I know I probably should have gotten this out there on, oh, Friday before everybody went and saw it. I know that. But at the same time, I think this is a film I needed to digest a little bit before I put my thoughts down on it. And by “digest” I mean, see it again. As of this writing I’ve experienced the film in both standard format and 3D. Each of these showings was packed to the brim. The first was on Friday at the first showing of the day at 10 in the morning. The next was a Saturday show at 1 PM. I need to point this out because the biggest surprise about The Avengers is that it even exists in the first place. The amount of planning and preparation that went into developing a crossover of this magnitude is mind boggling. There have been crossover films before this. Godzilla and King Kong fought it out, Freddy and Jason slashed at each other, the list goes on. It’s not that big a deal for cinematic properties to come together. What is unique is the idea of using individual characters and their films as a roadmap to an eventual crossover. In the world of cinema, it’s a miracle that it ever got made. Even more impressive is that Marvel was able to bring the viewing audience around as well. They sold the idea of this being on of the biggest movies ever and the audiences turned up. They invested their time in it. This is a movie that has been on everyone’s minds for close to five years. Ever since the end of Iron Man when Samuel L. Jackson walked in the room and told the world that the Marvel universe was going to be a shared experiment. This film is important.
That having been said, is it any good? I’m happy to say that everything you want out of this movie you will receive. Joss Whedon handles it as well as you would expect and we may finally have the shining definition of what it means to bring a comic book to life on screen. The final act is like watching a collection of “hell yeah” splash pages from a Marvel crossover brought to life. The film does not skirt the fact that comic books are writ large and with joyous bombast. The action sequences are everything that Michael Bay wishes he could accomplish. They are loud, they are big and at the same time they have a sense of direction that is managed and easy to follow. You never get confused watching the carnage and for that we should be thankful.
But what I really want to talk about is the character moments. The time between Norse gods fighting men in iron suits. Joss Whedon gives us a movie where the time spent with these character simply talking to each other are as gripping as the action sequences and set pieces. The interplay between these actors is something that holds the film together in a way that without it, the whole experiment would fail. Robert Downey Jr. and Mark Ruffalo’s respectful banter is a highlight. Hell, anything Mark Ruffalo does is a highlight. I know folks liked Edward Norton but Ruffalo brings something that has always been missing from the big screen portrayal of Banner in the previous incarnations. He manages to portray Banner as a person who is angry at his own anger and yet somehow accepting of it all at the same time and he may very well be the MVP of the film. Downey does his usual great work with Stark, but here he really sells the trans-formative arcs that propel his character forward, and seeing him bounce of Chris Evans’ Captain America is a joy to watch. I will admit that I feel as if Evans didn’t get much to do until the final act when he really gets to shine as a team leader, but in a movie with this many characters to juggle it is a small conceit. Also, Tom Hiddleston needs some awards. All of them, really. Loki was a great villain in Thor, mainly because of Hiddleston’s ability to play the wounded creature. He was a tormented soul and that made him fun to watch. Here we get to see what happens when the soul is tormented for so long that it snaps. He plays the broken soul just as well and he sells it like nobody’s business.
The film is everything it needs to be and then some. There will be those who complain about the run-time or the way characters are handled but in the end this is a big win for Marvel and a bigger win for people who still enjoy the spectacle of seeing a true summer blockbuster on the big screen. I do not doubt that I’ll see it at least one more time in the theater because this is definitely a film that benefits from a big screen. I might even shell out the cash to see it in IMAX. It’s that good.
Matt Damon walking away from the franchise didn’t seem to stop the producers from moving forward with another installment. Here’s the trailer for the new film The Bourne Legacy starring Jeremy Renner as the new protagonist. I have to say based off of what little the trailer offers that it could be a step up for the franchise because I could actually follow the action. The lack of “shaky-cam” alone is enough to get me in the theater but the addition of Edward Norton and Stacy Keach also pique my interest.
I can’t speak definitively but I could see this being just as good if not better than the previous three entries. I would actually be interested in seeing the series continue with new leads every couple of movies. Eventually they will have to drop the “Bourne” name but I’m sure they’ll find a way to keep the threads connected. I honestly would rather they continue the franchise with a new lead every so often than have to deal with an inevitable reboot/remake situation. We’ll see how things play out when the film hits later this summer. If it does as well as the Damon installments I expect to hear sequel talk pop up pretty quickly.
Ben Affleck isn’t what everybody had made him into following the disaster that was Gigli. Sure he’d been in some pretty bad movies, but he’s always been a talented actor and back when he made Gone Baby Gone, it reminded everyone that he had some real credibility when it came to filmmaking. The guy won an Academy Award for writing with Matt Damon for Good Will Hunting and that wasn’t a fluke. His work on The Town proves that he does have a solid eye for putting together a good film.
In a way, The Town is like a less obtrusive companion piece to The Departed. Where Scorcese played to his image and rode the tropes that made him a powerhouse in the crime genre, Affleck paints a rougher and less refined portrait of Boston crime. The Town is a film that borrows from many great films before it, most notably from Michael Mann’s Heat, as you can see an easy influence of his heist and shootout style imprinted on Affleck’s gang of crooks, but at the same time, he never apes the style in a way that makes it seem like a carbon copy or a ripoff.
Affleck is smart enough to know that it’s the characters that make movies like this work. Well staged heist sequences alone aren’t going to make the film stand out. So here we get Affleck turning in his best acting work in ten years while Jeremy Renner revels in playing a character that in the seventies would have gone to a young Joe Pesci. He’s a violent hot-head with no sense of conscience. He has his own moral code, but societal values mean nothing to him and Renner plays it with a level of authenticity that will earn him more than a fair share of accolades to pile on top of his praise for The Hurt Locker. Jon Hamm does a good job with what he’s given, though he really doesn’t get enough time to develop into a well rounded character. We don’t really see what motivates him to be the kind of cop that he plays, but this isn’t his story, so it’s not that big a gripe. Blake Lively scores some major points for pulling off the trashy ex-girlfriend character and it’s obvious she’s trying to distance herself from Gossip Girl here, but she’s also a victim of not enough screen time syndrome.
All in all, this is still one of the best fims of the year. I imagine it’s really the first great movie of the fall season, and we’ll see how the rest of the Oscar bait stacks up in the coming weeks.
Joblo is reporting this morning that Jeremy Renner, he of The Hurt Locker fame, is officially on board as Hawkeye in the upcoming Avengers maga-film. I think it’s pretty darn good casting. He’s got the look for it, and the attitude. What remains to be seen is whether or not they’re going to go the Ultimate route or the 616 original. Does this man truly have the balls to wear a blue and purple scale-mail jumpsuit and hop around shooting a bow and arrow? If he does, he’s more of a man than I am because I wouldn’t be caught dead wearing Hawkeye’s uniform.
So what we have so far for an Avengers team is this : Nick Fury, Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Hawkeye and the possibility of War Machine and Black Widow. Will Ant-Man and the Wasp show up? Is the Hulk still a factor? I don’t know. I just know that the film is shaping up to be something really interesting, but we still have Thor and Cap’s solo films before the Avengers hit the screen, so that’s plenty of time to blindly speculate on what could happen before they ever get filming.