Saturday, May 05, 2012
"That's *what* I've got.": The Hawksian pleasures of The Avengers
Where too many of the characters' stand alone movies felt like warm up acts, here they are relaxed and droll in their roles, and given room to shape and shade their performances with an embarrassment of one liners that feel organic instead of too precious as can happen with Whedon's dialogue. These are superheroes, literal gods in some cases, but for once they feel like people.
It's a genuine ensemble piece. But perhaps the most Hawks touch is the revitalization of Scarlet Johansson as Black Widow. Little more than leather clad eye candy in her first appearance, here's she's tough, wounded, and warily tender. Revealing a monologue's worth of information in closeups of her thinking and carefully watching the others. She's a complex woman who's rediscovered her humanity and isn't entirely comfortable with that.
Mark Ruffalo gets a screen treatment of The Hulk that's finally more interested in Dr. Banner and rewards it with a performance that is much more interesting than his rampaging alter ego. Rather mordantly funny than drowning in self pity, his performance suggests his continued survival has hinged at his observing that his intolerable circumstances are also kinda hilarious.
They are believably a team and a wobbly first act gels to something wonderful, watching these people talk to and tease each other and come to trust and work together. With a core group that strong the villain could be an afterthought, but Tom Hiddleston is a lethal, bitchy delight at Loki. His barbs and seething resentment as his own ridiculousness making him no less dangerous.
Finally going back to the comment that started it all filmmaker Brandon David Wilson said, "If Avengers fails in visual style I imagine we have to take the oeuvre of Howard Hawks and toss it on the ash heap as well." But the look of the film has that key Hawks ingredient of making the effort not show. The film's colors are bright and beautiful, the action sequences clear and expertly edited.
So it may not be the visual feast of Del Toro's Hellboy movies, but it rewards the viewer's attention with one of the warmest, funniest adventure movies in ages.