I’m almost certain that this won’t be the only review for Marvel’s The Avengers here on the Shattered Lens. Arleigh is watching it as we speak, and while I can give my thoughts on the film, they won’t be from a comic insider’s point of view. It’s not my strong point. You see, I grew up on Spider-Man comics, and totally shunned the Marvel Team Up / Group stories. Never read an X-Men comic until after that film came out and The Avengers overall are new to me. I know who they are, but I can’t tell you if the movie gives you everything the comics were. Keep your eyes open for the other reviews to help build a better picture of things.
What I can say is that the movie easily touches on everything that Disney / Marvel has built upon with the movies before it. Starting in 2008, Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger were all pieces of a larger puzzle. After 4 years, The Avengers does its best to utilize all of it, to a great success. That’s the amazing element of this movie. You aren’t essentially required to watch the other movies to enjoy The Avengers. In 2 hours, you’re given a film that stands completely on it’s own if you’ve never seen the other films, yet is an added bonus if you have. Even better, the characters that didn’t have a chance to get their own films still have moments where we can learn about them and where they get to shine. One could maybe say the same about The X-Men in that you have a group of heroes that have to work together, but you’ve never really had a set up to display all of their abilities and background the way Disney/Marvel did this.
Warner Brothers and DC should be crying right now at the missed opportunity here. All of their comic creations were already under one roof, and they really should have been able to have had a Justice League film by now if they wanted to. I wouldn’t be shocked at all if they tried to mimic Marvel Studios right now.
When I first heard that Joss Whedon was doing the directing, I groaned. I have a love / hate relationship with Whedon’s work. I was never a big Buffy: The Vampire Slayer fan, but I really enjoyed Angel when it went into syndication, seeing all of it’s seasons more than once. Of course, everyone loves Firefly, but the film based on that, Serenity, tanked at the box office (I was there at the first Friday to support it, though). I wrote off the Avengers as something that was destined to fail, because Whedon loves to inject pop culture references at every given and small bits of humor into things that are usually serious. I felt the only saving grace would be that Whedon is something of a master when it comes to ensembles, which is why I figured Marvel Studios went with him. It may work for something like Cabin in the Woods (“When did you start reading science books?!” / “You! I learned it by watching you!”), but for a superhero movie, come on.
And yet, here I sit, feeling I owe Whedon the biggest of apologies. The Avengers has equal parts humor and action and it comes together so well that I’m not sure I know who else could pull this off. Let’s put it this way. The only true lull in the whole movie is at the beginning of the film, because it still needs to set up the big problem for the Avengers to handle. Other than that, the movie moves very well for a film with so many characters.
Previously on The Avengers…
Without giving much away, The Avengers is basically the story of S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), who has to bring a group of heroes together to face a foe that’s too powerful for one good guy to handle on their own (or so that’s how they sell it). However, before they can take on the battle they’re supposed to, they have to find a way to get along with each other and that’s the building point of this tale. The action, when it happens is fresh and fast and there isn’t a slow moment that passes without pushing the story forward. For as long as the movie is, it moves very well.
The Character Study…
Like I said, One of the marvels of The Avengers is that all of the characters are given their time to shine. Since this is the big story we’ve all been waiting for, the film does take it’s time to give the characters brief explanations of where they’re from and how they fit into the entire scheme of things. These summaries give the audience just enough to be satisfied without turning the movie into a set of background dossiers like Watchmen. Of particular note is Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner / Hulk, who may have had the hardest duty here, playing a character that most people associated with Edward Norton in The Incredible Hulk. He makes the role his own, and just like with Bana in Ang Lee’s version of the green guy’s story, Norton’s quickly forgotten (or was for me, anyway). Ruffalo’s version of Banner is very hesitant, almost scared of what he can unleash. Norton pulled this off as well, but I have to admit that I felt a little sad for Ruffalo’s Banner at the start. He keeps his distance because of how dangerous he can be, and I can’t imagine how rough that would be. Still, he and his alter ego get their spotlight moments, too.
None of the characters veer off from how they were established in their own films. Robert Downey, Jr’s Tony Stark is just as much of a wise cracking ass as he was in his movies, and Captain America is just as noble. Chris Hemsworth carries Thor without a problem. If there’s any one character that has a tough time fitting in, it would have to be Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye. Though he had a blip of a cameo in Kenneth Branaugh’s Thor, and manages to have some presence here, but if he wasn’t in the story I don’t think he’d be terribly missed. The story manages to cushion this by having the Black Widow (Scarlett Johannson) be something of a fighting partner with him. For a character without anything super about her, she holds her own amongst the team, even better in some occasions.
Most superhero movies have gone the route of adding villains as the number of films increase. Superman had Lex Luthor in the first film and then the three Kryptonians. Spider-Man 3 had both Venom and the New Green Goblin to deal with. Even the Dark Knight had Joker and Two-Face. One would think that given the number of superheroes on board, you’d have just about the same number of Arch villains to deal with. The Avengers spins this notion on it’s ear by just giving you one main enemy in Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, and as a demigod, he’s as formidable as one could expect. I thought that was a great touch, considering what we usually get in superhero movies.
One thing about The Avengers that helps it move along is the humor that’s injected throughout the film. It’s not so heavy that you can’t take the film seriously, but there’s just enough to find yourself accidentally chuckling or downright applauding at scenes. Of course, this is classic Whedon. Even his Astonishing X-Men comic line had the same elements. Just when you think everything’s becoming a little too dramatic, the film throws a comedic curveball that breaks the tension. What felt like overuse in Buffy The Vampire Slayer turns out to be really fun here. This doesn’t mean that the film avoids being serious. There are moments where it’s incredibly so. It’s just that the story knows when to laugh at itself. I applauded and laughed out loud too many times during this movie. Were it not for the audience laughing with me, I’m pretty sure I’d be that guy getting shushed down in front. Wow, it was just fun!
…But What about the Kids?
Can kids go see The Avengers? Of course. It may get a little scary for the littlest of viewers, but overall, it should be a fun ride for anyone who enjoyed the other films in Marvel’s arsenal. There’s no time for anything steamy (unless you want to count a little flirting between two characters anything), but maybe the violence may be something to be wary off. Then again, it may not really be that bad. It’s up to the Parental Guidance and all that. They will probably love the 3D version, which is actually used well in the aerial sequences but can tend to fade as one watches it. It definitely has a great look to it, but the 3D isn’t exactly required here. That’s up to the viewer to choose.
Overall, The Avengers is a wild ride and a great triumph when looking at what was built to reach that point. It’s easily the Inception for me this year, that film that I know I’m going to be running back to a few times before it’s had it’s run, and as of right now, I’m far less excited about Prometheus and The Dark Knight Rises at this point. My movie year’s pretty complete at the moment and the Summer officially starts with this film, the way I see it. I wouldn’t mind seeing another Marvel team up like this.
Oh, one more thing. Stay when the credits roll. There are 2 tidbits that need to be viewed. One just after the credits start and one at the very end.