The highly-anticipated, brilliantly-executed action flick 'The Avengers' more than delivers. Plus, Scarlett Johansson chats about her experience of playing Black Widow in the superhero blockbuster.
While the electrifying and jaw-dropping spectacle will have you clutching your theater seat with unbridled excitement, sadly, the near-perfect The Avengers suffers from a handful of dangerous missteps.
THE AVENGERS: The Review
If you are a Marvel Comics aficionado and a unwavering devotee of the men and women that make up Marvel Comic’s stable of muscle-bound (the men, of course), mankind-saving, butt-kicking and simply cool superheroes, then you have been waiting for this movie your whole life. And guess what, you can believe the hype, because the Joss Whedon-directed blockbuster will not disappoint you. If you dug the recent Thor, Captain America and the two Iron Man solo movies (most true Marvel enthusiasts refuse to recognize the disastrous pair of Hulk films as true representations of the Big Green Dude), those fantastic solo flicks were only a teasing peak into the incredible camerawork, eye-popping special effects and exceptional, first-rate, Oscar-worthy (or at least Golden Globe-worthy) performances that dominate the spectacular motion picture The Avengers.
While scanning the faces of the audience which I saw the 3D version of The Avengers with, the adults were just as exhilarated and blown away watching the dazzling action scenes as their young offspring were. In simpler terms, The Avengers is a movie that should keep any and every movie-goer buzzing with excitement, even after the credits roll. (If you want a nice little pay-off, remain in your seats and watch the credits, because once they’ve ended, there’s a little more of The Avengers left to excite and entice you. Possibly the next villain for The Avengers to fight in the inevitable sequel?)
Chris Hemsworth as Thor and Chris Evans as Captain America in 'The Avengers'
Okay, before we go much further, let’s make sure you even know what I am babbling on about. If you have no idea about the May 4th release of The Avengers and which actors are in it, then you haven’t read a single magazine, surfed the internet, watched any commercial television channel, drunk a Dr. Pepper or even driven past an Acura dealership since the beginning of the year, because the world-famous faces of the guys (and gal) who make up the team of superheroes who save our planet from earthy destruction should have been seared into your frontal lobe by now. With all the months of inspired product-branding and well-executed advertising devices, The Avengers media campaign makes Don Draper and his crew of characters on Mad Men look like preschoolers at creating a campaign, in this case, for a well-made, highly-deserved piece of cultural cinematic art.
Alright, here’s a quick primer of who you will see in The Avengers and what happens to our heroes. If you’ve seen the solo outings already (which aren’t necessary to rent to understand what is going on in The Avengers, but rent them anyway just to enjoy the heck out of them) then you’ll see Robert Downey, Jr. is back as industrialist Tony Stark and his super alter-ego Iron Man, Chris Evans returns as Steve Rogers and the masked Captain America, Chris Hemsworth reprises his role as the Norse God Thor and the gorgeous and talented Scarlett Johansson (who appeared in Iron Man 2) joins the fight as Natasha Romanoff and her butt-kickin’ inner-ego Black Widow. New editions to the lineup include critical darling Mark Ruffalo, who portrays Bruce Banner and his massive, green, angry subconscious The Hulk, two-time Oscar nominee Jeremy Renner takes on the role of Clint Barton and his bow-and-arrow toting Hawkeye and Samuel L. Jackson plays Nick Fury, the head of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Chris Hemsworth (standing) as Thor, Director Joss Whedon, Robert Downey, Jr. as Iron Man and Chris Evans as Captain America in 'The Avengers'
In The Avengers, government systems begin to go awry in major ways. Something is wrong. When it is eventually discovered that Thor’s evil cousin, another Norse deity named Loki (Tom Hiddleston), has come to Earth to overtake the planet and rule mankind, Nick Fury (Jackson), director of the international peacekeeping agency known as S.H.I.E.L.D., contacts Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Thor, Captain America, Hawkeye and Black Widow in a daring, globe-spanning recruitment effort to assemble The Avengers team to defeat Loki (and to prevent the US Government from dropping a nuclear bomb on American soil to solve the Loki problem.) Once Fury and his longtime sideman, Agent Coulson, gather the heroes together for a mini-symposium on how to get rid of Loki for good, they quickly discover that their superheroes also have massive, SUPER egos. In some of the film’s funnier sequences, watching Fury and Coulson trying to stop the heroes from destroying each other are hilarious and simply priceless. Once The Avengers all realize that if Loki gains access to the Cosmic Cube, he’ll possess unlimited power and rule the galaxy. So they put their petty disagreements aside, pull together as a team and focus on one thing -- destroying Loki.
As mentioned earlier, The Avengers is damn near flawless, but much like our heroes, when you are at the top, it’s a long, long, way to fall. And while director Joss Whedon has made the movie we all hoped for, there are some minor problems that keep it from the prized A+ status. Director Joss Whedon -- who sports an impressive resume that includes co-creating, writing and directing such series as Buffy, The Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly and penning the screenplay for Alien: Resurrection and the recent horror film The Cabin In The Woods -- is more than qualified to helm a film as important and intricate as The Avengers. But he almost makes some near-fatal flaws. In lesser experienced hands, they could have tanked the entire movie, but Whedon is a pro. However, at 2 hours and 22 minutes, the film is a wee bit too long. I never thought I’d say this, but there is almost too much narrative and dialogue in this action film. While it may work well on television, it doesn’t off of the big screen, for the simple fact that there are no commercials to soften the blow of changing the pace so abruptly. At times, you can watch The Avengers and it feels as exhilarating and thrilling as riding shotgun on a fast-moving, breathtaking Japanese speed train only to have it feel like it's coming to a bone-crunching stop. This usually happens for the sake of some unimportant dialogue that could have waited until the thrilling feel of a spectacular, ultra-impressive battle sequence is over. To make matters even worse, characters such as Jeremy Renner, Scarlett Johansson and TheIncredible Hulk, Mark Ruffalo, aren’t given enough to say.
Scarlett Johansson and Jeremy Renner battle in front of a green-screen in 'The Avengers'
Pacing and length aside, Loki is totally miscast. If Whedon were sticking to Norse lore and mythology, there have been many visual depictions of Loki drawn throughout the ages he could have fashioned this villain from. None looked as puny and weak as Whedon’s choice of Loki in Tom Hiddleston. Another Hollywood He-man or a better costume might have made him at least a little more menacing, but Hiddleston is about as frightening as American Idol's Ryan Seacrest. Heck, even the actor who played the Trickster Loki on the show Supernatural would have done.
Alright, I’m nitpicking now. With a little shearing of the film’s running length, a slight change in the picture’s pacing and a more believable villain, The Avengers would be flawless. A lot of my detractors love to accuse me of liking every movie i see, well, all I have to say is, “If every motion picture were as visually-exciting, finely-executed and as downright thrilling as The Avengers, then I’ll never hate another movie again.” The Avengers: RATING: A- That’s how I saw it. What did you think?
Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow in 'The Avengers'
A Few Minutes with Scarlett Johansson on The Avengers set
Shortly before the end of filming The Avengers, Scarlett invited select members of the press to The Avengers set to talk about kissing Penelope Cruz, kicking butt, her character Black Widow and how she felt about the whole Avengers experience.
Was there any romance happening in the movie at any time?
"There's was no time for romance! We've got shit to avenge!"
Speaking of which, what has been you favorite screen kiss ever?
"Penelope (Cruz) was pretty great, I have to say."
How so with Penelope (in Vicky Cristina Barcelona)?
"She's just full of passion and life. And she doesn’t have stubble, so that's a plus. I've had a lot of really great on-screen romances. But Hugh Jackman was wonderful. They call him the mayor of Hollywood, he's so old school. And Hugh kind of reminds me of, I don't know, he's got that Cary Grant quality. He can sort of do anything. But I'd say the best is Penelope. Just because of the lack of stubble."
Director Joss Whedon directs Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow in 'The Avengers'
So what exactly is going on when you're fighting with a green-screen?
"We're avenging something! It's constant ass-kicking."
What was your biggest preparation for The Avengers?
"Becoming the fittest I've ever been."
You did a lot of hand to hand combat in Iron Man 2. Do you up that in this one?
"Yeah, there's a combination of all that stuff. And there's definitely a lot of hand to hand combat still, and a combination of different fighting styles. You know, gymnastics, Muay Thai, boxing, kick-boxing, all of that. I do all that. And we use all kinds of stuff. Knives, guns, all sorts of things. Yeah..."
Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow in 'The Avengers'
The first time that we saw Black Widow was in Iron Man 2, and we didn’t really know much about her. We didn't get to know much about her. We got little glimpses of her true identity. But it all happened so quickly. And to be able to play Black Widow as she is, without these many faces, I mean, she still has many different faces she puts on in The Avengers.
"Like she’s divisive in that way, but we get to see a little bit more of who she is. We get to see a little bit of her history, and her kind of shady past. You know, she’s a highly ambitious, highly trained, and highly motivated character. And she really tries to keep her eyes on the prize. But it was definitely an exciting process."
Do you ever think about life after movies?
"I think it would be nice to have a vineyard. Somewhere! And you know, have an organic farm, or something like that. Um, it's just like a hippy dippy kinda wish! But you know, have that farm fresh thing, and all that stuff. Something like that!”
So how would you sum up the whole Avengers experience?
"I think going into this process and even going into Iron Man 2, the whole idea is that you hope the audience, I think the whole idea is that you want the audience to be as enthusiastic as you are about the characters. And in that, you hope that you'll be able to take the character farther. It's certainly a process to zip up the suit every time. And it gets harder with each passing year. But I mean, it was badass and it incorporated the darker side of the character. And it got down to the nitty-gritty of who she is."