Assemble!

May the Fourth be with you was Friday, and it brought along the Avengers movie!  A film that when I learned it would be directed by Joss Whedon I became quite excited about.  The usual suspects at work and I planned our usual Friday afternoon viewing – until one of us couldn’t make it then.  What to do, what to do… silly question, of course, for  there was only one thing to do.

<field trip>Midnight showing!!</field trip>

After so much anticipation, how did Joss do in (as it turns out) directing, co-writing and screenplaying the film?

(Spoilers HO!)

In short, pretty darn good!

Why I was so excited to see Joss’ name attached to this project is that Joss has this amazing strength in working magic with groups of actors/characters.  Firefly was an amazing show not only for its premise and its great dialogue, but even more so because in its short, short lifespan the actors/crew worked so well together it was as though you were seeing the sixth season of a series, not the first (which, frankly, for many SF series is often painful to watch).   On top of that is his ability to write great and witty dialogue.  Given that, it is like the Avengers was made for Joss:  a film about a bunch of semi-misfits, getting together, doing crazy stuff… including a snarky know-it-all Tony Stark, a character that couldn’t be more perfect for Joss’ honed writing chops.  It looked to be right up Joss’ alley.

All that said I would be lying if I claimed I wasn’t a bit worried it wouldn’t turn out too well and that it would stumble and fell apart from the first reel.  Fortunately, that worry was misplaced.  The Avengers was a very fun romp, moved along well, had a cliché but not lame villainous plot (if a bit forced/contrived at a few points, and a bit too straightforward (though perhaps appropriate as the focus was on the Avengers, not the baddie)), good action, some good heart, some good exploration of character, and humour up the wazoo.  Loads and loads of great humour, humour that had us I think miss 20% of the film dialogue as people were laughing so much.  All in all a fine job!

  • Big highlight number one:  without surprise, the interactions between characters, and the characters themselves.  There’s stuff going on for each of the characters, stuff going on in between the characters, and the film takes some time to show it, explore it, follow things going awry and then coming together at the end.  There are arcs here, and they are shown to an extent.  With so many characters and so much to be explored it never gets too deep or detailed – alas and grand if it could have! – but that they are even broached without seeming that it’s just for show or that they’re glossing over it is nice.
  • Big highlight number two:  also without surprise, the great dialogue, full of wit, humour, snark, sharpness, snappyness, and more.  And when the humour comes, it’s presented matter of factly, not dwelled on, not forced, and not with a wink to the audience to let them know it’s intended to be funny.    There’s even wordless humour!  Gotta love it.
  •  The inevitable ending battle was pulled off handsomely.  How do you make a scene where you have 6 characters all with different capabilities all feel like they have a role, all doing stuff, and leave the audience mostly capable of figuring out what’s going on?  Just like this.  While making it pretty damn exciting.  Sweet stuff.  A tad too long, bordering on the repetitive, and a bit convenient/ deus ex machina  type solution, but it’s fun enough to forgive for that.
  • As usual Joss remains, I think, better with longer TV series where he has the ability to draw things out nicely.  The film is ever so ham-handed now and again to keep things moving along.
  • And even for a superhero film there are bits of the film that are implausible enough to be “oh please!” and a few action/excitement scenes that seem to be just thrown in to have an action/excitement scene.

My verdict:  Good.  There’s bits here that elevate it above my common baseline for a solidly done movie.  Definitively go see.  Maybe even more than once.  AND BE SURE to stay until after ALL the credits.  You’ll be glad you did!

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