(No, There Aren’t Any Spoilers)
The first thirty minutes of The Avengers are painfully boring, but then the Hulk starts smashing stuff, and there’s a giant robot space worm that jizzes flying demon bikes and after that it was awesome! Perhaps this won’t win me any Pulitzers, but that’s my professional opinion.
“We have a Hulk!” Tony Stark yells in the previews. Yes, they do, and thank God. Without him, this wouldn’t be much of a movie. The first act is every bit the esoteric circle jerk the Whedon haters worried it would be, a mish-mash of nonsensical comic-book procedural minutiae, periodically interrupted by winky in-jokes ranging from the sorta cute-funny to the nauseatingly kitschy.
“Loki has stolen the tesseract! It looks like he’s planning to implode the hydro weapon and use gamma rays to create ion fusion!
“But if he creates ion fusion, it could….”
“That’s right! It would awaken the Chitauri and bring about terra forma!”
“SOMETHING SOMETHING MACGUFFIN, WE HAVE TO REVERSE THE POLARITY!”
(*Tony Stark looks directly into the camera*)
“…F*ck yeah we do.” (*lip bite, hip thrust, gun fingers*)
You basically get a WWE hype reel for each character, and when they finally do get in the same room together, their characters are so specifically and rigidly defined that it’s like watching Sex and the City for nerds.
You guys! Stop fighting! I really think we should listen to orders because I was in the war.
Quiet, fool! Your Earth words are like ants biting my space ears. We all know this is about my space brother.
Whoa, there Yokeahontas, project much? I like your dress, though. Is that Versace? (to camera) I’M ROBERT DOWNEY, BITCH!
Don’t you ever take anything seriously?!
Me? No, sorry, I was too busy… being a billionaire! (*hits play on boombox, it blares AC/DC*)
AGENT SCARJO AS A REDHEAD
I have no idea why I’m here. I don’t even remember my character’s name.
Get it? Their characters are always doing things that type of character would do! Classic Thor. Obviously, Tony is the Samantha. Meanwhile, the main effect of the movie being in 3D is that every establishing shot has to have a leaf or a tree trunk or a lamppost in the foreground as if to say, “LOOK, THIS SHOT HAS DEPTH!”
I’m exaggerating slightly – some of the winky-wink jokes strike just the right tone of irreverence to make the minutiae palatable. But to some degree, Joss Whedon is so concerned with smirk-checking all the genre tropes that he seems not to notice that he doesn’t actually need all of them. STOP TONGUE-KISSING THE FANBOYS AND MAKE A MOVIE, DAMN YOU!
FINALLY, the Hulk shows up. And dudes? It is so righteous. The Hulk is the ultimate superhero for blackout drunks. An unkillable juggernaut of unfocused rage, he’s constantly waking up in craters at the end of trails of destruction, not really remembering what happened and apologizing profusely for any trouble. “Oh God I’m so sorry, I didn’t do anything terrible this time, did I? That other guy… he’s a monster.”
“Aw, man, he’s not that bad. You’re just shame spiraling. …Actually, you were kind of sweet.”
Every young man secretly dreams that his drunken, Philistine conniptions could one day save the world, and The Avengers plays that aspect of the Hulk perfectly (is this getting cathartic yet?). And from the audience reaction, he played equally well to small children.
A CHUBBY 10-YEAR-OLD WALKING NEXT TO ME ON THE WAY OUT OF THE SCREENING
Did you see when the Hulk was all (*explosion sound*) and he punched Thor?!
Yeah, dude, that was fuc– Uh, I mean… yeah, that was my favorite part too.
If I was Thor, I would rob a bank! (at this point he ran off with his arms spread, making punching sounds)
I suspect Avengers will play amazingly to kids, for the same reason that half this review is “WASN’T IT AWESOME WHEN THE HULK SMASHED STUFF?!?”
The Hulk is a breath of fresh air, partly because the other characters’ powers are a little fuzzily defined. Thor can summon lightning sometimes, and it’s cool that Loki can occasionally make holograms (?) of himself and morph into his space clothes (love the horned helmet), but it’s pretty hazy what Loki’s powers actually are, or when he can use them. Which makes the lo-fi appeal of the Hulk tearing peoples’ arms off and punting them into the sun all the more appealing.
The biggest difference between this and something like the Dark Knight is that where Chris Nolan is concerned with redefining genre (and can border on overly self-serious), Joss Whedon writes gushy love letters to genre (and can border on overly kitschy). I could’ve done without a lot of the first third of The Avengers, and without Hawkeye and Black Widow, who are pointless characters and too silly to require inclusion anyway, but by the time we get to the final fight, which was brilliantly shot and had me squealing with glee, Whedon’s passion had become contagious.
There was also lots of my new favorite genre cliché, a flying craft that can rocket across the sky at Mach 10 and bank 20G turns while being operated by a guy standing nonchalantly in front of the controls without a harness. Between this and Prometheus, piloting a rocketplane like a Segway could be the new “moving holograms around with your hands.”