By Marc S. Sanders
Phase One of the Marvel Cinematic Universe concludes with Marvel’s The Avengers. This is a real treat and a feast for the eyes. It’s not my favorite of all the Marvel films because it gets a little too Saturday morning cartoon like at times, but it’s enjoyable to watch for good escapist popcorn fun.
Movie goers were salivating for the year 2012 to arrive which would finally assemble Thor, Iron Man, Captain America and the Hulk on screen. Thanks to writer/director Joss Whedon that wish had finally come true and Whedon does not try to reinvent the wheel. When you assemble a team of heroes, you pit them against a large army and watch every variation imaginable of how the Hulk can smash, or what Iron Man’s armored suit can launch.
By now, you all know how I feel about the actors portraying their respective roles. Best to just say the chemistry works among them. They find reasons to squabble and Whedon provides moments for them to use their given talents against one another. So you get to see what happens when Thor smashes his hammer against Cap’s shield.
The actor who finally gets his moment in the sun is Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, the orchestrator behind this team up. Jackson is more subdued than his other well known characters from the Tarentino films or Snakes On A (Mother effing) Plane. He does get to say “stupid ass idea” at one point and there’s the Samuel L. Jackson we all know and love! In comics, the Nick Fury character was reinvented before any of the films to harbor the appearance of Jackson. This film proves why the writers went that route. He’s great. He’s fun to watch. He makes for a great leader of the secret agency SHIELD. In tow with him is Clark Gregg as Agent Phil Coulson, a welcome cameo guy before this film, Gregg gets in a few scenes that show his endearment, and offer some dramatic weight as well. The guy could be waiting on hold while Black Widow takes out a couple of thugs, and you are cracking up at Gregg as Coulson, not necessarily Black Widow. He’s so likable that well…heck…he should get his own Marvel TV show….wait….nevermind….I digress.
Again, however, the women of the MCU are not drawn well for the screen. Scarlett Johansson makes her second appearance as Black Widow. She’s got a great, funny early fight scene while tied to a chair in a sleek black dress, but that’s all for show. She hints at a checkered past but this film does not offer much to expound on that. I understand. There’s a lot going on here. So there’s not much here for her to do. It’s time she got a film of her own, however. I’ll sign the petition. Wait! Nevermind! Colbie Smolders is a waste as Agent Maria Hill. She is nowhere convincing as a bad ass agent. Her line delivery seems forced. Her role seems unnecessary. Her scenes should have been on the deleted floor. It would have allowed more time for Johannson to play up her character. How is Maria Hill different from Black Widow in this film, anyway? She’s not. Therefore, cut out Maria Hill.
Jeremy Renner is given nothing to do but shoot arrows as Hawkeye, and work against the Avengers while under a spell from Loki.
Speaking of Loki, the great Tom Hiddleston is back. Hiddleston just elevates the Marvel films to more than just a comic book movie. His glee as the God of Mischief is different than say any version of the Joker’s. Pay attention Syndrome (from The Incredibles)!!! When Hiddleston monologues, you want to listen, unless you are the Hulk.
Whedon does an awesome job with the action scenes as he gradually destroys an aircraft carrier when chaos takes hold among the various heroes, and then later he destroys New York City in a fun amusement park like battle through the streets, subways and skyscrapers. It’s a little reminiscent of Richard Donner’s (or Richard Lester’s) Superman II, and Ivan Reitman’s Ghostbusters. It’s fun to watch the Hulk run through a building only to come out the other side and leap upon the head of a gigantic, flying centipede to bring it down on to the top of a building. Who cares how this all gets cleaned up? The greatest city in the world always figures out a way.
Whedon sealed the pop culture significance of superheroes in the early 21st Century. He’s done what guys like Michael Bay beg to do with other toy/comic book franchises. Marvel’s The Avengers stands out as an important impact in cinematic filmmaking. It’s not best picture worthy, but it is nonetheless important to how blockbuster films are conceived and created. Sadly, some people still don’t get it right, all these years later.