Marvel’s “The Avengers” Team Up to Take Your Money
Friday, May 4, 2012 Leave a comment
In 2008, Marvel Studios released the first of many film adaptations of their own comic book properties. With “Iron Man,” the legendary publisher took great care in making sure the summer blockbuster did the source material justice, and succeeded with flying colors (red and gold, primarily). Those who stayed after the credits were treated to a short scene showcasing Samuel L. Jackson as a mysterious man with an eye patch saying something about an “Avengers Initiative.” With that moment, comic fans everywhere collectively shit a massive brick made of tremendous excitement and towering expectations. Four years later, Marvel Studios has delivered on their promise of an Avengers film. Was it even remotely possible for them to meet the staggering expectations of their fans? Find out after the break!
In short, YES. In not so short, YES OH MY GOD YES I STILL CAN’T BELIEVE THIS MOVIE EXISTS YES. In case you didn’t catch it from either of those, um… sentences (?), this movie is ridiculously good. If that enthusiasm is enough to convince you to see it and you want to avoid anything even remotely approaching spoilers, then go ahead and stop reading this now and GO SEE THIS DAMN MOVIE, GUYS. SERIOUSLY. For everyone else: Don’t worry, I won’t spoil any major plot points, so feel free to continue reading in safety.
Full disclosure: I have quite enjoyed all the previous Marvel Studios films (those being “Iron Man,” “The Incredible Hulk,” “Iron Man 2,” “Thor,” and “Captain America: The First Avenger,” in release order), as well as having a passing interest in the comic properties themselves. I am not, however, a regular reader of the comics. Either way, as long as the movie was not a massive fumble (which, let’s face it, could very easily have happened with this many major characters in one story), I was probably going to enjoy it. The kicker, though, is Marvel’s decision to hire Joss Whedon as writer and director.
Fuller disclosure: Joss Whedon is probably the closest thing I have to a god. As the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-a-long Blog, and the criminally underrated Dollhouse, Whedon has been responsible for some of the most influential works of fiction on me both creatively and regarding my life in general. I’m basically already primed to enjoy anything that’s in his voice, so I knew I was going to love “The Avengers” the second they announced Whedon’s involvement. I was STILL surprised by just how ridiculously entertaining the film ended up being.
I suppose a synopsis is technically in order, but in all honesty all you really need to know is that it involves Iron Man, Bruce Banner/The Hulk, Thor, Captain America, Black Widow, and Hawkeye teaming up to fight an evil force and save the world. If you want something more specific than that, Loki (Thor’s mischievous brother, played by Tom Hiddleston) has returned from the void with a mysterious magical space army at his back intent on taking over the people of Earth and ruling it by force. S.H.I.E.L.D., an organization run by the enigmatic and authoritative Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) has tasked themselves with rounding up a group of extraordinary people (see the list of superheroes earlier in the paragraph) to fight off Loki’s army and save the people of Earth.
What results is one of the most entertaining throwdowns I’ve ever seen in a summer blockbuster. Each of these superheroes is played by the same actor as in the previous Marvel Studios film (with the exception of The Hulk, now played by Mark Ruffalo). This helps to create a mostly intact sense of character and universe continuity that is absolutely necessary for this movie to work at all. Luckily, Joss Whedon is extremely talented when it comes to writing ensemble stories (see every show he’s ever done for evidence), and has a written a script that gives each and every one of them a handful of spectacular showcase moments and pitch-perfect dialog sequences. The cast is just as good as they’ve been in all the previous films, delivering the performances you’ve come to expect.
There is, of course, the exception of Mark Ruffalo. “The Incredible Hulk” starred Edward Norton in a quite decent turn as Bruce Banner, but creative disputes caused Norton to leave the franchise. Whedon has chosen to replace Norton with Ruffalo, a choice that I hope will pay off in future films as much as it pays off here. Ruffalo is a wonderful Bruce Banner, approaching the character with an underplayed sense of humor that helps mask his struggle with the danger he poses to himself and those around him. The handling of The Hulk in those sequences is also greatly improved from previous films, presenting a character that is dangerous and terrifying as well as heroic and smarter than he’s given credit for. The character is one of the biggest surprises of the film, and makes for some of the most entertaining moments in the massive setpieces that comprise the film’s action.
Speaking of the action, holy hell does this film deliver. If all you want out of “The Avengers” is a bunch of your favorite superheroes teaming up and occasionally fighting each other, you will not be disappointed. The setpieces are grand and satisfying, cleverly utilizing the characters’ abilities and showcasing some truly exciting match-ups. The third act, in particular, is wonderfully exciting, and features a terrific tracking shot that soars through the battle stopping by every single Avenger to watch them do their thing. There were more moments of uproarious applause in our theater than I’ve ever witnessed in a film before. The action is exactly what it should be; cleverly choreographed and full of crowd-pleasing money-shots.
The great thing about the movie, however, is that while it delivers on the action, what really makes it soar above and beyond the competition is how well it deals with the character moments. It’s a complete package for fans of the comics, fans of the movies, and fans of joy. Seriously, I was not aware my body could handle that much joy without shutting down. It’s kind of draining. The only negative I can really think of at the moment is that if you don’t have a built-in affection for the universe and the characters, the first half of the film might seem a bit slow or meandering. Even then, the scenes are entertaining and witty on their own, regardless of how much you already know about Tony Stark or Steve Rodgers. I’d recommend seeing the other Marvel Studios films if you haven’t, but I really have a hard time seeing how anyone could not enjoy “The Avengers.”
Early on in the film, Nick Fury and Steve Rodgers make a $10 dollar bet that they won’t be able to show Steve anything that won’t surprise or impress him. Marvel is asking moviegoers everywhere to make the same bet for just a little bit more, and it’s a bet that Marvel is going to win.
Oh and also, the movie is really good. Not sure I mentioned that.