The Avengers (2012)

The Avengers (2012)
The Avengers (2012) DVD / Blu-ray

By: Bill Arceneaux (A Toast)
How many beers do you recommend for this movie?
1 Beer! A Toast! Great Movie!2 Beers! Good Movie!3 Beers! Okay Movie!4 Beers! Mediocre Movie!5 Beers! Awful Movie!6-Pack! Bad movie! Do not be Sober!

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I used to collect comic books. Yes, I admit it. I got swept up in the fantasy of characters with unique abilities beyond those of normal people, fighting over exaggerated villains in an effort to save their hometown, and in some cases, the world. I mostly focused on the Superman comics – during the period of time when he became pure energy (I was probably one of the few that liked that story arc) – but I certainly hadn’t chosen a side in the DC vs. Marvel fight. Why pigeonhole yourself to just one brand?

Never got my hands on that issue.

My collection eventually stopped – only a little more than a handful of issues remain. Was this just a passing fancy? I think, personally, I just yearned for something more; something to give the pages a new life in my eyes, without insulting my devotion to the mythology. In the last decade, we’ve seen movies that range from bastardized toy commercials to unique creative interpretations. But, have we seen the best that comic book movies can be?

If we haven’t yet, The Avengers might just be it. The culmination of millions of dollars in production budgets and years of origin stories, this story has HIGH expectations:

After finding his way out of a cosmic abyss (as seen in Thor), Loki (Tom Hiddleston) makes a play and captures the Tesseract (as seen in Captain America: The First Avenger) – a cube of energy that could prove dangerous if in the wrong hands – from S.H.I.E.L.D. (as seen in all previous Marvel Cinematic Universe films). Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) is forced to restart the Avengers Initiative – a program to bring together Earth’s mightiest heroes – in a last ditch effort to get the cube back and stop Loki from leading an alien army.

Of course, this means that Fury must bring together a group of people who probably shouldn’t be in the same room together; Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), CaptainAmerica(Chris Evans), Dr. Bruce Banner AKA The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner). Can these heroes put their difference aside and conquer their own inner problems in time to save the world?

A Toast

Have you ever had an awesome-gasm? … Did I just invent a new word to describe a movie?

HULK SMASH EXPECTATIONS!

With a cast of characters and actors this big, you would think things might get a bit muddled. But, with lots of clever photography, editing and dialogue, everything works out. Each hero – even Hawkeye and Black Widow – gets time to shine. And I don’t just mean moments where they look pretty and badass; each hero has personality and conflict. We actually get a little bit of depth here! It could have easily been a dumb action film, but instead chose to be a really good comic book.

Marvel could’ve easily picked a team of hack writers and a yes man director to helm this project, expecting to make their money back on brand recognition alone. Instead, they picked a fan friendly writer/director who understands how the audience feels about these characters, and really delivered something special. Sure, the depth I described doesn’t go into superhero psychology levels, but it’s exactly where we need it to be. This really is just about perfect.

Create a Drink

At one point in the film, Loki is offered a drink. He turns it down, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. Just for fun, come up with your own Loki inspired beverage (but be safe about it). Some people at the midnight screening I attended were dressed as their favorite characters; why not pay homage to them in liquid courage form?

Verdict

Comic book movies rarely get any better than this. This isn’t to knock the other superhero flicks coming out this year (they’ll probably be great for different reasons), but the bar has been reset. Maybe the genre should be split into comic book, graphic novel and one off categories, in an effort to better tell the good from the bad? All I know for sure is, I feel like dusting off my old Action Comics issues.

 

Bonus Drinking Game

Take a Drink: for every clever line/zinger.

Take a Drink: every time the Avengers laugh in the face of physics, just because they can

Take a Drink: if you felt this movie did a better job with Thor and Loki than Thor did.

Do a Shot: when you understand that an awesome-gasm is perfectly normal, especially in public.

You don’t have to blame it on ectoplasm anymore.

Last Call

There are not just one, but two post-credit sequences.  Stick around for a peek at the villains of the next installment, as well as a final laugh.

About Bill Arceneaux

Independent film critic from New Orleans and member of the Southeastern Film Critics Association (SEFCA).

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