The Avengers

PG-13 | 143 mins | Action, Sci-fi, Adventure | April 25, 2012 (Philippines)

Director: Joss Whedon
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Jeremy Renner, Samuel L. Jackson, and Tom Hiddleston

What can I say, all that geekiness and comicbook charm was achieved by The Avengers. It is now officialy my most favorite superhero film (Sorry X-Men: First Class). 

The Avengers is composed of the billionaire Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), the scientist Dr. Bruce Banner/The Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), the demigod Thor (Chris Hemsworth), World War II supersoldier Steve Rogers/Captain America (Cris Evans), and spies Hawkeye/Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) and Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson). They were re-grouped by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), director of international peace keeping agency S.H.I.E.L.D, to save the world from the alien invading forces of Loki (Tom Hiddleston) who unfortunately gained possession of the cube-like Tesseract.

The film has a common superhero story of aliens invading Earth and there's a lot happening, but still the film felt refreshing and exciting. The film tapped into the conflicts and relationships of each character, like a regular messy therapy session with a shrink, only with superhero attendees. Marvel's The Avengers is packed with action from start to finish but did not fail to make us laugh as well. Iron Man's arrogant sense of humor were a given, but The Hulk was a revelation! He kept the audience laughing with his subtle comical moments, one with Thor, another with Creepy cool Loki. The characters of Hawk Eye and Black Widow were promoted to hero status and made a great debut. Ruffalo gave the The Hulk a character boost, and I must say, the uses to which The Hulk is put throughout this movie was unforeseen but certainly a pleasant surprise; it made him look stronger and catapulted him into the front ranks of the Marvel Universe's superheroes.

Surely it was no simple feat, so kudos to Joss Whedon for brilliantly executing this intelligent and witty story with a burdensome superhero all-star ensemble. Most of the heroes in this 2 hour and 23 minute movie are very well-known, but none are short changed. Although obviously, and naturally so, crowd favorites Ironman, Captain America and Thor got more screentime in the movie. In spite of that, Whedon showcased well all the heroes, gave each character enough story then he weaved all the superhuman stories together and made it work. Whedon clearly has a deep understanding, and love, of the source material. The effects are top-notch and all the actors were great. Even the supporting Agent Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders, who was not trying to make us laugh like she does in How I Met Your Mother) and Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg). The chemistry is all that good.

One minor problem: It's not a prerequisite to watch the previous films, but for the benefit of first-time viewers they could've picked up more the movie's character and plot development element, maybe summing up the events that led to the encounter. 

The film's climactic battle is breathtaking, delivering its every promise. The Avengers is a spectacle filled with crowd-pleasing action and playful wit and humor. This is one of the best superhero film ever made and I am not exaggerating. The seven year wait and the films that led to assembling The Avengers were all worth it. Kids and adults, fans and non fans, will love the movie. This is a must watch. 

If you stick around for the post credit sequence, as with any Marvel film, you'll get a hint of what's coming. And the next villain is Thanos!

RATING: 8.5/10


The Hunger Games

PG-13  |  142 mins  |  Adventure, Sci-Fi | Release Date: March 23, 2012 (USA)

Gary Ross
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson and Liam Hemsworth
(Based from the novel written by Suzanne Collins)

It's Survivor meets Big Brother meets Gladiator.

The story is set in a glum future, in the dictatorial nation of Panem composed of 12 hard up districts and its seat of government, the Capitol. Each year, as punishment for their rebellion, a boy and a girl aged 12 to 18 from each district gets chosen by lottery to participate in The Hunger Games. This barbaric televised game will show the 24 Tributes fight to the death in an outdoor arena. Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) volunteers to take her younger sister's place as District 12's representative. With her male counterpart Peeta Melark (Josh Hutcherson), Katniss competes against bigger and stronger Tributes and would radically change the game that displeased the President.

Lawrence was on the money as Katniss, emitting a charm that can stir a crowd. But, minus the mindless racist casting comments she's been getting, adorable Amandla Stenberg won my heart over playing smallest and youngest tribute, Rue. She showed her underaged loveliness and her relatable acting as Katniss' ally. The story was filled with colorful characters (no pun intended Rue), although mostly poorly developed - a perrenial issue for an adaptation from book to film. Take for example Gale (Liam Hemsworth), who was merely in the sidelines.

Gary Ross did a good job at making all those battle scenes less brutal though, hence PG-13. Visually, and I also mean the Tim Burton-ish costumes defining the wealthy from the poor, it is an awesome film. And I must say that the musical score complemented the scenes perfectly, stimulating that air of suspense and hope.

The film captured enough the spirit of the novel regardless, and for that it deserves the box-office success it got. But I expect even more exciting things to happen in the next installments of this trilogy.

Naturally, the novel would offer more depth to the story. There's just so much more that can be packed into books!


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