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May 14, 2012 | by  | in Arts Film |
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Review War – The Avengers

 Films invariably provoke wildly different reactions from different people. What some may adore, others may despise. However, it can never be said that one person’s opinion is definitive, simply because art is subjective. In the interests of balance this week we bring you a dual review of The Avengers, offering opposing viewpoints. 

Gerald Lee

Verdict: 1/5

When you have a film that arrives with such a significant amount of fanfare, you expect something that provokes as well as entertains. Inevitably, such lofty expectations are rarely met and such is the case for Joss Whedon’s The Avengers. Its shiny veneer fails to hide a derivative film that doesn’t deliver on its grand promises.

For a film about a group of social outcasts and rebels, there seems to be an awful lot of conformity to standard filmmaking tropes. There are glowing, mysterious objects of power, aliens who detest the human race and weapons that shoot deadly beams of light. Every plot element is tired and predictable, only serving as a flimsy pretext to the next extravagant explosion.

Perhaps Marvel’s colourful cast of superheroes could counteract this? Sadly not, as the characters appear as flat clichés who all seem to have been written with a single character trait in mind. Iron Man wisecracks, Thor bellows and Captain America broods. Only Mark Ruffalo’s turn as the Hulk exudes any sort of nuance, but he is criminally under-utilised. Joss Whedon is famous for subverting genre conventions, however there is very little evidence of his ability for narrative depth or complex characterisation.

Moreover, the film indulges in the morally dubious ideas typical of the superhero genre. The film is dripping with post 9/11 imagery and ideas of American triumphalism. Every scene seems to scream the virtues of America, as the noble heroes defend the people from aliens who seemingly act without conscience. There is none of the nuance of Christopher Nolan’s Batman films. Coupled with a criminally overlong middle section and you have a film that is brash and bold, but has remarkably little to say.

Perhaps I’m being a little harsh. The Avengers is serviceable entertainment but it is also exceedingly mediocre. People may like to pretend that this is Marvel’s magnum opus but in reality it is no better than the standard popcorn fodder, it just took more money to make.

Disclosure: Contrary to what the above may imply Gerald does actually like to have fun from time to time.

Cory Knights

Verdict: 5/5

The Avengers is without a doubt the greatest superhero film of all time. It may represent everything that’s wrong with Hollywood but it’s done so expertly that it works like a charm. Joss Whedon has presented us with a film that is well paced–barring the first 15 minutes–and gives credence to the comics that paved the way for the Marvel cinematic universe. Dripping with humour, the film gives us some of the most fully realised superheroes on the big screen. Arguably, each doesn’t get enough screen time, but this is an inherent limitation of having seven main characters.

The big draw card is obviously to see Thor, Ironman, Captain America, and Hulk all square off and these moments are superbly satisfying. Whilst we definitely see that “some assembly [is] required”, the most captivating moments in the film are witnessing these different ideologies and perceptions unfold and come together. A personal favourite is the unlikely friendship that Tony Stark and Bruce Banner strike up. The camaraderie that follows underlies a few of the more subtle plot points later on in the film.

The action beats are executed logically and with a sense of geography. From trailers, many critics were quick to point out that the “Avengers assemble to save a block of New York City”. This was even addressed, adding to the Cap’s usefulness as a team leader whilst subtly highlighting Marvel Studio’s infamous frugality.

As every single critic has noted, Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner is the unexpected shining star. He authentically portrays a man who genuinely cares for others and his slow realisation that the Hulk can be somewhat a blessing in amongst a green smashy disguise. Remember you don’t always want him to hulk out!

The Avengers is proof that character and dialogue are just as important as plot and set pieces. The film’s minor flaws are wholly eclipsed by the sheer joy that it brings to anyone with even a mild interest in superheroes. Joss Whedon has made yet another masterpiece that will be the superhero film that all others must aim for.

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