Really ambitious projects, whether they are films or something else, have a tendency to either fall epically flat or shine like crazy. Combining four separate franchises and main characters into one film is almost the definition of ambitious, and I’m relieved to say that The Avengers shines bright.
When Thor’s disgruntled brother, Loki, arrives on Earth, having made a deal with an alien race to retrieve the cosmic cube last seen in Captain America and subjugate the human race, S.H.I.E.L.D director Nick Fury calls forth Iron Man, Bruce Banner/The Incredible Hulk, Thor, Captain America, Black Widow, and Hawkeye to fight the coming battle that would otherwise be impossible to take on alone. But can they overcome their radically different personalities and distrust of Fury or is our world doomed?
The movie promised to us was a fun, summertime, action blockbuster. The Avengers delivers that in spades, and more. As expected, the action and visual effects are fantastic. Watching the Helicarrier rise for the first time, our various heroes fight with (and previously against) each other, and the final 40 minutes (including an awesome continuous shot highlighting each Avenger doing battle) are only just some of the absolutely amazing moments to be had.
But the action is what was required to work in the first place. So often everything that’s not action set pieces is overlooked or just half-heartedly thrown together. Not so with The Avengers. In fact, to turn a phrase, the movie is a something of a writing “Marvel” in three ways:
- The focus on how dysfunctional the characters are when put together proves to be just as intriguing as the ‘splodies and becomes that one unique thing that gives the movie its own identity.
- Not only is no character overlooked in such a large cast, but each character gets their moment in the sun. To highlight a few, Robert Downey Jr. can do Tony Stark in his sleep by now, yet the movie never turns into Iron Man and Friends like early trailers made it seem. Mark Ruffalo’s take on Banner is different from Ed Norton, but just as interesting, while The Hulk is used to the best effect yet. Black Widow is more developed than she was in Iron Man 2. Samuel L. Jackson has a few of those moments when he opens is eye really wide just to show you he’s pissed. And, most surprising, Captain America is far more interesting here than he ever was in his solo movie, getting to play off some more quirky characters.
- But the most impressive thing is that the movie is pretty damn funny. Director/Writer Joss Whedon keeps everything light and spry with one memorable quip after the other. Downey is comedy dynamite as usual (especially when paired with Gwyneth Paltrow), but who would have guessed even our intended straight-men like Thor and Captain America would get their own belly laugh moments. I never thought I could get so much amusement from shawarmas.
|“You were made to be ruled. In the end you will always kneel.“|
In order to have all these heroes unite, a real threat must be present. Enter Loki, played by Tom Hiddleston. Hiddleston was probably the best thing about Thor, so having him enter full villain mode for this one, while still being one of the more empathetic antagonists, is a real asset for the movie. Physically, he’s not the most intimidating menace (he gets his ass handed to him more than once), but with his cunning and personal army, is still able to match our protagonists.
One of my biggest gripes about Captain America was Alan Silvestri’s score. It was too heavy and it’s incredibly thick texture kept most of it, with the exception of the main theme, from being memorable. Needless to say, I was not impressed when it was announced he would be doing The Avengers. Luckily, this score is more varied in its sounds and serves the movie much better.
In fact, any real complaints I can muster don’t go beyond minor nitpicks like a couple of weirdly edited scenes, and some cheesiness from a minor villain character.
Personally, the only thing that kept me from straight-out loving it was that, because it is more of a colorful and fun comic book movie, there is less question of how it’s ultimately going to turn out and therefore less tension and investment. But that just boils down to a matter of taste.
Crowd pleasing at every turn, The Avengers is everything you would want in a summer popcorn flick and I see no reason not to give it an unabashed recommendation.