The Avengers (Avengers Assemble) Review

The Avengers move posterSynopsis
When Loki (Tom Hiddleston) comes to Earth seeking to enslave all of humanity, the Earth’s mightiest heroes, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), and Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) must learn to work together as a team to stop him and his invading Chitauri forces.

Review
This is it. This is what everything since Iron Man leads up to. It was a huge endeavor Marvel took on bringing all these heroes together in one film. Nothing had been done like it before. The idea of a cinematic “shared universe” for any franchise was nearly unheard of. However, it makes so much sense looking at the source material. All these characters occupy one comic universe, why can’t they do the same on screen?

Right away it’s easy to feel how the movie is going to go. It opens with a SHIELD base exploding and a high octane chase scene, setting the expectations for the rest of the film. You know right away that the ride is going to be fast paced and exciting. The action throughout the movie was so much fun to watch. With this being a first time team-up between these heroes, they needed to flex their muscles and fight each other (naturally). The highlight being the fight between the Marvel Trinity: Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America. Then they came full circle when they were working together as a team fighting the Chitauri at they end. The small things, like Iron Man reflecting his repulsors off Cap’s shield, were the most satisfying.

Joss Whedon is the definition of a fan favorite. He has been involved in beloved series like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and, one of my personal favorites, Firefly. I can’t think of anyone better Marvel could have picked to pioneer this ultimate team-up. Nothing is wasted. Every moment captured on screen is used efficiently and to progress either the story or a character. There is plenty of organic humor throughout the entire movie. It never feels forced or shoehorned. It’s all friendly banter or very in-line with the character. There is nothing worse than forced humor in a film (OK, I can think of maybe a few things but that’s high up on my list).

I really liked Edward Norton as Bruce Banner in The Incredible Hulk. I wasn’t too happy to hear he was replaced with Mark Ruffalo. My disappointment had nothing to do with Ruffalo but stemmed from wanting to keep actors consistent. But man, am I glad Ruffalo did take over because he is probably the best Banner ever on screen. One of the reasons I think he worked so well in the cast is because he was able to occupy the background without being overshadowed. With actors like Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans who have big personas, I feel Norton would have been another big personality and wouldn’t have meshed as well with the rest of the cast. Whereas Ruffalo is more mellow and can hang back without becoming someone who simply occupies the background. The whole situation was a good blend of personalities.

Another great thing about The Avengers is how seemingly infinitely quotable it is. It seems like every scene someone says something that stuck with me. The better lines mostly come from Stark but other characters get their time to shine, too.

Although this is an ensemble movie (and everyone gets a fair, balanced amount of screen time and development) I have felt Phase One has always been about Tony Stark. He is the one who has grown the most since meeting him in the “funvee” blaring AC/DC’s “Back in Black” He was a self-centered egotist but become someone who was willing to sacrifice themselves to save the world. None of the others had as big character growths. I guess it helps, too, that he had two movies before this one.

One of the only complaints I have is Hawkeye getting mind controlled from the beginning. To be straight, my problem isn’t with him getting mind controlled. I feel that his mind control would have more of an impact if we were invested in him more. He had a cameo in Thor, then the next time he is scene he switches sides. It gave off the reaction of “So? why should we care about this guy following Loki?” Of course people who followed the comic books knew why that was a problem but I’m not sure how non-comic book people felt about it.

The Avengers is everything comic fans had hoped it would be and more. The culmination of four years finally paying off in a huge way. It perfectly balances humor and action, as well as characters. The Avengers was a huge gamble that payed of in spades, forever changing superhero films.

Rating
5/5

Also check out my reviews for the other films in Marvel’s Phase 1: Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor, and Captain America: The First Avenger.

Favorite Quote
Steve Rogers: I want to know why Loki let us take him. He’s not leading an army from here.
Bruce Banner: I don’t think we should be focusing on Loki. That guy’s brain is a bag full of cats. You can smell crazy on him.
Thor: Have care how you speak. Loki is beyond reason but he is of Asgard and he is my brother.
Natasha Romanoff: He killed 80 people in two days.
Thor: He is adopted.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Joss Whedon – Director / Screenplay / Story
Zak Penn – Story
Alan Silvestri – Composer

Robert Downey Jr. – Tony Stark / Iron Man
Chris Evans – Steve Rogers / Captain America
Mark Ruffalo – Bruce Banner / The Hulk
Chris Hemsworth – Thor
Scarlett Johansson – Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow
Jeremy Renner – Clint Barton / Hawkeye
Tom Hiddleston – Loki
Clark Gregg – Agen Phil Coulson
Cobie Smulders – Agent Maria Hill
Stellen Skarsgard – Selvig
Samuel L. Jackson – Nick Fury
Gwyneth Paltrow – Pepper Potts
Paul Bettany – JARVIS (voice)
Alexis Denisof – The Other

Lightning Review: Thor

Review #112

Thor movie posterSynopsis
Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is the arrogant heir to the throne of Asgard. When his kingdom is invaded by a small group of Frost Giants, he, his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleson) and his friends Volstagg (Ray Stevenson), Hogun (Tadanobu Asano), Fandrall (Josh Dallas), and Sif (Jaimie Alexander) go to the home of the Frost Giants, breaking the fragile peace. As punishment for his actions, the king of Asgard, Odin (Anthony Hopkins), removes Thor’s remarkable powers and banishes him to Earth.

Review
After the more grounded Iron Man and Iron Man 2 and the more “out there” The Incredible Hulk, Marvel released their riskiest film of Phase One in Thor. Where the previous films are more science-fiction, Thor is a full on fantasy. Under the helm of Kenneth Branagh, it worked. I like to see that J. Michael Straczynski helped with the story. At the time, he was the writer of the comic book Thor. Who better to help write the character than the person who eat, sleeps, and breathes Thor? The special effects are hands down the best of Phase One, particularly the sprawling cityscape of Asgard. The only word I can use to describe it is “stunning.” Thor follows a similar formula to Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk where is shows the character’s strength in the beginning. In the previous movies, they showed Tony Stark’s engineering skills and Bruce Banner’s scientific skills. Here it literally showed Thor’s strength, by having him fight a bunch of Frost Giants.

The Frost Giants were minor villains.  Mostly they were used to flesh out one of the best aspects of the movie: Loki, played fantastically by Tom Hiddleston. Hiddleston brings Loki to life, becoming relatable and empathetic. I almost began rooting for him. Chris Hemsworth does great opposite Hiddleston as the titular Thor, too. The connective thread between the Phase One films, Clark Gregg as Agent Coulson, has a few funny moments, which is nice given he isn’t seen very much. Hawkeye makes a cool cameo, but unfortunately he isn’t seen in action. Thor was Marvel’s biggest risk to feel out what their audiences were willing to see, paying off greatly due to breathtaking visuals and two great lead actors, paving the way for Marvel’s more outlandish films several years later.

Rating
4/5

Also check out my reviews for the other films in Marvel’s Phase 1: Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Captain America: The First Avenger, and The Avengers.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Kenneth Branagh – Director
Ashley Miller – Screenplay
Zach Stentz – Screenplay
Don Payne – Screenplay
J. Michael Straczynski – Story
Mark Protosevich – Story
Patrick Doyle – Composer

Chris Hemsworth – Thor
Natalie Portman – Jane Foster
Tom Hiddleston – Loki
Anthony Hopkins – Odin
Stellan Skarsgard – Erik Selvig
Kat Dennings – Darcy Lewis
Clark Gregg – Agent Coulson
Colm Feore – King Laufey
Idris Elba – Heimdall
Ray Stevenson – Volstagg
Tadanobu Asano – Hogun
Josh Dallas – Fandrall
Jaimie Alexander – Sif
Rene Russo – Frigga
Adriana Barraza – Isabel Alvarez
Maximiliano Hernandez – Agent Sitwell

Iron Man Review

Review #109

Iron Man movie posterSynopsis
Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.), genius CEO of the weapons manufacturer Start Industries, is kidnapped by a terrorist group known as the Ten Rings and forced to build his deadly weapons for their gain. Instead, Tony creates a suit of armor and escapes. Once he returns home, he refines his suit and sets out to destroy his company’s weapons around the world, but not before the plans for his suit fall into the wrong hands.

Review
Let’s go back in time a little, shall we. The year is 2008. Movies based on Marvel comic books have really started to take off over the past decade or so. Starting with Blade and X-Men but really exploding in popularity after Spider-Man in 2002. Not only were a wide range of Marvel’s characters given the movie treatment, their success varied greatly as well. There were high praises, such as Spider-Man 2 and X2: X-Men United, and critical flops, such Ghost Rider and Fantastic Four. These properties were all handled by different studios but Marvel decided to take their properties into their own hands and opened Marvel Studios. With most of their major characters in the hands of other studios, they turned to one of their lesser known properties: Iron Man. Little did the world know what would come from this monumental move.

I’ll first start with the obvious: Robert Downey, Jr. is absolutely perfect as Tony Stark. His Tony is arrogant. His Tony is self-centered. And yet, his Tony is lovable. His Tony is confident. His Tony is humorous. It’s hard to believe, but he was actually quite different from his comic book counterpart at the time. The comic Tony was a playboy but he was much more serious and not as laid back. Since RDJ’s take on the character, this has changed. It is one of those pairings that was just meant to be. I can’t imagine anyone else in the part and fulfilling it was well as RDJ.

What I think makes this such a great origin story is how well it is paced. There is adequate amount of time spent with Tony before he becomes Iron Man to get a feel of who he is before he dons the armor suit. Then he goes through the trials of using his new invention and it feels neither rushed nor dragged out. So by the time he finally has to use it against Iron Monger, he looks a little rough but feels like he understands how to use the suit.

I think one of the reasons Marvel chose Iron Man to kick of what would become an expansive cinematic universe was because relatively speaking, he is a fairly grounded character. Sure, he may be flying around in a metal suit but that is much more believable than someone turning into a green rage-filled monster or a talking raccoon. He is a smart billionaire who is very hands-on. They show this by having him work on his hot rod; really showing off that he knows what he is doing and talking about. It is easy to imagine something like happening in real life and was never over the top.

I have mentioned about how well Downey, Jr. was as Stark, but his supporting cast was great as well. Gwyneth Paltrow was great as the sleek and sexy Pepper Potts, Stark’s assistant. Paltrow and RDJ have good chemistry, resulting in some great back and forth moments. I also liked Terrence Howard as Stark’s best friend Rhodey. Jeff Bridges as Obadiah Stane, Stark’s business partner, and ultimately his enemy, would have to be my second favorite performance. He was able to pull off both the friendly mentor side, as well as the crazy bad guy side.

Iron Man’s significance wouldn’t be felt until several years later. Today, Marvel Studios is a box office juggernaut and it’s all thanks to this bad boy. I remember seeing it in the theater and thinking it would exists in it’s own little universe much like all the previous Marvel movies over the few years before. That was until the post-credits sequence when Nick Fury showed up. That was when I knew this was building up to something greater. And I couldn’t have been happier.

I have come to regard Iron Man as the template for how superhero origin stories should be told. Great casting and well-paced, Iron Man isn’t just a great superhero movie, it’s a great movie period.

Rating
5/5

Also check out my reviews for the other films in Marvel’s Phase 1: The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger, and The Avengers.

Favorite Quote
Christine Everhart: You’ve been called the Da Vinci of our time. What do you say to that?
Tony Stark: Absolutely ridiculous. I don’t paint.
Christine: And what do you say to your other nickname: The Merchant of Death?
Tony: That’s not bad.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Jon Favreau – Director
Mark Fergus – Writer
Hawk Ostby – Writer
Art Marcum – Writer
Matt Holloway – Writer
Ramin Djawadi – Composer

Robert Downey, Jr. – Tony Stark / Iron Man
Terrence Howard – James ‘Rhodey’ Rhodes
Jeff Bridges – Obadiah Stane
Gwyneth Paltrow – Pepper Potts
Leslie Bibb – Christine Everhart
Shaun Toub – Yinsen
Faran Tahir – Raza
Clark Gregg – Agent Coulson
Bill Smitrovich – General Gabriel
Sayed Badreya – Abu Bakaar
Paul Bettany – JARVIS (voice)
Jon Favreau – ‘Happy’ Hogan