If you’ve ever observed a boy and a girl in the same room on a typical afternoon you might have witnessed this sort of scenario: The little girl sits quietly drawing a picture of something peaceful (Mommy, Daddy, dog, balloons everywhere) when the little boy dashes into the room, bangs the girl on the head with a hammer and then sets the picture on fire.
If destruction is your thing then The Avengers is right up your alley. The plot of The Avengers can easily be described as this: Boom! Bang! Screech! Kaboom! Ding! Dong! Smash! Kazang! with reciprocal reactions from the audience: oh, ah, ah ha ha, oops, ouch, dang, whoa, phew… Marvel Studios obviously think that as a male (are you female? you don’t exist, sorry) you are only interested in seeing things smash into each other, blow up and be torn into pieces, so that’s exactly what you get in this blockbuster that cost $220 million (and already made $280 million ) before being released in the States on May 4.
The story is pretty simple:
The very pale Loki (Tom Hiddleston), evil step brother to Thor (Chris Hemsworth), wants to rule the Earth and gets his hands on a tesseract that will open a portal to Asgard and allow a bunch of aliens and their war ships to occupy the planet. Humans are allegedly dying to be Loki’s slaves, so S.H.I.E.L.D. leader Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) assembles the world’s ‘freaks’ together in the face of the coming apocalypse: the unfrozen Captain America (Chris Evans) prepares his shield, Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) postpones a date with the sizzling Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) gets ready to be mad as hell despite of what his anger management tutor tells him, Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) preps her nicely shaped ass for a few close-ups and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) must polish his hammer for some head smashing and wall bashing.
Instead of joining forces, our superheroes are suspicious, bickering, and stupid, causing a lot of people to get into unnecessary trouble and causing a few untimely deaths. I love how Roger Ebert describes their mis-match made in Marvel heaven: ‘When I see these six together, I can’t help thinking of the champions at the Westminster Dog Show. You have breeds that seem completely different from one another (Labradors, poodles, boxers, Dalmatians), and yet they’re all champions.’
Everything else is pretty much action scene after action scene (just watch the The Avengers trailer) diluted by a few banal speeches by Nick Fury (who even lies to the heroes to convince them to fight) and it’s hard to believe this was written and directed by Joss Whedon who created Buffy the Vampire Slayer and co-wrote/produced the genre-bending The Cabin in The Woods. I swear even the tepid Safe actioner with Jason Statham had more interesting direction, and I thought it would commit suicide next to The Avengers in theatres.
But then there is the humor. David Denby promised The Avengers would cause multiple orgasms among Comic-Con nerds, and judging from the giggles and claps in the Minsk theatre I went to, he is right. (There was even an impromptu standing ovation at the end, and I don’t know if that’s a sign of an impending end of the world or maybe I am just PMS-ing and overreacting.) The movie is genuinely funny in a stupid funny way – without that, I would have fallen asleep withing the next 30 minutes.
Nothing is real in The Avengers. The aliens are never presented in any way, except as metal clad killing machines.They don’t feel like a threat on a human level. They do blow a lot of things up and set Manhattan on fire but we never come face to face with any of them (as well as any of the humans in the crowd either). Essentially the viewer is made to marvel from the outside, but not participate in any way. It’s all happening on the screen, self-aware, fake and fantastical – maybe that’s just part of the whole superhero thing.
The best thing about this movie: Watching Scarlett Johansson (and her stunt double Heidi Moneymaker?). WARNING: may inspire you to actually get on the treadmill.
Verdict: Good for a laugh. A very empty laugh.