Thursday, April 26, 2012

My coverage of "The Avengers"

When Marvel superheroes band together
By Raymond de Asis Lo L.A. Correspondent (The Philippine Star) Updated April 26, 2012 12:00 AM Comments (0) View comments

The Avengers is the best Marvel movie ever!

That’s how this writer greeted every cast member of the massive and spectacular action movie during last week’s junket in Los Angeles — it was strictly forbidden to tweet or post any review about the movie on Facebook until the movie would open in theaters (it opened yesterday in the Philippines and on May 4 in the United States) so I had to keep my excitement about the movie to myself but when I saw the stars the morning after the world premiere, I just couldn’t help myself but rave to them how much I had fun watching their movie.

This latest Marvel movie assembles all the biggest Marvel superheroes in one big giant movie that’s so grand and thrilling this writer, who, admittedly, can sometimes get too loud while watching a movie, joined nearly everyone in the audience cheering for almost the entire second half of the movie. It is so good I am so tempted to give it an A-plus rating. No one who watches this movie will leave the theater unsatisfied. 

The press day held at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills was just as epic as the movie. It was a hectic day. There were five 20-minute roundtables scheduled for the day, two 30-minute press conferences and two 10-minute one-on-ones with director Joss Whedon and with newly-minted action star Jeremy Renner, who was still raving about the Filipino hospitality he experienced to this day.

We started the roundtables with Brit Tom Hiddleston, who plays the nefarious Loki, the role he originated in last year’s box-office hit Thor. Tom was paired with Jeremy, who plays the sharpshooting Hawkeye.

“It was very, very challenging for me: Who’s Hawkeye? I was trying to figure that out,” Jeremy told us when asked how he felt now that he is officially a part of the current gallery of Hollywood superstars playing a Marvel superhero.

The star-studded cast also includes Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man, Mark Ruffalo as The Hulk, Chris Evans as Captain America, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, and Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow, the lone female superhero in the story. The gorgeous Scarlett did not join the press junket but was present at the premiere the night before. Chris Hemsworth and Robert Jr. skipped the print roundtables, too, but joined the press conferences held in the afternoon.

Tom and Jeremy mostly talked about how they were cast in the movie and the challenges they faced during filming, including the physically demanding stunts each of them had to do.

Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye, Chris Evans as Captain America and Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow
“I hurt myself when I was up against The Hulk,” Tom revealed. “Basically, I had to throw myself backwards into the ground and I smashed my elbow — it was like, ‘I’m an idiot’!”

“If you don’t get hurt, you’re not working hard enough,” Jeremy added before confirming reports that he suffered several concussions doing one very physical stunt with another character which I will not mention here so as not to spoil the movie. He also strained his neck after he twisted it too hard while doing his character’s signature archery move.

The cast had stunt doubles but like the superheroes they play, they opted to do most of their own stunts to provide some form of realism to the movie. “I get such a thrill anyway when I am in the movies and I am watching actors do their own stunts. I love it!” Tom said before declaring that he was a big fan of Jeremy’s stunts in the recent Mission Impossiblemovie.

When Chris (Evans) and Mark joined us next at the roundtable, the two had different stories to tell but most notably was Mark’s funny (or unfunny, depends on how one sees it) experience after reaching out to Marvel fans online after he was cast as The Hulk.

“I made the mistake of going online early on,” Mark recalled half-smiling. “I’ve never had a role that had more speculation and been more dissected before I shot a frame of film. I got my ass handed to me early so I learned pretty early on not to go online and look what the fanboys are saying.”

“It’s a slippery slope. It’s a dangerous game to play to go online and start reading opinions and get feedbacks,” Chris commented. “At the end of the day you are making a movie and developing the character with the director.”

It’s good that Chris had foreshadowed what might have happened otherwise he would have also seen firsthand how nasty, mean and zealously possessive some fans are of their favorite Marvel superheroes because some of the worst comments Mark read online were indeed really harsh: “How could Mark play The Hulk when he can barely talk? He sounds retarded!” were some of the bad ones Mark enumerated.

But if there was one group of fans that always believed in Mark, it was his three children, including his 10-year-old son, who he jokingly referred to as his inspiration when The Hulk starts losing control of his rage. “My son was like ‘yes!’”

Marvel fans have since mellowed and embraced Mark as the latest addition to Marvel’s gallery of superhero actors. “There was a lot of support, too. There was a lot of other good stuff but it’s funny, as an actor, you only remember the bad things people say about you. There was a lot to prove and I just hope we came through with it.”

“In my opinion these movies don’t get made without the diehard fan base,” Chris stated. “They are the ones who make these movies big box-office success. If you don’t try to meet their expectations in a small way, you miss the mark.”

One of the biggest reasons why all the Marvel movies have become huge successes can also be attributed to the passion and dedication of Marvel president Kevin Feige who spent nearly a decade setting up Marvel Studios. According to him he went from one studio to another trying to sell movie ideas for characters (like Fox’s X-Men and Sony’s Spider-Man) that have already been bought before realizing that he had some of the most popular Marvel characters in his catalog that are in need of a movie treatment.

The journey for The Avengers started more than five years ago when Marvel decided to produce the first Iron Man movie. That movie reestablished Robert Downey Jr.’s career and launched Marvel Studios as a big player in the business. When The Incredible Hulk, Captain America and Thor hit theaters soon after, fans knew it was only a matter of time before they will see their beloved Marvel superheroes banding together in one movie.

Helping Kevin realize his dream of assembling seven Marvel characters in one movie was writer-director Joss Whedon, who is very popular among science fiction fans for his TV series Buffy, The Vampire Slayer and the cult favorite Serenity.

Joss wrote a screenplay that manages to provide the right tone and balance of a massive action movie and the awareness that each of the characters are still going to have their future individual adventures in their own movies down the road. “You have to take them on a journey but then still leave them in a place where they can go on another one,” he remarked.

Iron Man 3 starts filming in June. Captain America 2 will go into production later this year. And, who knows, there might just be a sequel to The Avengers soon, like real soon!

If the sequel does start filming soon, the cast couldn’t be anymore excited.

“It was great — we got along so well,” Chris offered when asked how it was like on the set. “We really got lucky. When you sign up for this multi-picture contract you know you are going to be working with these people for a potentially long time. It is a blessing when it happens and you get along with these people. We had a good time, it was like summer camp.”

With the popularity of superheroes at an all-time high, I asked the actors if there is still a need for superheroes in today’s very modern world.

Mark, who fans feared could barely talk as The Hulk, offered the most interesting reply: “This is mythology. This is no different to saints in the past. This is part of our culture. This is a way we work out things in our storytelling. I definitely think we need this kind of storytelling. There are some ideas that are timely and cloaked inside this movie and that people love these movies for a reason.”

True. I love this movie! And I don’t need to cite any particular reason only that I spent some of my best two hours watching this movie. No, make it four hours, because I am watching it again when it starts its regular run in theaters.

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