Whether or not you’ve read the comics or have seen the previous movies, or even if you have only seen Iron Man and don’t particularly like superhero flicks, you’ll find something to enjoy about The Avengers.
As the sixth installment to the Marvel cinematic universe and the mega-film that the franchise had been speeding toward since Iron Man, Marvel’s The Avengers easily stands above them all as the best, or at least the most entertaining.
We begin The Avengers from the perspective of S.H.I.E.L.D. when a mysterious villain named Loki (those that have seen Thor will remember him) shows up and steals the Tesseract (a glowing cube of energy, those that have seen Captain America will remember this) and begins to wreak unimaginable havoc.
It’s at this point that S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) calls for the formation of a team the likes of which have never been seen on the big screen.
As the ultimate crossover film, the film soars magnificently from beginning to end. With his tenure on Buffy and Angel, director Joss Whedon proved that he was the king of the crossover, and with the transition from Firefly to Serenity we saw that he had the ability to translate his season long arcs into a tight two-and-a-half hour running time.
The technical aspects of bringing all of the characters together in a satisfying way was a gargantuan task, and Whedon managed to write each character in a balanced fashion that never made the film seem like Iron Man 3 or a weird Thor spin-off. It’s a team movie through and through and actually reads a little more like Oceans 11 than anything else.
Now, in the coming few days, you’ll hear people talking about how unsuspectingly funny they found the film to be. Since Joss Whedon signed on to write and direct the film, we knew that it would have that very distinctive Whedon-esque twist to it, and after the ultra-realistic Iron Man and the Shakespearean Thor, the tonal change is immediately noticeable.
Captain America asks Tony Stark, “Is everything a joke to you?” and one can’t help but wonder if a little less of Joss Whedon’s trademark wit and a little more of Jon Favreau’s stark reality would have given The Avengers a little more to fear stakes-wise.
Take a good look at that gripe. The only thing that I could find to complain about was that it was sometimes too enjoyable. It’s true, there are moments in this film that will have you roaring with laughter, but its the carefully crafted moments of suspense and drama that will stay with you long after the third act battle sequence pumps your brain full of adrenaline.
Just because a movie is action focused doesn’t mean that it can’t take the time to make things personally connected, and this movie is an excellent example of that.
It’s an ensemble cast, so the performance of every actor lays in the spotlight. Luckily, every actor has assembled in full form and handles this group hug with the utmost care. Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain America (Chris Evans) prove to be more than up to the task of making The Avengers personal and join the film with just as much passion and truth as they have in their solo films.
The characters of Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) have been expounded upon by Joss Whedon to tremendous effect (Black Widow’s secrets prove to be one of The Avengers most intriguing moments) and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) proves to be the best of the Hulk that we’ve seen so far, and the Jade Giant might in fact end up being the favorite Avenger of many.
The work on The Hulk in this film is jaw-dropping and is reminiscent of how the character of Ceasar was brought to life in Rise of the Planet of the Apes. We see Mark Ruffalo through that gigantic green face, and because of this, The Hulk doesn’t turn into just another CGI character that we’ve seen in dozens of other films, The Incredible Hulk included. He’s the Gollum/Smeagol of this universe and he’s also going to deliver some of the biggest moments that people remember from the movie. Spoiler: Hulk smashes.
There’s no denying, even from the people that will inevitably claim that it was “too cartoon-y” for their taste, that The Avengers is an incredibly fun ride. It jumps with a lightning fast pace from set piece to set piece, and those that get bored of dialogue easily (even sparklingly witty dialogue) will take delight in the elaborate action sequences that surge the film to its exciting finale. The film is coming to the United States next week, and you better believe that there will be people that sit through this thing three or four times and not get tired of it.
For us, the replay value of The Avengers remains to be seen, but I saw it last week and am still eagerly clutching my tickets to the midnight premiere, my brand new Iron Man 3D glasses readily in my pocket, anxious to take the ride again.
Rated: PG-13 (for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action throughout, and a mild drug reference)
Marvel’s The Avengers opens nationwide on May 4, 2012.