Marvel’s The Avengers


The Avengers, or more accurately called Marvel’s The Avengers (and more accurately described as Joss Whedon’s Marvel’s The Avengers) is the latest Marvel offering from… Marvel and it without a doubt raises the bar for what to expect in a superhero movie, the same way that Spiderman, X-Men, Ironman, and even Batman Begins did. It exceeded all my expectations and set out what it meant to just about flawlessly. Just about.

The Avengers is the story of a group of superheroes who, despite their differences, unite to beat a common enemy. They’re a less gimmicky X-Men and a less familial Fantastic 4: there’s Ironman, Captain America, Thor, The Incredible Hulk, Black Widow, and Hawkeye. If you recall from Captain America: The First Avenger, there’s a thing known as the Tesseract, a cube of literally infinite power. At the beginning of the film, S.H.I.E.L.D., headed up by of course the awesome Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury, is trying to harness it to have an unlimited source of energy (and other less-altruistic reasons) when Loki, portrayed by Tom Hiddleston (who reprises his role from Thor), spoils the party and brainwashes Stellan Skarsgård’s Selvig (again, from Thor)  along with Jeremy Renner’s Clint Barton / Hawkeye. Loki’s goal is to invade Earth with an extraterrestial army and to do so he needs to open a portal and, of course, only The Avengers can stop him. Fury attempts to bring this group together and, after some infighting, the group finds that they’re a pretty lethal team.

The biggest hurdle that I foresaw for writer/director Whedon, best known for having amazing TV shows cancelled on him, was combining several different movies into one and with them, their big-screen stars. Each of the origin movies is, I think, pretty awesome: it goes without saying that Robert Downey Jr. is a perfect Ironman and that Ironman is one of the best superhero flicks of all time, that Ed Norton’s The Incredible Hulk totally made up for the previous shitshow The Hulk, that Hemsworth’s Thor is probably as perfect a Thor as you can get (and, to be honest, I never really liked the comicbook Thor), and that Chris Evans’s Steve “Captain America” Rogers was, well, awesome. How then do you take all these awesome characters (not to mention villain Loki and Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury) and manage to give each enough screen time without overwhelming the movie itself? By making the thing 2.5+ hrs long and just being good at your job, I guess.

That’s probably the best part about The Avengers — it isn’t cluttered. Whedon manages to incorporate huge set pieces with tons of action along with scenes involving just one or two of the Avengers without making the whole thing a disjointed, jumpy mess. That isn’t to say everyone gets the same amount of ice time; it did feel like that Robert Downey Jr. got the most on-screen time and Scarlet Johansson’s Black Widow and Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye got the least, but part of that obviously has to do with acting ability, as well as the superheroes themselves; regardless, each actor nails his or her part and no one really stands out as being bad. Of all the performances however I felt that Mark Ruffalo stood out; he managed to nail the slightly uneasy awkwardness of Bruce Banner and is just incredible. I feel there are two types of Bruce Banner: there’s the don’t make me angry Banner and the you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry Banner. The first flashes his Hulk-ness as a weaponw hile the other does, to some extent, fear it, and I think that Ruffalo nailed the second. Turning into an unstoppable, unkillable, and more importantly uncontrollable killing machine is scary both for the Hulk and for the non-Hulk, but, like I said, Ruffalo nails his portrayal of a Banner who is afraid of his own power yet somewhat in control. It’s good stuff.

To Whedon’s credit, the movie isn’t as Whedonesque as it could be: Whedon’s style of campy / stupid dialogue doesn’t manage to invade the film. The characters manage instead to spout off witty lines at opportune times and, fortunately, not to a extreme degree. At one point Captain America is calling Tony Stark out and asks him what he is underneath his armor: he replies with “genius, billionaire, playboy philanthropist.” At another point Black Widow is warning Cap about Loki and Thor, calling them gods: Captain America respectfully replies that “ma’am, there’s only one God, and I’m pretty sure he doesn’t dress like that.” When issuing orders to the team, Cap points at Hulk and says “Hulk… smash.” The film is brilliant and wickedly funny and had the audience in my theatre laughing constantly; it manages to be self-aware without being too self-aware, to be witty without being too witty, and be tongue-in-cheek without being too tongue-in-cheek. The movie walks a tightrope for two-and-a-half hours and, for the most part, manages to keep its balance.

All-in-all, Marvel’s The Avengers is one hell of a superhero movie. It’s not destined for the Oscars, of course, but it is without a doubt one of the best superhero movies ever put together and, to its credit, there is a lot of competition. If you like superhero movies and you liked any of the origin movies, odds are you’ll love The Avengers. It’s well put together, well thought out, and very well executed.  This is a must-watch and, I’ll warn you: some parts of the movie are so funny that you won’t be able to hear a line or two here and there for all the laughing in the audience. And that’s one of the best parts about this film: it’s really easy to get in to, to be captivated by, and ultimately, to get lost in. And that’s what movies are, or should be, about. I won’t lie and say that the movie is this gripping drama that teaches us more about ourselves and enriches our lives; it does, a bit, but that’s not the point. It’s an incredible action film that is terribly witty and unbelievably human. It’s a story about superheroes, about brothers, about sacrifice. It is, without a doubt, one of the best — if not the best — superhero movies of all time and is worth seeing in theatres at least twice.

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