"Joy and pleasure are as real as pain and sorrow and one must learn what they have to teach. . . ." -- Sean Russell, from Gatherer of Clouds

"If you're not having fun, you're not doing it right." -- Helyn D. Goldenberg

"I love you and I'm not afraid." -- Evanescence, "My Last Breath"

“If I hear ‘not allowed’ much oftener,” said Sam, “I’m going to get angry.” -- J.R.R. Tolkien, from Lord of the Rings

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Reviews in Brief: Joss Whedon's The Avengers

I saw The Avengers when it was in the theaters, and came right home and pre-ordered the DVD, which arrived Thursday. I have now watched the DVD three times, from you which you might infer that I love this movie. You'd be right.

If you have somehow avoided knowing anything about the film, the basic set-up is as follows: S.H.I.E.L.D. is working with the tesseract, a mysterious artifact retrieved from the depths of the ocean during the search for Captain America when he was being an icicle, trying to a) figure it out, and b) use it as a source of unlimited sustainable energy. However, Loki (Tom Hiddleston), still smarting from his exile from Asgard, has another use for it: he's going to conquer Earth, using the tesseract to create a portal to bring his army through from another dimension. So he manages to transport himself to the lab where the work is being done and steals the tesseract, magically coopting Dr. Selvig (Stellan SkarsgÄrd) and Agent Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner). Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), director of S.H.I.E.L.D., needs a response team, and starts to put it together: Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans), Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.), Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Dr. Bruce Banner/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). They capture Loki and are transporting him back to headquarters when Thor (Chris Hemsworth) inserts himself into the picture, intent on taking Loki back to Asgard to face judgment there.

Then the fun begins.

This is Whedon's show, and it's terrific: he co-wrote the story, wrote the screenplay, and directed. It's hard to explain the appeal. (Well, aside from Chris Evans and Chris Hemsworth running around in tights, and Robert Downey, Jr., being cute as all get-out, and Jeremy Renner's shoulders, and Mark Ruffalo naked in an abandoned warehouse -- you get the idea.) It's tight, focused, starts moving even before the opening titles and doesn't slow down (not much, at least). Visually, it's a treat as well --- even aside from the aforementioned eyecandy.

The actors are all in top form -- there's a lot of spiky back-and-forth and outright confrontations between Captain America and Iron Man, between Bruce Banner and Nick Fury, between Thor and everyone. And yet they somehow make themselves into a team, and the final battle scene -- which lasts about an hour -- is absolutely no holds barred. (The effects are, as you might guess, spectacular.)

The prize, I think, goes to Johannson as Black Widow -- not only is she a superb physical actress, but her character is multi-faceted and very subtly drawn.

Oh, and it's funny. There's some great throw-away lines sprinkled throughout the movie.

So, yeah, this is my movie of the year.

Marvel Studios/Paramount Pictures, 2012. Running time 143 minutes, rated PG. Full credits at IMDb, and a full review at Sleeping Hedgehog.

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