One must partly blame my distant seat courtesy of my brother), my poor eyesight (courtesy of myself and genetics), and the dull lighting on the screen (courtesy of SM Cinemas). I found this quite funny, sufficiently effects-heavy, lightweight with touches of very light drama. It was pretty okay.
This is I guess the compromise to the origin story (albeit a very expensive alternative). With the slew of origin movies just out over the past few years, this movie expects you to know these characters. We've seen quite a bit of them, and they've been seen by quite many people in these big films (except Mark Ruffalo, who as far as my poor eyes are concerned don't look very much like Eric Bana or Edward Norton).
What we get are short sequences to reintroduce our main characters, a technique I am perfectly fine with. These are not touching, these are not ingenious, they are funny. In fact, this is the funniest movie I've seen in some time. I'm not sure what these sequences were supposed to evoke, but all they did for me was make me chuckle.
We have Robert Downey Jr. and his twelve percent and Gwyneth Paltrow in jorts. They jab and quip and make us laugh. The one with Chris Evans isn't so much on the funny (there is still some though). The same with Mark Ruffalo (start with some pretend seriousness before becoming funny). I don't think we were properly introduced to Chris Hemsworth but that's okay.
I wouldn't call this original X-Men casting genius, but the internet has made us used to these actors being these guys. Downey Jr. has been frequently mentioned as owning the role. I agree to an extent. I think he has a Mark Waid Daredevil style of Tony Stark, with none of the cold calculation and depravity and general darkness I would have liked. He's a personality, and is actually the only one.
Evans and Hemsworth fit as less talky, more straightforward heroes. Younger, fresher, simpler versions of characters we know. They have their sequences and this is the other major thing I want to point out other than the humour (later, the action). The time management is actually done quite well, partially aided by how we know the characters already and how simple they are anyway. But you can see the management of screen time (and ego), with characters getting their moments and their punchlines.
Ruffalo is a more complex guy who I think got more light than Evans and Hemsworth. This is, again, primarily because Evans' character is a pretty plain square as done here (again, some growth could have been) and Hemsworth is a longer-haired more superhero version of Evans, plus some oldish tongue on the side. I would have wanted to see some more pride and gloat and presence from him, but this is sufficient.
Back to Ruffalo. His is a smaller Hulk. Hulk is, well, a hulk who doesn't really have a lot of moments when he's in that mode (what little, is magnified here and done extremely well). His Banner form actually exceeded my expectation and apexes. He's a subtle sort of brooding, self-conscious, and hurt. He has a bit of cockiness too. He's a very complex character for this sort of film or regardless.
Before I finish off the other guys, I want to highlight Clark Gregg who is a source of much laughter. He perfectly frames the fanboy spec-ops guy. The desk guy who works in the office of a superstar. The guy who gets to work with his idol growing up. He showed a piece of all of us. He will always be a piece of our hearts.
The other normal people are Samuel Jackson, Cobie Smulders, Scarlett Johansson, and Jeremy Renner. All are some sort of disappointing and bland. Jackson's Fury is all that is not. There is no Fury there, there is no enthusiasm there. He looks like he's going to be cool and all that, but he's a robot. Smulders is efficient and sufficient in that right-hand role of the person who just works and is very professional. There's nothing more to her and she's more or less a pretty segment of the wallpaper. She would be a lesser version of X-Men. First Class's Rose Byrne. Johansson is there and she gets significant screen time, but she's just not that sort of girl. She can't portray cunning (as required), only smarts. She's lethal and can beat people up, but we know that from seeing her do it rather than she being intimidating. Renner is as an odd a fit as he was in Ghost Protocol.
This brings us to the small matter of failure. Though we get some shots of military Humvees doing some leg work, SHIELD noticeably abstains from any fighting. In these sort of things, us guys work best as the victims, the repair team, and evacuation. They are obviously outclassed and refrain from getting their hands dirty. This is simultaneously logical and ignoble. Another is Renner's amazing arrows. I can stand guys with no really good powers going up against demi-gods. Batman can do it. Granted, Batman is an exceptional guy, but all these guys are exceptional (different levels, but you understand). Now, Renner shows off some explosive arrows that can down the alien enemy. Renner is outfitted by SHIELD. Now, SHIELD abstention is both illogical and ignoble. Cowardly even. Even worse, Johansson is the only other SHIELD operative to do combat, and she's equipped with standard issue very small pistols. Pistols that would even go through car bodies. This is very Cowboys and Aliens. Noble, but illogical.
The villain in all this is Tom Hiddleston who has one pretty okay moment (that sadly becomes a laugher after seconds), and that is sad. I see some potential in him in his boastful and proud ways. He's hard-headed and backstabbing. However, this comes and goes, and most of the time it's just not there. It may be the writing or the laughing all around, but he's just not a scary guy. Most times (and on the overall), he a bit of some semi-delusional spoiled brat with powers. He's too much of a crook sort of villain. It's as if you faced off Captain Boomerang against The Avengers. His armada isn't much ether. They're more threatening because they're so many rather than because they're so formidable. The Spanish Armada against a modern battle squadron.
Hiddleston doesn't even get a proper fight. Most of the action is between his faceless minions against the good guys. Most of the action (the best action) is actually the heroes facing off against each other (this is maybe partially from Hiddleston's tricks, so some credit). There is also some more action that you'd have seen from the trailers. In which case I mourn for you (if you've seen the trailers) because you've already seen the best scenes. Here's the problem. The action is quite nice, but there are too few brilliant sequences.
What happens is basically some bickering, some laughs, some pretend drama succeeded by more laughs, then some fighting, some more fighting, then an epilogue, then a scene after the credits wrapped in darkness and of no consequence. It summarises what this is. It's cooler conceptually than it really is. It's good, more than good, but not very good or great at all. It's something that you'd think you'd have something to say but end up drawing a blank. It's pretty unremarkable.
I have nothing to say except what passes for commentary as seen above and that it would look great on a big bright screen up close. There is also some nice laughs and there are few scenes to look out for (you will know it when you see it). Everything is sufficient and unexceptional. The best looking shot is Downey Jr.'s face as it is inside the helmet. Very nice palette and very space exploration super techno.
It's like finally reading 1Q84 and having little to remark upon besides the badly written sex scene (read: clumsy) and how it doesn't really break new ground. Also, again, don't watch the trailer. Just don't.
(The Avengers - Joss Whedon)