After leaving The Avengers, the first thought likely to come to mind is wow, wow and more WOW. That’s right comic friends, Joss Whedon isn’t joking around with this one. He delivers the comic book experience fans have been anticipating since Stan Lee co-created these iconic heroes decades ago. In what is the most ambitious and large scale comic film to date, there is no shortage of spectacle, excitement and near-epic story all rolled into one 142 minute feature. Whedon is known for being a fan boy at heart and as such delivers this film with such respect to not only the comics but also, and maybe more importantly, the fans. Nothing says that more than his story. A gamble to say the least but it’s all handled with skill and an evenness that doesn’t overplay any element of this behemoth ensemble actioner.
From the get go, we get a more exposure to the lesser known members. Black Widow and Hawkeye get a proper introduction and invitation to the big kids table with a side story of their own. Yet in this giant web of plotlines, they are just a portion of what’s going on. You have to hand it to Whedon for crafting something that is not an All-Star game but rather an ensemble origin story. This film finds the beloved characters of different backgrounds, meeting and coming together for the first time yet it’s not all for one out of the starting gates. The brilliance of the story is that in order to become The Avengers they have to be broken before they can be “assembled”. That means a multitude of pride-swallowing and readjustments of things like egos, personal beliefs and habits; they all have to get along before they can go along.
Seeing all these great comic heroes together, even before the absolutely incredible finale, is a feast for the eyes and the funny bone actually. Even though it’s been a while since we’ve been treated to that charismatic Stark snark, Captain’s boy-scout mentality, and Thor’s more considerate personality, The Avengers feels like an enjoyable time getting back together with old friends. With Manhattan and most of New York City at stake and the threat so intimidating it might be surprising to find so much humor throughout the film as these characters get to know each other for the first time. It’s not just a cute line there, or a clever quip there, it’s full on gut-busting and laugh out loud hysterics spread over nearly every other scene. Think back to the problems Tony Stark had in the first Iron Man trying to literally get his suits off the ground. Now multiply that by 10 and you’ll get an idea of what to expect in The Avengers.
As they come to grips with the idea of becoming a team, we get to more of everyone doing what they do best and then some as Whedon takes everyone to new and better levels. The Captain America film/origin story was a good film but this is the Cap that Joe Johnston should have given us. Ruffalo is new to the party but although he at first seemed an unlikely choice, he proves what when casting the Hulk, the third time really is the charm. He is such am improvement and with help from Whedon really is the secret ingredient and ultimately helps makes The Hulk cool. This time with a sadness that harks back to credit’s of Ferrigno’s TV show we see there’s much more to him than a blunt instrument. Black Widow and Hawkeye have special lethal talents (as far as Earth based/non-mech/non-super heroes go) but still seemed ill-equipped to be part of the team. Yet they hold their own and embody a certain vulnerability that helps ground them.
As far as the narrative and threat, with layers ever deeper, Whedon makes this ensemble feature story anything but straightforward. There’s lies, deceit, infighting and that’s just talking about the good guys. Such depth is given to these already fleshed out characters that they become even more endearing and colorful. Though Whedon still has immeasurable reverence for them and creates a playground to let them all exhibit just what’s made them relevant and beloved for almost 50 years. As a villain Loki (Hiddleston really stands out this time around) plays it very cool and so much so that when he lets loose, it is a surprise, almost frightening to see just what he’s capable of. Even though he’s still only a pawn in the game and the threat he represents along with the Chitauri is legitimate, ominous and more than a little intimidating.
Smart writing abounds though nothing shows it better than the rift scene that pushes everyone to their breaking point. The action is just short of over-the-top and again Whedon knows when to steer clear of excess. That said the action set pieces are mind-blowing and worthy of the Marvel namesake. The battles though are not mind-less, more importantly they have real purpose and help advance the story. Until now, these characters have been loners and so working together as a team is an actual challenge but like a finely tuned instrument when they get on the same page, the music they make is magnificent. There’s such dynamic and innovative shooting styles and coverage that shows every character’s battles almost simultaneously without need for cuts. Joss Whedon was the absolute perfect choice to bring this to fruition.
The Avengers brings a full bodied story (as well as the weighty and rousing score from Alan Silvestri) that is so well done and grand that even the epic-level action has trouble keeping up. Like Cameron, Jackson and other capable directors Whedon puts the pedal down and doesn’t stop. The finale is on par with Avatar or even the third Transformers but here, you really feel for these characters. The 6 origin story films were good but when brought to a head like this The Avengers puts them to shame. This is kind of film that no matter what age you are, when you come out of the theater you’re going to want a lobby poster and/or wish you had super powers. It’s a fun and intense ride that is just flat out amazing. Can’t wait to see it again!