Title: The Avengers
Directed By: Joss Whedon
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston, Clark Gregg, Cobie Smulders, Stellan Skarsgård, Samuel L. Jackson
When we’re getting superhero movie after superhero movie, it’s understandable to have that, “Oh, another one?,” reaction. However, in the case of The Avengers, it was unprecedented right from the start. Yes, it’s more superhero material, but this isn’t just a film that features the biggest team of super-powered crime fighters yet; it’s one that links together a number of other features and franchises and, in turn, really creates a living, breathing Marvel universe.
The Avengers kicks off at S.H.I.E.L.D. where Dr. Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) is hard at work at the tesseract, an energy source with the power to wipe out the planet. In addition, the tesseract can act as a door to the other end of space, and that’s where Loki (Tom Hiddleston) comes in. Loki uses the device to transport himself from the other side of the universe to right there in the middle of S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters where he devastates the compound and steals the tesseract.
Having witnessed the threat firsthand, S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) is compelled to activate the Avengers Initiative. Fury sends Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johannson) to recruit Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), not for his alter ego, but to use his knowledge of gamma radiation, something that could help S.H.I.E.L.D. track the tesseract. Meanwhile, Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) is bringing Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) into the mix and Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is suiting up again as Captain America. Together, they’re assigned to locate and take back the tesseract.
The Avengers is a superhero movie – obviously. For those of you who are into superhero movies, The Avengers is undoubtedly one of the best, but, for those of you who aren’t into guys running around in capes and star-spangled suits, this likely won’t be any different.
However, being someone who does find enjoyment in the Marvel movies, The Avengers is a winner! The opening sequence does a solid job of identifying some new players – Jeremy Renner as agent Clint Barton and Cobie Smulders as agent Maria Hill – as well as reintroducing us to the scenarios set up in previous Marvel films. The scenes are contained to in and around the S.H.I.E.L.D. compound, giving the battle a very personal feel, something that not only makes it more impactful, but suits the story. The action here also gives you a taste of the battles and special effects to come, both of which strike a nice balance between intimacy and expanse.
Then in come the Avengers and whether you’re a longtime fan of the characters or perhaps just someone who enjoys the movies, seeing them all return to the big screen, one-by-one, is quite chilling. Their introductions aren’t a mere montage, rather notably fleshed out scenes all of which establish what kind of people they are and touching on their apprehension about the mission, something that raises the stakes quite a bit. This is where Bruce Banner strikes a chord more than most. Sure superheroes talk about the “with great power, comes great responsibility” drag, but with Banner, his condition really is a problem. He’s got control of the Hulk, but it’s still something Banner can’t shake and will indefinitely need to be concerned about around the clock.
Banner shines, but it certainly doesn’t put a damper on any of the other characters. Of the bunch, Renner’s Hawkeye could have used a little more fleshing out; his relationship with Romanoff, the Black Widow, isn’t as convincing as it could be. However, when the whole gang, or at least most of it, is in the same room, there’s this electricity that makes any moment, action or conversation, captivating. Writer-Director Joss Whedon also nails the humor. The typical tacky dialogue of the superhero realm can be tough for some to digest, but in Thor, it transcends the cliché because it’s actually funny. Not only does Whedon achieve the same thing in The Avengers, but he goes above and beyond. With Thor coming from another world, Captain America coming from the WWII era and Stark being super high-tech and obnoxious, there are tons of opportunities to play their situations off one another for some laughs and Whedon certainly seizes that opportunity.
Another place where Whedon shines is the action. The Avengers isn’t just the Hulk smashing things and Thor zapping enemies with his hammer; Whedon takes these heroes and puts them in wildly detailed and original locations and then directs them to fight. Loki takes part in a simple yet almost disturbing battle during which his malice is backed by a rather sweet tune, there’s a vicious mid-air fight with a slew of mini battles going on at the same time and then there’s the grand final. No spoilers here, but wow does this put Transformers: Dark of the Moon to shame. What sets Whedon’s work apart from others in the action department, is that every single fight, and every single punch for that matter, has a purpose.
The Avengers is downright thrilling, beautifully ties into all the previous films, offers up fresh takes on the characters, packs a surprising amount of emotion and, overall, is just a ton of fun. It’s films like these that justify the superhero movie’s direct connection to the franchise model.