Friday, May 4, 2012

What I've Been Waiting For

I have never attended a midnight movie premiere before. It’s just not something that’s ever been on my radar. And, frankly, I was hard-pressed to think of a movie I’d want to see a midnight premiere of. It wasn’t until we were leaving the theater after watching Captain America: The First Avenger that I realized it, but Marvel’s The Avengers is that movie for me.

Seeing this movie at the midnight premiere and sharing it with my wife and kiddo is an experience I'll always appreciate. The atmosphere was unbeatable. We arrived at the theater around 8:30 and found our line. It wasn’t bad at all, and th
ey ended up letting us into our theater right around 9pm. We were fortunate to not have to spend the next three hours on the floor, and instead were able to settle into our oversized XD theater seats where Jack read the movie prequel comics, Tracy read The Walking Dead, and I bounced between tweeting, meeting up with friends who were still waiting out in the hallway to get into their theater, and getting pwnd by the kiddo in many rounds of Zombie Dice on the iPad.

There were plenty of folks in costume, and our theater was completely packed by 10:30. When the house lights eventually dimmed, I couldn’t
believe I was actually about to see an Avengers movie. And I was rewarded for my decades-long patience.

The crowd made this an event. Cheers for the first 3D trailer we got – Amazing Spider-Man – and for Prometheus. Cheers for the feature presentation’s main titles. Someone yelled, “Cleveland!” during the first on-screen scene shot here in the hometown and the place erupted.

I’m not a fan of Marvel’s Ultimate Universe, which birthed the reimagined Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, but I have completely bought into it over the course of the last five movies leading up to this. And I am a huge fan of Clark Gregg’s Agent Coulson. Brilliantly conceptualized, he is to the Marvel Movie Universe what Boba Fett could have been to the Star Wars Universe. Where Boba Fett was a background character whose cachet was based solely on the mystery of his presence then squandered with a pandering, sloppy origin and overexposure in the prequels, Coulson was grown organically to provide real weight to the character’s actions and importance to the story. Nothing wasted. Nothing easy.

That consistency carried over to Robert Downey, Jr.’s Tony Stark. By far the biggest star in this thing, writer-director Joss Whedon matched the tone of Jon Favreau’s first two solo Iron Man movies seamlessly. Similarly, Chris Evans was surprisingly believable as the man-out-of-time Captain America who ascends to the leadership role over the billionaire Stark and Asgardian God of Thunder by earning their respect. Thor’s entrance elicited cheers from the sold out crowd, and rightly so. It was a brilliant moment that Chris Hemsworth pulled off effortlessly.

As expected, Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow really shone under the contradictory hand of Whedon, known for not only his strong female characters, but also his penchant for framing his leading women’s posteriors in shots. I would have liked more screen time for Cobie Smulders’ Maria Hill, but it was great to have her on-hand in any capacity (and, again, more ass shots).

Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner was much more thoughtful than Ed Norton’s previous run at the character (and I really enjoy the underrated Norton Incredible Hulk movie). Ruffalo pulls off the tortured scientist in every way. Hawkeye is one of my all-time favorite Avengers. (See my loving look at the character's history in issue #56 of BACK ISSUE magazine.) And the glimpse of him in Thor was great, but I have to say he’s not the standout for me in The Avengers. In fact, I’m hard-pressed to pick any one character as my favorite. This is truly a super-hero ensemble movie.

There was actually only one moment – a split-second gag – in the movie I didn’t care for. It was the only time while watching the film that I was jarringly aware I was viewing a "Joss Whedon film," and the moment was completely unnecessary and didn’t serve the story.

And there was one thing that took some getting used to: The rendering of the Green Goliath. I remember a lot of press about how you would be able to really see Ruffalo’s Banner in the Hulk onscreen. And you could, in the face and upper body, almost to a fault, but it has grown on me the more I think about the movie and the representation. And this was more than balanced by the personality infused into gamma-irradiated giant. Hulk truly shines in battle. Given what was revealed in the eight-issue Avengers Prelude: Fury’s Big Week comic book miniseries about the fate of Dr. Samuel Sterns (Mr. Blue) from the Norton movie, I really hope they pick up that thread and run with it in another solo Hulk movie.

Whedon nailed the character cameos, and Loki – Wow. Tom Hiddleston takes his performance to its scenery chewing limits, then dials it back just enough to keep you grounded. A wonderfully realized villain that builds progressively on the character we saw in Thor.

As far as the stingers go, Avengers comes packed with two of them. One at the beginning of the credits and one before the final fade out. Both are great in their own way. The first for its nod to fans of the comic books, and the second for the way it releases the tension of the previous two hours. Brilliant.

Marvel’s The Avengers is the movie 12-year-old me has waited 30 years for. This is the movie I would wait in line for. This is the movie I would sacrifice sleep to discover unspoiled on the largest screen in the area, in 3D, with my wife and 10-year-old son beside me. If I have ever been gobsmacked, it was during the two hours shortly after midnight on May 4 when I saw The Avengers for the first time. There were so many moments that made me cheer, or my jaw drop, or simply sit there with the biggest damn grin plastered across my face, it was a completely satisfying experience.


Amanda @ Clue Into CLE said...

Really thoughtful review. Between the 4 hours of sleep and adrenaline high I'm still riding from the movie, there is no way I would be able to articulate my thoughts on it the way you did.

And I agree with midnight showings -- there are very few movies I'd stay up that late for, but The Avengers definitely qualified.

Troy Hickman said...

Great review. Can't wait!

Rick Hansen said...

So, while I'm trying to tell my wife how The Avengers was (without any spoilers since she'll be seeing it next week), her first question is: "Who was more handsome: Thor or Captain America?"
Thanks for losing sleep and getting us this review, Adam. Jacob and I saw the movie on Friday evening in a packed house, and the place was electric. We live in some pretty lackluster suburbs, so it's a testament to Marvel Studios and Joss Whedon that so many people came out and were lined up before the movie with so much buzz in the air.
When the film began, I could hardly contain myself, my excitement was so great. It started out slowly and methodically, and proceeded to gain steam as time went on. This helped to calm me down, which I needed so that I didn't suffer an attack of some sort before the movie was done.
Jacob was silent throughout the whole film, which makes him a joy of a companion (I find movie talkers supremely annoying), with the exception of laughing at the funny parts of the film, which were many and often (and got the whole crowd worked up).
Honestly, I couldn't have been happier with how this film turned out. It really was the culmination of 25 years as a fan of Marvel Comics without a single iota of disappointment (except that it had to eventually end). If there was one man in the world I would kiss on the mouth, it would be Nathan Fillion. If there had to be two, the second would be Joss Whedon.
As you might expect, if I were to be critical about anything, it would be the treatment of my favorite Marvel character of all time, The Incredible Hulk. However, I feel nothing but love for what they did with him. Never have I felt that the camera captured the essence of Hulk before; not in the Bill Bixby TV show, not in Ang Lee's movie and not in the latest Hulk film from Marvel Studios. Mark Ruffalo did a phenomenal job of being Bruce Banner and - while you would expect a Hulk made purely from computer graphics to be limited - the big green guy was perfect.
(Sigh) I am eager to watch The Avengers again. The writing and plot may not be Shakespeare - which is not what we'd want anyway - the moments that made our audience laugh out loud and drop open our collective jaws were spectacular and many. This movie is made out of great moments, and anyone who knows The Avengers will appreciate them and finally, FINALLY, feel as though the source material has been given the proper respect and accuracy.

(Random thought: it occurred to me and Jacob last night in pre-movie dining the irony in how Marvel characters have always been more "real" and grounded in the "real world", yet Marvel Studio's films remain loyal to heir colorful, outlandish costumes and bad guys. Yet, DC comics, whose characters have always been godly and idealized, are now being shown with imagery that is more "real", such as Batman's body armor.)

Heroes Landing said...

I loved it too! ALmost like a religious experience in how well it was made.