The Avengers

Currently playing around the country is a small-budget indie film called ‘The Avengers’. With a measly budget of only $220 million, I’m hoping this review will work its magic and create the word of mouth necessary to get audiences in the theatres to see this modestly scaled picture. Ah, I kid! Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, and The Hulk all in one film! It’s a comic book lover’s wet dream!

‘The Avengers’, directed by Joss Whedon, is one of the best comic book blockbusters ever made, and is my favorite film of 2012 so far. It has a very good sense of humor about itself, and acknowledges the goofiness and giddiness of having all these superheroes together in the same room without disrespecting the fans of this source material. Robert Downey Jr. is terrific again as the brilliant, self-centered Tony Stark (a.k.a Iron Man), and he delivers most of the film’s memorable comedic lines. But, my personal favorite hero here is Steve Rogers (or Captain America) played by Chris Evans. He has the underdog attributes, and there is a sweetness and innocence in his character that makes him stand out, at least to yours truly. Mark Ruffalo’s self-deprecating spin on the Bruce Banner character is far more effective than the Eric Bana and Edward Norton versions. The other players – Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow, and Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye, are all effective, and no one gets lost in the shuffle – there’s enough screen time for each of them.

 Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Thor’s brother, has severe sibling rivalry issues. Like every major villain in a superhero film, Loki wants to take over the world, and he plans on doing this by using a cube-shaped futuristic energy device to unleash his powerful army on Earth. Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) assembles this group of superheroes to try to stop Loki, but they spend almost as much time battling each other as they do focusing on their enemy. I saw ‘The Avengers’ in 2-D and refused to pay the surcharge for a potentially inferior viewing experience, so I can’t comment on the effectiveness of the added dimension. But, I can state that ‘The Avengers’ is everything a summer blockbuster should be. The special effects are first-rate, the action sequences are amazing, the characters underneath these ridiculous costumers are very well-developed, the writing is spectacular, there are more laughs delivered by this film than any full-scale comedy I’ve seen all year, and everyone in this exceptionally talented cast is operating at the top of their game. This is the first summer release of 2012, and has already set the bar very high. A rare example of a film that fulfills its hype, ‘The Avengers’ earns my highest recommendation.

– Jerry Nadarajah

The Unpopular Critical Vote





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As I went through my Twitter feed this afternoon, I couldn’t help but notice a high volume of angry tweets directed to film critic A.O. Scott of The New York Times for panning ‘The Avengers’. Samuel L Jackson, who plays Nick Fury in ‘The Avengers’ tweeted: “#Avengers fans, NY Times critic AO Scott needs a new job! Let’s help him find one! One he can ACTUALLY do!” Many other tweets included profanities and relentless name-calling at Mr.Scott. I must confess I didn’t read The New York Times review of ‘The Avengers’ (Spoiler about my methods: I refuse to read any reviews about a film until after I’ve seen the movie and written my own review). But, I am going to say the comments about A.O. Scott from comic fans and movie lovers are unfair. ‘The Avengers’ wasn’t even released at this point – these moviegoing tweeps are defending a movie they haven’t even seen, and are attacking this critic by dismissing his review as “wrong”.

Now, according to Rotten Tomatoes, ‘The Avengers’ is sitting at 92%, which would put A.O. Scott in the 8% minority. It’s not easy to write an unpopular review – the review where the writer is swimming upstream against the overwhelming tide of critical opinion. It isn’t much fun to write a minority opinion, especially when everyone thinks the film is a masterpiece, except you. The most recent example I can think of is when I panned ‘Rango’ last year. This animated film, adored by most, received an 89% critical approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and ended up taking home the Oscar for ‘Best Animated Film’ of 2011. Many friends and film followers were convinced I missed the boat on this one, and that was fine. As long as they were able to explain to me what they saw in the film that I had supposedly “missed”. The responses that irritated me were the ones that stated “’Rango’ is sitting at 89% on Rotten Tomatoes, so you’re wrong.” Why am I wrong? Because I’m in the minority? Has individual expression been replaced by an aggregated critical approval score?

Isn’t this what film criticism is about though? It isn’t a science – there isn’t a “right” or “wrong” review. It’s not just about analysis – ultimately, it’s personal. It’s about how *I* responded to what was presented in front of me, and what the experience was like to me. It is about having a focal point for an argument, one that is independent of viewer and critical consensus. And I have some admiration for A.O. Scott for sticking with his guns, and writing a review which I believe expresses how he truly felt (even though I haven’t read the review myself). With the noise and argumentation of social media, I’m sure I will continue to receive a few harsh comments for some reviews. Writing about criticism requires the reporter to be accepting of it. So, I say let the lively and passionate discussions about film continue. And for the record, I am not changing my vote on ‘Transformers: Dark of the Moon’, or ‘The Dilemma’ – the responses I received for my endorsement of these two films from last year were….interesting.

– Jerry Nadarajah