocalypto. Even Spielberg, who’s worth $3 billion, NEVER finances his own stuff. If I were that rich, I’d have a billion of that invested in my own movies and those of other people I believed in. The last estimate I saw for Cameron’s wealth was +/- $600 million, so it would take half his fortune to singlehandedly finance Avatar 2, and Fox wouldn’t even let him if he wanted to because News Corp is counting on it for serious profits.

    It’s true that Whedon has the most clout at Disney, since they’ll do just about anything to get him to sign on for Avengers 2, and there’s plenty of time for him to do another movie while Marvel rolls out the Iron Man/Thor/Cap America sequels the next two years. He could probably get them to release a live-action Cinderella/Pocahontas lesbian porno. However, ANYONE who makes a film this successful gets doors opened to him or her wherever they choose. I say he could get at least one movie made anywhere he wants right now just so that studio could say “From the director of THE AVENGERS” in their advertising. And he could probably get it done at almost any budget, so long as it’s rated PG-13. But just once. If he does a big budget, non-Avengers movie and it fails, he falls right back into the pack until he does Avengers 2. Sadly, it looks like he didn’t plan for this moment. I haven’t even seen his name attached to any projects. It’s like he had no idea what he would do once Avengers hit huge, which was virtually guaranteed to happen. His agent should at least have known and prepared him. Pretty crappy planning unless he’s been working on something super secret on the side.

    As far as Bay is concerned, he’s in a similar situation to Whedon at Paramount, where they were willing to do let him do anything (including a tiny, non-commercial, rated-R action flick), so long as he then returned for TF4. I actually respect him for choosing to do that instead of some other $200 million monstrosity. But still, I guarantee he gets sent every blockbuster script. Hell, other studios are even forcing directors to make their blockbusters look just like Bay’s (cough-BATTLESHIP-cough). Ba dum bum.

    I dunno, tomayto, tomahto I suppose.

  3. 3 Cory March 24, 2013 at 12:45 PM

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