Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Avengers (Joss Whedon)


At last, the unbearable anticipation is finally over. "The Avengers" has finally reached countless theaters and boy how successful it has been in terms of how it has delivered both stylistically and substantially, thanks to director Joss Whedon and company who have never repeated the same mistakes committed over and over again by those mediocre superhero/comic book films in the past.

Now, I wouldn't really delve on the breath-taking, action-packed set pieces because we all know what a stacked film, superhero-wise, such as this one can bring to the table. Instead, I would deservedly commend how a film of such magnitude, under constant pressure (mainly from fanboys and critics), specifically on whether or not it can bring these larger-than-life superheroes together within the premises of a 2 and a half hour film without being overbearing, contrived and deficient in characterization, was able to solve potential cinematic problems by applying patience in its narrative, constant energy to its main characters and fun in its immediate atmosphere.

Surprisingly, Samuel L, Jackson (playing Nick Fury), who has never looked so damn slick and composed in the face of certain peril since he's had it with those slithering titular creatures in the cult hit "Snakes on a Plane", isn't the only producer of energetic abundance here. Although at times he may sound more like a royally pissed off Jules Winnfield than a legitimately enigmatic leader of an equally mysterious group, he was able to carry the film in certain moments without overusing the film's humor nor squeezing dry the film's supply of campy one-liners. At times, he's even the most serious of the bunch, but for good measure, because it has given the other main actors their time for some comic horse plays other than Robert Downey Jr. of course, whose knack for such is already given.

The cast, led by Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth and Mark Ruffalo (a rookie to the whole 'Avengers' project), with the addition of Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner and Tom Hiddleston, who has been very good in his Loki character, never succumbed to the quasi-legendary presence of Sam Jackson and to a certain extent Downey Jr.'s and was just as impressive on how they have balanced each other on all aspects, be it the action sequences, the conversational moments or even those random in-betweens.

But of course, this can be laudably traced back to the film's very screenplay itself, written by Zak Penn and Joss Whedon, which has properly built up the titular superhero group's chemistry on screen. So, after all, "The Avengers'" success, although how mind-bogglingly large and explosive (and expansive and expensive) the film's scale is, can be summarized in one simple yet very apt word: patience.

For the more jaded viewers, this patience on the whole project can be seen as nothing but a largely profitable scheme that has milked the whole Marvel lore by individualizing the superheroes through the production of their respective films (which are, in all fairness, quality ones) and then finally putting them all in one movie to create the ultimate money machine.

Well, if that's the case, I can live with that because if a film of such overwhelming scale can be pulled off in such a highly satisfying and entertaining fashion the way "The Avengers" had without making its audience feel that their money has gone to undeserved corporate pockets, then people will keep watching, and enthusiastically at that.

For once, it's even us who are truly indebted to a film like "The Avengers" because it has taken within its shoulders the mountainous task of actually realizing a 'wet dream' of an idea and being successful at it. Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, The Incredible Hulk; who would not watch a film of such escapist promise?

The audience knew it, the film and all that were involved are aware of it. The viewers have been let down many times before and we have seen the disappointing results. The rushed action consciousness of "X-Men: The Last Stand" and "X-Men Origins: Wolverine", the lazy mishmash of villains in Joel Schumacher's "Batman" installments and the 'biting more than I can chew' mentality of "Spider-Man 3". "The Avengers" has heeded the unlearned lessons of those aforementioned superhero films and has absorbed them as cautionary measures.

Dwelling more on how Captain America and company would gel as characters and, later on, as a team in a genre-merging (science fiction, fantasy and action) cinematic whole, this has been proved very fruitful because it has given the film enough grounds for character dynamics mainly due to the film's fairly strong screenplay, which has utilized dialogues that may not be particularly believable (it's still a comic book film, after all) in some ways but nevertheless ones that have properly ( and even emotionally) advanced the story without resorting to much cheese.

Though the film is not exempted from those notoriously contrived moments that were inserted just for the sake of collective laughter in theaters, they were surprisingly passable and does not distract from the film's more dominant tone of action seriousness and also does not make the film an unintentional CGI-laden slapstick.

In my "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" review, I've written that despite of the film's countless flaws, it still has set the bar high for climactic CGI action set pieces. Admittedly, "The Avengers" has never surpassed it in terms of its indulgent length, but for good reason.

Though "The Avengers'" climactic battle in the concrete jungle of Manhattan, New York is a bit generic in its overall look and execution, it still satisfies because instead of bombarding us with non-stop, pedal to the metal action that may result to nausea and overly tired eyes, the film's final action sequence has been, although it is still destructively exhausting like most CGI films, compact and to the point, with enough breathing spaces and even an awe-inspiring continuous shot of the whole climactic carnage (arguably the film's definitive moment) to put it in a relatively sober perspective.

So now, we have finally reached a final, most crucial query: How does "The Avengers" rank in the list of greatest superhero films ever made? Well, in terms of an almost orgasmic abundance of superhero presence and the film's balanced approach to characterization, action and fun, the film may very well rank among the best. But is it really the eager representative of the whole comic book genre? I really can't say, but the whole "Avengers" project, from the very first "Iron Man" installment up to this very film, has been rather successful and is, collectively, one of (if not) the best the genre has to offer, both commercially and critically. But then again, there's always Christopher Nolan who may beg to differ.


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