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Mandy and Drew review The Avengers!

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Mandy Griffiths
@http://www.twitter.com/mandygriffiths

One of Moviehole's longest-serving contributors, Mandy has worked her way up the ladder from contributor to Australian co-editor. Also works full-time in publicity.

Mandy : I’m calling it. “The Avengers” is the “Citizen Kane” of super hero movies. If by that statement you assume I enjoyed it, you would be correct. If you also assume by that statement that the next few paragraphs are going to consist of me fangirling over writer/director Joss Whedon, you would also be correct. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Whedon will always be the creator of “Buffy” to me, and for that he has a fan for life, but while he has had success writing films before (“Toy Story”), and built a fanatical fan base with “Serenity”, I have a feeling this film will mark a turning point for him as a director. He has created a $200 million film that didn’t waste its budget, its star power or its heritage. And it’s funny. Whew. Marvel can just go ahead and erect his stature in their head office right now.

“The Avengers” of course unites the Marvel heroes Iron Man (Robert Downey Junior), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner). Nick Fury (Samual L Jackson) finally stops making cameos and gets more than two lines of dialogue, and serves of the overseer of this motley crew. America has taken on the responsibility of saving the world for many years, and it is no different here. Will they all get along? Do they try to one up each other and wackiness ensues? Is The Hulk naked when he transforms back into a Bruce Banner? The fun of the film lies in how these characters play off each other, and how they come together, so I won’t spoil it for you. Oh all right, yes he is naked.

Even characters that in their introductory films I thought were bland (Captain America), unnecessary (Black Widow), cartoonishly green (you know who I’m talking about), came alive in this one. No mean feat when there are six characters who could potentially lead the entire film and need to share screen time. Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) is probably the one character that misses out on the some of the build up, but he’s a joy to watch by the final showdown, no matter how ineffective a bow and arrow would really be if that was your signature weapon. I mean really, even Thor’s hammer is more useful. A hammer! This is no fault of Whedon’s of course, just to be clear.

Breakout star of the film? How about none of the above, with the award going to returning villain and “adopted” brother of Thor, Loki (Tom Hiddleston). Such an intriguing baddie hasn’t been seen since Hugo Weaving “Mr Anderson”d his way around “The Matrix”. His villain is intelligent, menacing, and understands how to bring his foes down without monologuing. Much.

But back to Whedon. He is present everywhere in the film, from the dialogue, to the set up shots, to the extra million or so dollars that they would have spent on special effects just to include a two second funny aside. But more than that he loves the characters, knows their history and weaknesses, and uses this knowledge to drive the plot forward and create adversity. The film speeds along in an organic and exciting way so there is never a dull moment, despite the long running time. And the cheeseball factor stays surprisingly low, somewhere above “Fight Club” but way below “Transformers”.

If you can have a perfect super hero movie this is it. It’s not going to make you view the world differently, but it is an amazing ride, with great effects, action sequences, performances and dialogue. I don’t even know what they could have done differently.

There is, as always, a special treat at the end so be sure to stick around after the credits have rolled. Bring on ”Avengers 2”.

Drew : You don’t need to tell fans of Serenity, Buffy, Angel and a host of other shows and movies that Joss Whedon’s a smart guy who puts good writing above spectacle and special effects. Of all the creative people in Hollywood who make commercial entertainment he’s the last one you could accuse of taking the money for a popcorn blockbuster and running.

But in a film of ”The Avengers”’ sheer magnitude, he’d have had the least amount of creative freedom of his career. With $220m of money from the fledgling Marvel studios, the marketing executives and focus groups lining up to tell Whedon what to include would have gone around a few Hollywood blocks. His challenge was never going to be writing a good story – he can do that in his sleep – it was going to be telling a story that slotted into a very strict studio rulebook and still rose above the mire. Say what you like about Thor and Captain America, the stories in each film were as disposable as those of any other blockbuster.

It would have been easy to snaffle up a bunch of cool superheroes, give them a completely unrelated villain and have them squabble until they find common ground. But Whedon gives everyone a reason to be there and has made a huge contribution to making the Marvel universe as richly detailed as the Whedonverse. ”The Avengers” is much more than a tagline.

SHIELD boss Fury (Jackson) has the Tesseract – the power source revealed in Thor’s post credits sequence – under wraps at a top secret facility, but it soon captures the attention of Asgardian demigod Loki (Hiddleston), who needs it to bring an alien army to Earth and enslave humanity for his pleasure.

Turning several of the good guys – including Selvig (Sarsgaard) and Hawkeye (Renner) – into drones to do his bidding, Loki makes off with the Tesseract to bring about Armageddon. Fury recruits his best agents, including the smoking hot Natasha (Johansson) to bring in the people he needs to get it back.

Among them are Bruce Banner (Ruffalo), the gamma radiation scientist who can track the Tesseract but who has a destructive alter ego he assures his coworkers he can keep in check; Captain Steve Rogers (Evans), whose super-strength serum was based on the same technology; and smarmy Tony Stark’s (Downey Jr) genius to help put it all together. With Loki behind the fiendish plot, Thor (Hemsworth) shows up to put his errant brother back in his place.

The group bonds, bickers and blows things up aboard SHIELD’s airborne aircraft carrier (maybe Whedon hoped we wouldn’t remember ”Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow”) while they try to get along and track down the Tesseract.

But it wouldn’t be a blockbuster if the giant alien invasion didn’t happen, and with the Avengers scattered and apparently having failed, Loki opens the portal to the far reaches of space and the flying motorcycles and gigantic, fishlike spaceship/monster things of the alien race pour out into the sky over New York to wreak havoc.

During the climactic battle it seems Whedon goes to lunch and they call Michael Bay to fill in, so gleeful is the orgy of fiery destruction. We even get Bay’s signature shot of cars flipping over and over under the billowing cloud of an explosion. It’s in the sequences of spectacle where Whedon the writer disappears a little but Whedon the director can handle the action scenes effortlessly and there’s plenty of the jaw-dropping violence you expect in a film like this.

With Downey Jr headlining the cast as Tony Stark and Whedon scripting, humour was always going to be a big part of any Avengers movie, and there are several laugh out loud moments that are very welcome. In fact it was a very smart move to have the film laugh at itself. Comic-loving fanboys might take this sort of thing extremely seriously, but if you stop and think about how ridiculous these grown-ups look running around in silly costumes it will resoundingly torpedo your suspension of disbelief. Thankfully Whedon and his case give you little time to dwell on it and ”The Avengers” will be no less enjoyable for casual movie fans.

The bad news? It’s another movie with completely useless post 3D conversion. Whedon tested the 3D camera rig filming the post-credits Thor sequence but shot ”The Avengers” in 2D, leaving it to Disney to reverse engineer it. Maybe distributor Disney is desperate to make some money back after the very visible failure of ”John Carter” and maybe not, but The Avengers is sure to join the billion dollar box office club.

Mandy : 5/5

Drew : 3.5/5

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About Mandy Griffiths

One of Moviehole's longest-serving contributors, Mandy has worked her way up the ladder from contributor to Australian co-editor.
Also works full-time in publicity.

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