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Superheroes Bump Superegos in Joss Whedon's All-Star Avengers

At the start of Joss Whedon's long-awaited Marvel superhero supergroup flick, The Avengers, the Tesseract—a powerful, potentially dangerous glowing cube that fell to the ocean floor after Captain America (Chris Evans) liberated it from the Nazis in his movie last summer—is in the hands of NASA. The cube starts spewing gamma radiation, heralding the arrival of Loki (Tom Hiddleston)—brother of demigod Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and villain of 2011's Thor—who puts a spell on scientist Eric Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard) and SHIELD agent Barton (Jeremy Renner) so that they'll do his bidding. The trio escapes with the Tesseract in hand, with eye-patched agent Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) unable to stop them.

With the help of ass-kicking all-purpose Girl Friday Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), Fury gathers a motley crew to help wrangle the Tesseract back. There's Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), pulled away from Stark Tower, the gaudy monument to himself he has built to showcase a pioneering sustainable-energy source. Gamma-radiation expert Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) is found in Southeast Asia, where he tends to the local sick and maintains an equilibrium that has prevented "the other guy"—the Hulk—from showing up for a year. Captain A., frozen in a block of ice for 70 years and thawed in the present day at the end of his movie, serves as the surrogate for the segment of the audience walking in cold and desperately needing to be debriefed on all of the above. Thor, initially unlocatable even by SHIELD's all-seeing surveillance, shows up looking for his brother.

"These people may be isolated, unbalanced even," concedes Fury. They're also largely up their own asses, each of them lone warriors wary of giving up control. Once they're assembled at Fury's invisible-to-outsiders secret headquarters, Whedon uses the calm in between Loki-initiated storms to demonstrate ad nauseam that the Avengers just can't get along. As daring as it might seem for the biggest superhero movie ever to turn the action knob way down for an hour so that its actors can do some acting, the actual material they're given is as programmatic as a bad culture-clash rom-com, transparently meant to tear our heroes apart just so they can come back together. One scene, in which Thor, Iron Man, and Cap each whip out their superpowers to show the others whose is biggest, amounts to a CGI-enabled round of roshambo.

Thor and Captain America, together at last
Zade Rosenthal
Thor and Captain America, together at last

Details

The Avengers
Directed by Joss Whedon
Disney
Opens May 4

Writer/director Whedon first showed his incredible talent for long-form storytelling in TV's Buffy the Vampire Slayer, infusing the fantastic with slowly built, genuinely relatable emotion. On The Avengers' comparatively minute canvas of two and a half hours, Whedon effectively creates a sketch of a working universe and tells us that his characters are emotionally damaged but doesn't explore that damage in any substantive way. The most Whedon-esque parts of the script are the flippant wisecracks—self-satisfied, self-deprecating, or somehow both—that the fucked-up superheroes toss off as knee-jerk self-defense in life-or-death situations. What worked as the cool diffusion of stakes in Buffy here underlines the lack of suspense to the mission: We never get the sense that any of the heroes might not survive to snark again.

Maybe it's the shock of the new, but the most exciting actor here is Ruffalo, the third star cast as Banner/the Hulk in 10 years, after Eric Bana and Edward Norton proved unprofitable. Ruffalo successfully refreshes the Hulk myth, playing Banner as an adorably bashful nerd-genius who, in contrast to the preening hunks on the team, knows better than to draw attention to himself. As a fellow top brainiac with dangerously repressed issues, Banner brings out a measure of complexity in Tony Stark that a tired-looking Downey—who was revelatory in the first Iron Man as someone forced to become part machine in order to realize his full human potential—can no longer muster on his own.

The four main male Avengers at least combine to form a varied gallery of masculine neurosis. The women fare less well, with Gwyneth Paltrow's Pepper Potts, who was briefly promoted to CEO of Stark Industries in Iron Man 2, given just one dialogue scene: Barefoot in cutoff shorts, she whispers implied sexual promises to Tony and then books it so he can get some work done. Johansson, reprising her role from Iron Man 2, is the only actress given any sort of inner life to work with. The Avengers hints that this former Russian spy with "a very specific skill set" has a complicated backstory—sordid and shameful, perhaps, but also rife with transformative drama, suggesting an arc that's much more interesting than anything the characters travel here.

The final act of The Avengers consists of an insanely complex action set piece, containing some truly cool visual shit, not least the alien army summoned by Loki, which arrives in some kind of undulating, indestructible, prehistoric flying fish. But really, who cares about another battle? We know how this is going to end. The long, technically bravura sequence is given dramatic tension only by occasional scraps of dialogue, such as a two-line exchange between Natasha and Barton over a job they worked in Budapest, alluding to the mysterious lives they'd all been leading before this movie. Then, a few minutes later, Iron Man breaks a moment of tension with a homophobic wisecrack. Every time the movie hints at something rich and evocative, Whedon undercuts it with a punchline—his instincts as a big-picture storyteller crippled by his short-term need to please the crowd.

 
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122 comments
Steve C.
Steve C.

Seriously, every season ender of "Doctor Who" is way more gripping and better executed than this long, empty-caloried piece of commerce.

Diana Maras
Diana Maras

I don't understand critics. Why can't you just enjoy a movie? They're made for entertainment purposes only. So why does every critic look for the answer to life to be somehow exposed in a film? If you're so empty - don't blame the movie industry - blame yourself. Pull your head out of your butt and figure it out. It's really not that hard.

Michael
Michael

Wow, people are really defensive about this movie. I was bored as hell by the final scene. Really, that's the end of the world? Lizards on flying jet-skis? Shooting lasers. Was Whedon messing with us? I'm sorry I want more, but I do. I want something insanely bad-ass. Now I'm sure some idiot will come on here, telling me "those weren't lizards, they were 4th dimensional living rock things", but I DON'T CARE. I couldn't help thinking "lizards on jet-skis" so that's what they were.

Thor on the Chrysler building was cool, the Grand Central Station thing was kinda cool, but for the most part it was lame. Where was the Air Force? Cruise missiles? If arrows can take down those things, a freaking sidewinder should have no problem. These aliens couldn't even take down NYC, and we are supposed to believe they were going to take over the world?

That is why end-of-the-world movies are hard to pull off. How do a group of superheros save the world? Not by fighting bad guys that can get taken out by arrows, coming through a portal that was at most 1/2 a mile wide, in traditional battle. Maybe I needed a second bag of popcorn. I hate people that say this, but I could have come up with something better. Then why don't I? I'm seriously wondering the same thing right now.

KlingonLovePonyPOP!POP!
KlingonLovePonyPOP!POP!

I could have overlooked the wisecracks if it weren't for my choice of seating. I was sitting directly in front of a group of 20 somethings that couldn't help but laugh loudly at EVERY single joke. I wanted to kill myself by the end of the film. Jesus Christ, how could one group of people find every single idiotic joke funny? Watching Family Guy must make them hyperventilate. Maybe they were high on something? Yeah, they must have been high. It's either that or they spent the last 24 hours preparing for the movie by slamming their heads against rocks.

Ricko8687
Ricko8687

Ease up stop taking everything so serious. It's a fun summer movie

jmarquiso
jmarquiso

While I enjoyed the movie, and largely disagree with this review, she does make some fair points.

Every movie, sequel, sidequel, prequel, or otherwise should be looked at with fresh eyes. While the film is largely for fanboys, that's not the only audience meant to be reached here, and it shouldn't. Franchises largely focus on expanding audiences rather than losing them, and that's what's important here. This particular critic / audience member didn't appreciate it, and that's her prerogative.

In the echo chamber of fan press and reviews, it's important to look at counterpoints to improve the medium.

While I happen to like the Whedon-esque dialog in this movie, I generally don't like it in every movie. Being clever and witty with a line does undercut tension too much. Works for a comic book film, but not for any drama. So this is a fair point for the review.

As for Tony's "homophobic" comment, well, Tony's not supposed to be admirable. He's a bad man trying to do a good thing for redemption - which has been the most important aspect of his character since the beginning.

Edit: I will have to also profoundly disagree with the immature comments on this review.

Marxist
Marxist

yeah.....

this is a comic book movie actually trying to be faithful to it's source material..

At worst it's a popcorn film at best it's a blockbuster because of this.

pointing out the obvious to try to prove how hip you are just proves this movie wasn't made for you....

And that's fine.

David Schulz
David Schulz

"his instincts as a big-picture storyteller crippled by his short-term need to please the crowd."

Have you lost your mind? This may be the most assisne comment about a summer blockbuster movie I've ever heard. Isn't PLEASING THE CROWD the entire point of making movies like this. I swear, you film critics don't get it. These movies are what make it possible for studios to make the crop of box office failures that was this years Oscar nominees.

Geologic
Geologic

So Calcutta, India is now in Southeast Asia? Since when?

Axtell71
Axtell71

If you're not going to go into a movie with an open mind and not a bunch of (wrong) preconceived notions, then what the heck are you doing reviewing movies in the first place?

The fact that the reviewer obviously had it in mind that it was just another superhero movie without giving any credence to the story-telling or plot development or character building is proof positive that, regardless of how well made this movie was (and it is amazing), this reviewer was going to trash it.

If they summation of the review is 'who cares, we know how this is going to end', then why watch any movie? Why watch any romantic comedy, for example, when we know 9 times out of 10 the main couple is going to end up together? Why watch any movie if this is the reviewers defense?

While the reviewer is of course entitled to their opinion, as a published reviewer its their responsibility, rather, their JOB to be open-minded going in. Publishing a review trashing a film for simply being a film the reviewer obviously abhors is as lazy as it is dishonest.

Eurynome
Eurynome

Thor is not a demigod... He is a god, lmao I don't care to much about the avengers but honestly, your a critic, get the facts strait.

Gjc1695
Gjc1695

Now, now, good people. Let's remember that a professional critic renders an opinion. It's just an opinion. Here, it happens to be one that is informed.

groupthinker1984
groupthinker1984

"One scene, in which Thor, Iron Man, and Cap each whip out their superpowers to show the others whose is biggest, amounts to a CGI-enabled round of roshambo."

This is the problem when non comic book fans try to review comic book movies. There are two reasons that scene exists. First, because its longstanding comic book tradition that two superheroes have to fight before they team up. Second, because it makes sense to the plot. Thor believes Loki is his responsibility and Iron Man has no way of knowing what Thor's intentions are but knows that S.H.I.E.L.D's prisoner was just swiped. Its probably the most logical execution of the "Heroes fight before teaming up" trope I've seen to date.

Sakara
Sakara

nerd boy fnaboyz really go nuts over stoopid comic book movies.

more proof that today's college kids are dumb.

Can1
Can1

YOU ARE TERRIBLE. WHY EVEN REVIEW THIS??? you decided you would hate it before you saw it.... What? Just to be smarmy and full of yourself?What is the point? Think of something interesting to say..... READ YOUR OWN REVIEW AGAIN AND LISTEN TO HOW RIDICULOUS YOU SOUND!!! PLEASE!!!

It'

Breginol
Breginol

Don't write reviews anymore because it is asshole pompous bitches like you that attempt to ruin it for the rest of the world. Go rent the notebook buy a cheap bottle of wine and drink until you fall asleep in the tub at the motel you're renting ALONE!!

Tallulah Alice Mae
Tallulah Alice Mae

Thank you for restoring a little faith in your gender for me.

I can't even comprehend the level of sexism in all the comments on the internetz right now.

It's actually hilarious, because Joss Whedon is a feminist.

Tallulah Alice Mae
Tallulah Alice Mae

This isn't an altogether bad review; I don't agree and as people have said, being any kind of deep and evocative is not its purpose. I take issue with Stark's homphobic comment...? What? Are you referring to the 'I hope none of you kissed me' line? Ugh, how is that homophobic. Honestly.

Sjayc1
Sjayc1

The Avengers does not have the complex story that The Dark Knight has. It doesn't need to. It is the best comic to film movie in the purest sense that has been made to date. The back stories have already been told, we already know the villain. The plot has been revealed through mid credit teasers since 2008's Ironman. Any critic who would review this movie without watching the prior films is just asking to get humiliated. Male or Female. I grew up on comics. Before I could read them I would just flip through the pages to get to the fight scenes. I loved seeing the heroes get in to scraps. Whedon gets that. From Ironman vs Thor to Thor vs Hulk and so on.

Of course the winner isn't in doubt. If you went in thinking the Aliens would destroy the earth and the Avengers would bite it well, you're just plain stupid.

There is not one single critic or viewer that could possibly come out of this movie and say they didn't laugh once, nearly cheer on a couple of occasion or wish, for just a second that they could command lightning or turn in to a big green rage monster and stomp someone's butt! For 2.5 hrs of your life you can forget the rent, the car note and all the other things that stress you and immerse in to a world of entertainment.Maybe the next go around Mr. Whedon will cater to the 7% of critics on Rotten Tomatoes that didn't like the movie. Maybe filming it without audio will get him a nod for best picture 2015?

Rafael
Rafael

"Writer/director Whedon first showed his incredible talent for long-form storytelling in TV's Buffy the Vampire Slayer, infusing the fantastic with slowly built, genuinely relatable emotion. On The Avengers' comparatively minute canvas of two and a half hours, Whedon effectively creates a sketch of a working universe and tells us that his characters are emotionally damaged but doesn't explore that damage in any substantive way. The most Whedon-esque parts of the script are the flippant wisecracks—self-satisfied, self-deprecating, or somehow both—that the fucked-up superheroes toss off as knee-jerk self-defense in life-or-death situations. What worked as the cool diffusion of stakes in Buffy here underlines the lack of suspense to the mission: We never get the sense that any of the heroes might not survive to snark again."

Did this reviewer know that 5 movies were released where all of this was explore already? And this is not freaking Buffy, is The Avengers. Anyways, I did not finish to read the review because half of it I was not sure what the heck she was talking about, LOL

Bunga Manggiasih
Bunga Manggiasih

I love comics but never like American-type superheroes (except Watchmen, but it's not a mainstream superheroes comics for sure). Perhaps that's why although I didn't expect much, I found The Avengers to be boring, overlong, jammed with too much city destruction scenes. But I agree it is somewhat helped by Ruffalo, Downey Jr., and Johansson.

However, a trivial note for Ms. Longworth: in the movie, Branner was not working in Southeast Asia, he was in South Asia.

ultrassjstuart
ultrassjstuart

Yawn... the hilarious reverse-sexism bias of this 'review' is palpable, visible from the moment only Black Widow's character is given any positive mention, despite the only part she played was to bring back hawkeye and then they were essentially one character: 'the normals' in the group. Another pathetic vomiting of another self-obsessed feminist who is as bad as any chauvinist out there. Shocks me how anyone can spend a thousand words to say 'duh! Men have egos and fight a lot, why no women in this more? duh...'

Kindly get your head out of your own vagina and stop soiling our eyes with this bull.

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Troy Mccauley
Troy Mccauley

im sorry but this review comes off as exactly the kind of self absorbed, pretentious crap that makes people hate movie critics. Any movie should be reviewd on how well it acomplishes its goal of entertaining its target audience.

This is a frakking comic book movie, not a shakespear adaptation, slamming it for being fun is like crapping all over ice cream for being sweet.

Please just shut up.

Epac
Epac

I'm pretty sure that most movie-goers aren't walking into this thing expecting Academy Award-Winning performances.

drakejr
drakejr

Oh look, another superego, and it's from the reviewer. Get over yourself Ms. Longworth, stop trying to pretend you are too good for simple pleasures, you're not.

This is not me!
This is not me!

This is why women should stay in the kitchen and let the men watch movies!! Goddamnit!, woman..... I saw it twice and I will see it a few times more. But this review was retarded. I agree Village has gound its idiot!!

Richard
Richard

I'd like to believe that at least some of the blame for this movie being less than relevatory can be placed at the feet of Zak Penn, who wrote the original story (that Whedon then reworked) and Marvel, which obviously wouldn't give Whedon free rein to work his magic like he could on his own creations. I'm not one of those people who thinks Whedon walks on water, but he probably could've done better if the focus wasn't so much on pleasing the studio, making back the $100s of millions spent to make the movie and then some, and juggling all the egos (coughcoughrobertdowneyjrcoughcough) as on making the best story.

That's of course assuming this critique is accurate, but I have no reason to think she's not on point. (I'll find out Friday at 12:01 am for myself...)

...and for what it's worth, I'm far more excited about Batman. ;)

Solfyre808
Solfyre808

Seems like the Village has found their idiot...

Dvdbash Wordpress
Dvdbash Wordpress

Today Disney/Marvel/Joss Whedon‘s The Avengers has already grossed more than its production budget (estimated to $220 million) in overseas markets. The movie is expected to rocket past $500-600 million by Sunday, and become a worldwide box-office tsunami. Mark Ruffalo has signed a 6-film deal for The Hulk, and Samuel L.Jackson may sign a 9-film deal as Nick Fury…

Joss Whedon, the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly and Dollhouse is going to be soon a multi-millionaire !

Steve C.
Steve C.

I don't understand you uncritical members of the audience. Why can't you get past the cgi and arena-ampilfied noise and see there isn't a good story nor human emotions behind this $250 million pile of commercial product. Find a good screenwriter, not an adult child who writes comic book dialogue but one who has an ear for the way humans actually speak and think. It's really not that hard. That's what's called a counterpoint, Ms Maras.

Anon
Anon

They aren't just any old arrows. They are exploding, super hero arrows. Geez. Take a Xanax before you go to the theatre next time.

jmarquiso
jmarquiso

I think it's "I hope none of you kissed me." Then again, none of them were likely his type.

Cantankerist
Cantankerist

The phrase you glossed over there was "short-term", and that's the point. If you feel a reflexive need to chuck a throwaway gag in because the eyes of the dumber audience members start to glaze over, it's going to (and, in the Avengers, does) sabotage the long game.

But you're right, it's a very assisne comment.

hellogoodbye
hellogoodbye

I went in with an open mind, but the fact is, the movie had almost no plot. It was purely action and a bunch of dorky terrible jokes. In the theater that I was in, hardly anyone laughed at any of the jokes. I also hadn't seen any of the previous movies, and I was confused as to who the characters were and I didn't know what that blue cube was, all I knew was, there was a blue cube, loki was trying to steal it, and the avengers were trying to stop him. I was also really unimpressed with these "superheros" with no superpowers except for the hulk and thor. Ironman is in a suit, the girl had a gun, the other guy had arrows, and captain america had a shield. Honestly, this is what comic fans have been in love with? What happened to flying, invisibility, etc?

Peter
Peter

"If you're not going to go into a movie with an open mind and not a bunch of (wrong) preconceived notions,"You're speaking about yourself, right?

Reelhorror
Reelhorror

The first letter of the first word of a sentence is capitalized. Learn how to spell.

Green
Green

You're an idiot. Way to generalize dumb ass.....Keep your lame put downs to yourself.I'm sure you have lovely intelligent things to say about intuitive your cats are....

You probably didn't even see the movie. What's your genre? Indy films.... How original

gregmag
gregmag

I really loved this movie, and I thought the review, while making some interesting points, was largely off base. I really wish those views didn't remotely put me on the "same side" as a misogynistic asshole like you. It's called reasoned discourse. Catch up with it.

Steerepike Der Fruedemacher
Steerepike Der Fruedemacher

You're right. It's not Buffy, so why was it filled with so much Buffy-esque dialogue. Whedon gets away with too much, and gets praise on poor work. I'm a long time comic-geek, and as an entire product, I quite enjoyed the movie, but the dialogue that everybody is praising ranged from acceptable to pants-shittingly bad. Why can't Joss Whedon write tension without blowing it off? The dialogue in his run on Astonishing X-Men drove me away from X-Men comics for long after he was no longer writing them.

valerick
valerick

If you had finished the review, you would have answered your own question. If your defense is that the movie cannot stand alone, then that's not much of a defense now, is it?

ultrassjstuart
ultrassjstuart

Hmm... All I'm hearing is 'I agree on all your points and not going to elaborate or give any rational explination why i find certain things boring or annoying' You never said which destruction scenes were annoying, in what way it was overlong and in what way it was boring.Comment fail. All i hear is 'I'm a woman too, +1 for girl power'I'm sorry, but this is a world where the double standard doesn't work any more, unless you justify your words expect yourself to be dropped down by several pegs.Oh, and 'Watchment aren't mainstream superheroes',? All i hear there is 'I liked the watchmen movie, which was kinda different which therefore makes me complex in some way by liking it'I also know numerous people who would spend hours arguing the fact that they aren't 'mainstream'

groupthinker1984
groupthinker1984

I don't think she expects it to be Shakespeare.

She is at least trying to review the movie on the basis of how fun it is, its just that her idea of fun is different from what most of the target Avengers audience wants out of this movie. And I'm going to give her the benefit of a doubt and assume that she's expecting strong feminist themes out of a movie adaptation of a mostly male superhero team because the movie was written by Joss Wheddon. In truth, I was kind of expecting that there would be some awkwardly shoe-horned in feminist themes because of Wheddon and am relieved that they don't seem to be present

Note to Ms Longworth: Its a bunch of male characters engaging in a male adolescent power fantasy, it would be a huge disservice to the fans to spend five movies setting this thing up only to mock the fandom for enjoying the essential tropes.

Saskia
Saskia

Yep, the Village has found its idiot and it's definitely you for the first sentence of your comment. I don't agree with this review -have watched the movie twice so far and will watch it every coming Thursday until I run out of money-, but your comment is just a moronic waste of space.

Daniel
Daniel

...and for what it's worth, I'm far more excited about Batman. ;)

and why wouldn't you be? You are probably a DC fan and by the looks or should I say audio of the trailer, they did a horrible job re-doing Bane's voice over. You can obviously tell it was re-done and sounds different from the audio after Bruce's question.

I don't get it. We have seen Batman twice already and the second was great with Heath Ledger. This doesn't excite me as it did watching the Avengers come together or what the Man of Steel will bring. I also am waiting eagerly for The Amazing Spiderman.

Make mine Marvel.

Sgthall
Sgthall

We CAN get past the cgi-we don't WANT to. It's called suspension of belief, which is why most people actually even bother to go to a movie. The dialogue worked just fine (even Michael Musto apparently loves it). But not everyone wants to see some angst-ridden Woody Allen movie with endless, neurotic, talk talk talk. If most of the movie going public were like you or Ms. Longworth, we'd never have even had the Wizard of Oz.

Daniel
Daniel

There really isn't any need for bashing the writer because of her gender. That is old hat. What I disagree with is her understanding of the direction they went with this and why it worked for us who have seen this from an artistic view. There are little nuances that ares shown that were I guess missed the first time around. Maybe these are picked up the second time around. Over all it was a great experience and fun! Male or female, critics simply share an opinion. Everyone has one. Hers is just weak.

 

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