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MCU Under Review: The Avengers

It was May Fourth, 2012.  I was sitting in my last mod class, watching the clock.  Avengers came out that day, so that’s what I was thinking about.  Suddenly the office secretary called me down to the office.  My dad picked me up early and we drove away from school.  I became suspicious, when we missed the turn to go home, and knew something was definitely up when we pulled into the parking lot by the cinema.  I didn’t say anything as we waited in line at the box office, and walked down the hall to go to our seats.

As the film started, I was still in slight disbelief.  I had not been a comic fan for long, but what I lacked in experience, I made up for with passionate fascination.  I had seen these characters together in graphic novels, animated tv shows, and even trailers, but even then, the idea of an Avengers movie, seemed hopelessly out of reach.  This film delivered in spades, proving that what once was a fanboy fantasy, was now the future of commercial moviemaking.

Joss Whedon’s and Zak Penn’s screenplay is light on plot, delivering a simple villian, doomsday scenario, and means of stopping it.  The film builds, and builds, counting on its excellent cast of actors to ratchet up the tension.  The real gem of this film is being able to see these different personalities bounce off one another, and clash together.  Bruce Banner’s reluctance to be involved vs. Tony Stark’s eagerness to be involved in everything; Steve Rogers’ selflessness vs. Stark’s casual narccisism.  Each member of the team does a perfect job, not just delivering their lines well, but broadcasting personality.  Look at the way Mark Ruffalo fidgets with his hands and the way Tony constantly looks around the SHEILD helicarrrier as if he owns the place.

Plus, there is a certain magic, to seeing a unity of superhumans like this unfold from the very beginning.  Unused to other beings of their caliber, they do what anyone embodied with their abilities might.  They fight, often to hilarious result (Iron Man’s duels with Thor still makes me laugh after five years).  They each are their own powerful beam of energy, and when they are pushed together by a common cause, they become stronger.  (That last sentence sounded like it might be a quote from one of the scientists in the movie).

The miniscule criticism that exists points out that the Avengers sacrifices a lot of character development for a 40 minute plus battle royale around Manhattan; Spectacle is placed over substance.  This may be true, but Joss Whedon makes an art out of spectacle. Just watch this clip, and Marvel in its excellence.

This probably the most stunning shot in the movie, and quite possibly, my favorite shot in a movie ever.  The camera movement is fantastic, as it swoops here and there, following our heroes through the battle.  More importantly however, it communicates the idea that even as they whiz along propelled by jet boots or hitching a ride on a Chitauri speeder, sometimes separated by entire city blocks, The Avengers are still fighting together.

Walking out of the theater, I figured, after that post-credit scene we were getting ready for a secret invasion movie.  It wasn’t until later that I learned that the smiling figure who wanted to court death  was not the super skrull, but the Mad Titan Thanos.  Immediately, my friends and I began theorizing.  Would there be a Civil War film?  Might we get a Black Widow solo movie?  Some of these wishes have been granted, others replaced by bigger and better things.  This movie opened up a world of Infinite possibilities…possibilities that are still coming into fruition today.

Plot- 2/2
Characters/Loyalty- 1/1
Score/soundtrack- 1/1
Cinematography- 1/1
Special Effects- 1/1
Action/tension- 1/1
Tone/Aesthetic- 1/1
Overall Enjoyment Factor-2/2

Final Score: 10/10

MCU Under Review: Captain America

Captain America’s engaging heroism and world war two setting are brilliantly emphasized by a sense of noir that hangs over all the proceedings.  The icy lanscape of an arctic research base, the blue plasma blast of a tesseract powered weapon, and even Cap’s muddied uniform are all beautifully displayed with a dull, faded pallette.  This is an excellent touch.  A film that is essentially one long flashback shouldn’t feel like present day, and Captain America doesn’t.  The lens through which we see the movie makes it clear that we are in a different time period.

This film however, is by no means the best the franchise has to offer.  Granted, directors were still figuring out what they could do with this variety of cinema, but this movie does sport a number of issues.  Not flaws mind you, simply things that have been done much more effectively in movies that have come out after this one.  The score for example, doesn’t stick out at all.  It is suitable I suppose, with its booming fanfares, but it is the sort of thing that is cookie cutter for most superhero movies at this point.  There is also a montage of the war that gives us minute long snippets of battles without giving us context.  Resultantly, there are only two, maybe three really effective action sequences in this film, which, like it or not are the bedrock on which these movies are built.  Character development is nice but in the case of a superhero vehicle there has to be action to propel the picture along.

Nonetheless Captain America is a film to which we all owe a great debt.  Sure, Iron man had two movies that really showed the world the power of a superhero flick, and sure, Thor was the first interconnected origin story, but Captain America was the hammer that laid the final strike on the lock of the Pandora’s box, that exploded open releasing a universe’s worth of possibilities for superhero movies.

Plot: +1
Characters/Loyalty: +1
Score/soundtrack: 0
Cinematography: +1
Special Effects: 0
Action/tension: 0
Tone/Aesthetic: +1
Overall Enjoyment Factor: +2

Overall: 6/10

Captain America is still one of those film’s everyone should see.  They won’t be dissapointed.  They will onl notice how other films more effectively built on concepts introduced here.

MCU Under Review: Thor

Thor was the first Marvel Movie to really acknowledge that an extended universe was being created, and it did a great job at that.  Not only did it bring loads of comedy, and decent action to the table, but it differentiated Thor from other heroes by making him earn his power.  He begins the story as a naive hammer weilding rebellious child.  When his father rebukes him, and takes away his powers, he is sent to earth.

Watching Thor navigate earth for the first time is extremely comical, but seeing his story of redemption unfold is downright amazing.  When Thor finally learns to put others before himself, and regains his abilites, now worthy of his power, is one of my favorite Marvel Movie Moments; and it greatly enhances his character for the rest of the marvel timeline.

I’m not usually big on ratings, but I’m making an exception for this series.

Plot-+2: Pretty Self Explanatory
Characters/Loyalty-+1: Is the adaptation true to its source material?
Score/soundtrack-+1: Can I remember it a day after?
Cinematography-+1
Special Effects-+1: For the time of release, as CGI gets better, older movies will start to look dated.
Action/tension-+1
Tone/Aesthetic-+1
Overall Enjoyment Factor-+2

On what must be at least the third viewing, Thor still holds up as a great movie.  10/10 all the way.