Depending on which early reviews you have decided to place faith in, “The Avengers” — Joss Whedon’s superheroes-to-the-seventh-power epic that opens tonight at midnight — either contains failures that “are significant and dispiriting” (A.O. Scott of the New York Times); will cause Comic-Con nerds to have “multiple orgasms” (David Edelstein of New York Magazine); or is “more efficient than inspired” (Ann Hornaday of The Washington Post).
Like my Post colleague, I say it falls somewhere in the middle on the dispiriting-to-orgasmic spectrum, which, for the record, is my favorite spectrum.
In several ways, “The Avengers” totally delivers, but in others, it doesn’t. What do I mean by that? Allow me to explain in convenient list form.
Here are four things I loved about the summer’s first blockbuster and four things I didn’t care for, accompanied by a very clear, all-caps and bolded indicator that SOME MINOR SPOILERS MAY LIE AHEAD.
Four things I loved about “The Avengers”
1. The dialogue
This is a Joss Whedon production, which means it’s filled with all kinds of rapidfire, witty banter (Banner banter? Yes, Banner banter) between our eclectic band of world savers. Does Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man get a lot of the best lines, including one that makes awesome reference to a retro video game? Well, yes. But there are plenty of quality quips to go around.
Thor’s brother with an attitude is back, this time with even more creepy heinosity and a heightened appetite for power. Tom Hiddleston plays him just perfectly, so well that you believe he really can summon enough hatred of humanity to destroy the planet.
Does it occasionally feel like Mark Ruffalo (in the role of Bruce Banner) may have accidentally walked into “The Avengers” from a Kenneth Lonergan film? A little, but that’s what makes him such a great Banner. Ruffalo plays him low-key but, as he has in role after role, with a relatable humanity that makes it even more satisfying when the gamma ray expert loses his you-know-what in a big — and I do mean BIG — way.
4. The pacing
At nearly two-and-half-hours long, “The Avengers” is not a short movie. But it never feels like it’s dragging because Whedon keeps everything running at a nice, solid clip.
Four things I didn’t like about “The Avengers”
1. The 3-D
I’m not an anti-3-D person, but I appreciate the technology most when it feels like it’s literally and figuratively adding another dimension to a film. I didn’t feel that way about its use in “The Avengers.”
2. The presence of Asgard
I have what is, admittedly, an irrational dislike of Asgard. It prevented me from liking “Thor” as much as I had hoped, and every time it showed up in “The Avengers,” I could feel my eyes begin to glaze over. Seriously, if you say the word Asgard out loud, there is a very good chance I will fall asleep sometime between “As” and “gard.”
Now, before you whip yourself into a frenzy, I realize that Asgard is crucial to the narrative of “The Avengers” and therefore has to factor into the proceedings at some point. I’m just saying that I hate being shoved out into some black void on a distant planet where everything feels tonally unrelated to what we’re watching on Earth even though plot-wise, it’s totally related. There. I said it.
3. Lack of character development
As I feared in a movie in which there are six or seven superheroes, depending on your count, character development was a little weak. It helps that we already know most of the characters from previous Marvel flicks, but I still mention this as a weakness, one that ties into my fourth point.
4. No emotional resonance.
What’s the biggest thing prevented me from liking “The Avengers” more than I did? My inability to truly care about what was happening onscreen. Part of that is due to what I previously mentioned — with so many characters, it’s hard to develop really strong empathy for anyone the same way I might in, say, a Spider-Man or Batman movie where there’s a clear, central protagonist.
I need to feel something as a viewer beyond just “Wow, look how cool Hulk looks when he goes smashy smashy.” “The Avengers” is an impressive spectacle and one that, thankfully, boasts some intelligence behind it. But it didn’t persuade me to invest emotionally, which ultimately made it feel like an empty enterprise.
Have you seen “The Avengers”? Then by all means, post a comment to tell me I’m glaringly wrong, absolutely right or somewhere in between .