Friday, 11 May 2012

THE AVENGERS - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Dull, poorly directed superhero picture will appeal to those desperate for all the state of the art spectacle money can buy. All the rest, can stay away.

The Avengers (2012) dir. Joss Whedon *
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Samuel L. Jackson, Tom Hiddleston, Clark Gregg, Stellan Skarsgård, Gwyneth Paltrow

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Call me a curmudgeon.

Call me a spoilsport.

Call me a snob.

Just don't call me Shirley.

The Avengers bored me to tears.

Anyone with an attention span will, I hope, have the same response.

There's not much to say. Asgard's shamed, exiled Loki (Tim Hiddleston), hooks up with some aliens to steal a cube of power in possession of Earth. He hypnotizes Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Professor Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) into helping him. Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) pulls in Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), The Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and The Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) to team up and fight the power from the outer reaches of the universe. The super heroes squabble. They kiss and make up. They fight the bad guys. They win. The Earth is free.

Television writer-director Joss Whedon tosses out a few marginally smile-cracking lines, a serviceable plot and typical contemporary blockbuster direction - the sort of thing TV directors and other filmmakers bereft of any real cinematic voice employ. Endless closeups, more shots than Sergei Eisenstein would have ever imagined being used (and he used plenty), a ridiculous number of cuts, no sense of geography, good fight choreography butchered by excessive cutting, a grating, pounding soundscape, a thunderous score and a whole lot of thunder signifying not much of anything.

The whole affair is executed with a cudgel. It's depressing to realize that audiences have become so numbed by bad filmmaking they'll have no difficulty embracing this generally loathsome effort.

I love a good superhero picture. God knows, Sam Raimi's magnificent Spider-Man trilogy was infused with the spirit of Marvel in the 60s, a big heart, a terrific sense of humour, great special effects and first-rate action direction.

Joss Whedon, however, is no Sam Raimi. That is to say, he is not a filmmaker.

Like the woeful J.J. Abrams, Christopher Nolan and others of this overrated, untalented ilk, Whedon is a hack. There's nary a single shot in the film that suggests he has a filmmaker's eye and though he apparently has a good reputation as a writer in television (I don't bother to watch television), he clearly hasn't got what it takes to generate a script with the sweep and true spectacle needed for a feature.

Iron Man and Thor both had miserably-directed action scenes, too. The difference, though, is that both had first-rate writing which allowed the casts of both to deliver fun, fully-fleshed out performances. The Avengers has a whole mess of good actors doing not much of anything. However, I did enjoy Hiddlestone as Loki - so deliciously pouty and mean-spirited and definitely an interesting departure from the usual suavely smarmy villain. His petulance is positively infectious - especially in a scene where he demands hundreds of people to bow before him. Ruffalo displays good potential to be Bruce Banner/The Hulk in his own movie, so this was also a nice surprise.

But Whedon is really not much of a director. At least the first Iron Man and Thor managed to make sure that the non-action sequences weren't directed with a whole mess of back-and-forth closeups, but had an excellent variation of shots - including, God forbid - medium two shots. The direction of these scenes allowed the non-action stuff play out in wholly engaging ways. Not so, here. The Avengers seldom lets up from the action - all of which is directed like a patchwork quilt, and the dialogue scenes are not only badly directed, but feature one piece of uninspired conversational regurgitate after another.

The whole thing just slams you with the force of Thor's hammer and the Hulk's fists - turning you into ground hamburger meat.

Speaking for cows the world over - it's no fun going through the grinder.