The Avengers or In the Name of Phil

What is this? Some kind of bust?

Let’s get one thing straight – Scarlett Johansson is so smoldering in The Avengers, I was aghast.  I mean can this woman get any sexier?  And director Joss Whedon wisely places her in tight-fitting outfits and under perfect lighting and has her kick wall to wall ass as super assassin Black Widow.  As ho-hum as some of the rest of this film was, for me, bottom line – Johansson and how Whedon utilized her assets were worth the price of admission.  But enough of that…

Break out the extra-large, layered butter, heavily salted popcorn and enjoy this thing for whatever deviant or nostalgic or escapist reasons you so choose.  Here’s the patented Schleicher Spin rundown:

  • If I had one big problem with the film (apart from the bloated runtime and the fact that it took FOREVER to get going) it was that the main plot line was a lame rehash of the sibling rivalry between Thor and Loki that defined the absolute worst of these Avenger prequels.  I prefer my superheros when they don’t really have super powers but are instead real people with outlandish gadgets and big psychological hangups (i.e. Bruce Wayne – or heck,  Johansson’s Black Widow – or Tony Stark, though even with Stark there’s something magic about that material he uses to keep his heart beating, right?), so when the initial focus here was on some alien/Norse-demigods, I kinda lost any interest I would have had in the so-called characters.  And then we were led to believe that The Avengers couldn’t become The Avengers until they had something to avenge – and that came in the form of some barely there character named Phil.  I laughed at this (NO! PHIL! HANG IN THERE, BUDDY! PHIIIIIIIIL!) more so than many of the one-liners peppered throughout the script full of painfully bad dialogue.
  • That big gripe aside – director Joss Whedon does a great job orchestrating the action and the special effects as well as controlling the big cast.  He’s also smart enough to know the script is pretty dumb, so those one-liners are actually a relief and are relatively well delivered by the cast (especially Robert Downey Jr doing his normal schtick to good effect).  There’s also a few sight gags (mostly involving the Hulk played surprisingly well by Mark Ruffalo) that worked great on the eager to please audience.
  • The central set piece involving Loki’s breakout aboard a hella-cool flying aircraft carrier and the Hulk’s first rampage was especially well done.  The closing  set piece involving a clichéd destruction of NYC, on the other hand, had way too much going on and left me with a bit of fatigue, though I did think those giant mechanical flying fish wreckers were pretty creative.
  • The rest of the supporting cast involved Samuel L. Jackson and Gwyneth Paltrow showing up for paychecks, but I am happy to report that Paltrow appears to be aging into a young Patricia Clarkson.  It will be interesting to see where her career heads in ten years.
  • There were two geek-friendly closing credit sequences – one (involving some silliness in outer space with characters I can only imagine were from the comic books) didn’t work – and the other (a continuation of a Downey Jr. joke about grabbing a bite to eat) worked really well – again reminding us not to take this nonsense too seriously but that it’s also okay to have some fun, too.

In the end, like so many of these comic book films, I have no emotional involvement in whether or not there’s a sequel, but I’d also be a bald-faced liar if I didn’t admit that some of this was very entertaining.  I’m pretty sure everybody and their extended family has already paid to see this, so my ultimate opinion doesn’t matter much.  Though if we’re keeping tabs, let’s just say the latest trailer for The Dark Knight Rises (apart from the aforementioned talents of Scarlett Johansson) was the best part of this movie-going experience.

But by all means, join the crowds, and in the name of Phil, see The Avengers.

Written by David H. Schleicher

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  1. Alternative title for your review: Dulce et decorum est pro Phil mori.

    Indeed – not sure that the makers of this film are even aware of subtext, though. –DHS

  2. Shall we rank these Avengers flicks?

    The Avengers – 7.5/10
    Captain America – 7/10
    Iron Man – 7/10
    Iron Man 2 – 6/10
    The Hulk (does the Ang Lee one even count?) – 5/10
    The Incredible Hulk – 3/10
    Thor – 2/10

    What say you?

    • More like
      The Avengers – 10/10
      Captain America – 8/10
      Iron Man – 7/10
      Iron Man 2 – 8/10
      Hulk – 4/10
      The Incredble Hulk – 9/10
      Thor – 7/10

      9/10 for The Incredible Hulk? I can’t even remember a single thing about that film – it was so blah. –DHS

    • Iron Man — 8/10 (good, uncomplicated action, Bond-y white telephone thrills, bright acting and all to turn a second-tier superhero into a star)
      The Incredible Hulk — (the best Banner of the bunch, a nice reboot/sequel from the first film that embellishes the surrounding mythology of the Marvel world; still stupid as hell but whatever)
      Thor & Captain America — (one is underrated from a director we don’t get to see enough of, the other overrated from a director whose career highlight was doing “Star Wars” storyboards, they balance each other out)
      Iron Man 2 6/10– (above a 5 simply because it had War Machine– this movie has no other reason to exist)
      Hulk 5/10 — (if Ang Lee had stuck to simply taking Schamus’ script and its repatriation of various Peter David daddy issue things, it might’ve been okay-ish, but a miscast buff Bana as puny Banner and the whole condescending “comic-book panel splitscreen” thing makes this a bust in my book)
      The Avengers 3/10 — (if it’s lucky)

      Besides that, Singer’s “X-Men” movies get 8-to-9/10, Raimi’s “Spider-Man” flicks 4-to-6/10 (that 6 is purely for Doctor Octopus), and Matthew Vaughn’s “First Class” an uncanny 9/10.

      Hey, Bob – looks like we agree on the Iron Man(s) and Vaughn’s X-Men First Class. I’m indifferent to the Spidey movies – always thought they were just “ok” and never was really into the Singer X-Men series. –DHS

  3. But they didn’t show the Dark Knight trailer at my theater! They did preview Prometheus, however, and that trailer had more and better 3D than the whole Avengers movie. I liked the thing overall — it is what it is — but I didn’t appreciate the payoff for staying through all the credits. A full bladder wil color your opinion of things. The whole Phil thing takes the title too literally, but I like the touch of Nick Fury overplaying his hand, so to speak, to give the team an extra push.


    1. Captain America
    2. The Avengers
    3. Iron Man
    4. Iron Man 2
    5. Thor
    6. Incredible Hulk.

    And no, the Ang Lee one doesn’t count. I liked it in spite of everything, though.

    Samuel, the Ang Lee one was at least more interesting than that boring reboot. I appreciated what Lee tried to do with it, but it still didn’t work. I saw The Avengers in 2D – where I think they included The Dark Knight Rises trailer (as that is famously not going to be in 3D). –DHS

  4. I’d have been more forgiving to the film if the action in the first half were watchable (all those cockeyed low angles without any master shots to cut to made the fights a strain on the eyes) or if the action in the second half weren’t so redundant and derivative (yeah, the NYC battle is fun and ‘splodey, but it’s basically just a rehash of the “Transformers” debris). Add to that a script with a poor story and lame one-liners, the usual Whedon “insert kick-ass yet sexually exploited female here, subtract peripheral cast member for sad death there” tactics and a sense of visual design and shooting that ranks somewhere on the level of a SyFy made for TV movie, and all you’ve got to stoke my attention is a bunch of overacting, overdressed cosplayers.

    Bob – fair enough, but can we at least agree it was better photographed than Thor? Dear lord, all of Branagh’s Dutch angles! It was the most agregious use of Dutch angles since Battlefield Earth. And the special effects were lousy. At least here I could tell what was going on and the effects looked pretty good. –DHS

    • No. Branagh’s dutch angles are held long enough, at least, to be readable. It had a silly “let’s make it look just like a Jack Kirby drawing– no, really” vibe to it, but I appreciated that more than “The Avengers”, which just has a boring, plain look. “Thor” had a soul, dumb as it was. “The Avengers” is just a waste of resources. It’s frankly the most disappointing photography I’ve seen in a blockbuster.

      Bob – we shall just have to agree to disagree on these points. I’m not saying the photography in The Avengers was anything special – it was adequate and I could follow the action, whereas in Thor it was an absolute mess in my opinion. –DHS

  5. The Avengers was such a great film on so many levels. Bringing together the team and providing an adequate amount of time for each of their stories without taking away from the task at hand. Whedon masterfully pulled this film together in such a fantastic way. I was super impressed and am not too certain if those that called it boring saw the same movie.

    Perhaps it was the 1998 Ralph Fiennes/Uma Thurman film entitled “The Avengers” that they saw instead.

    Gotta toss my vote the other way on this one, sir, as I rated it a 5/5!

    Oh dear lord – THAT Avengers movie was indeed an abomination. Poor John Steed and Emma Peele. –DHS

  6. I’ll admit this was never my favorite genre, and that’s an understatement. As always a wonderful piece, and an understandable call for a vote:

    The Avengers 4.0
    Captain America 6.0
    Iron Man 5.5
    Iron Man 2 5.0
    Hulk 5.0
    The Incredible Hulk 2.0
    Thor 6.0

    David, apologies for the delay with the questions. You will have them VERY soon.

    Sam – hmmmm…so in the context of this not being your favorite genre (and I would say it’s not one of my favorite genres either) you still…kinda liked Thor…above most? Odd. I thought that was one of the worst movies (period) from last year. –DHS

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