This review is going to be relatively short, and I'm likely to surprise some people by giving it my whole-hearted recommendation. It's not just because I'm a Joss Whedon fan. After all, I wasn't that captivated by The Cabin in the Woods. I'm not a comic fan, so I can't tell you if the story and characters are true to their graphic presentations, but I know Whedon is a fan, so I have to assume it is reverential to the source material. But that doesn't really matter here. Just as in a book adaptation where some changes are inevitable due to the different necessities of the medium, the task should be to be faithful to the source without being a slave to it. And to tell an interesting story with interesting characters. Joss succeeds remarkably at that task.
I'm sure a lot of the film would have been similar if someone else had directed, but the strength of this movie is not the story or the special effects or the set design, it is the characters, their dialogue and their interactions. The majority of the cast is experienced in more conventional, mainstream projects, but when it comes to SF or Fantasy themes it is even more important for the actor to take the work seriously. The last thing a film of this nature needs is an actor who appears to be "slumming." None of them does here. There are moments of drama, fear-inducing tension, tragedy, and even comedy (this is Whedon after all). In all cases, the emotional responses of the cast are legitimately compelling and believable. This is an ensemble film, but I do want to highlight one performance, that of Tom Hiddleston as Loki. If the Academy was not so genre-phobic, his work would warrant an Oscar nomination next year.
The special effects are spectacular of course. I think I counted five or six different companies responsible, including ILM and Weta. When it is done right these days, it is difficult to determine where live action ends and FX begins, what is a real pyrotechnic effect and what is CGI. But the FX is also responsible for the one and only negative for me. As has happened in several other recent films, quite a few of the action scenes are so frenetic it is difficult to focus on anything, it's just a blur. And I'm talking about the regular version here, not 3D, which I plan on avoiding unless it is the only option for a film that interests me.
Go see it, but be prepared for long lines. The Avengers are popular from all the previous individual films, as well as the comics. It will be the number one film this week, and likely for next week too. Best to buy your tickets online ahead of time.
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