If The Avengers had been a failure no one would have been shocked. Almost everything that happens on the screen has been seen time and again in other summer blockbusters, but this one goes somewhere no other has gone before. It draws from no less than five previous films (Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America and The Incredible Hulk) and incorporates key elements from all of them while simultaneously pulling off the unlikely feat of telling its own story so well-written and self-contained that it’s not necessary to have seen any of its predecessors.
The suits at Marvel Studios can exhale and pop the bubbly. The Avengers sticks the landing and pulls together almost flawlessly what could have been a car crash of clunky continuity and an unmanageable mess of too many characters, back stories and exposition into a superhero film that doesn’t just raise the bar but kicks it into the stratosphere.
Watching what got us to this point was an experience where none of the movies (still haven’t popped The Incredible Hulk DVD in the player yet) were bad, some were pretty good, Iron Man 2 was mediocre and none of them were outstanding. The Avengers is outstanding. It’s entertaining and energetic after it gets past a slow opening 30 minutes as director Joss Whedon takes time to assemble his heroes and villains before all the avenging takes off in the second and third acts.
I avoided the crowd at a 11:00 am showing with my wife (who loves her some Robert Downey, Jr.) and my know-it-all 17-year-old daughter who loves Chris Evans face and Chris Hemsworth’s arms. I would say Scarlett Johansson’s leather clad Black Widow and to a much lesser extent, the cameo of Gwyneth Paltrow ‘s narrow butt in shorts is supposed to thrill the fan boys, but they’re going to get their nerdgasms from the sight of The Hulk throwing down with Thor.
My expectations were not only met but exceeded by the two hours and 22 minutes we spent in the dark and my synapses have been doing a happy dance all day long. The Avengers has dethroned Spider-Man 2 as the second-best superhero movie of all time and by a WIDE margin. It can’t touch the force of nature known as The Dark Knight, but The Dark Knight Rises will have to be killing it to beat this.
This movie is a bad-ass thrill ride. It thinks big, it’s full of big set pieces, big fights, and yes, Virginia, even big laughs with lots of them coming from an extremely unlikely source.
What does a $200 million budget buy? Everything I think I could have dreamed of for The Avengers and then some. It’s eye-popping entertainment and yes, even Scarlett Johansson is given something to do besides be token eye-candy for the guys. Tom Hiddleston’s Loki is a great bad guy delivering his lines with Shakespehrian seriousness as he smiles like someone enjoying his own private joke. He’s a great schemer even if his master plan doesn’t really hang together. The movie takes some time to get going but once it does, it works wonderfully until the last minute.
Captain America calls the shots in the comic book, but this isn’t a comic book and the real genius isn’t just in the impressive action scenes (and they are extremely impressive), but the interaction of a group of geniuses, soldiers, monsters, spies and gods trying to figure out how to set aside their significant differences to stave off a greater threat. The bonding between Downey’s snarky Tony Stark and Mark Ruffalo’s surfer dude coolly contained scientist living a terrible double life works beautifully. Chris Evans has the worst costume and the burden of trying to make these highly combustible personalities work together. The Hulk and Thor are tough sells to pull off, but Captain America is the hero that holds it all together based upon his integrity and courage.
Whedon knows how to balance out a diverse group of characters and do it such a way that nobody feels short-changed or disappears off-screen for extended periods of time. It’s a masterful bit of direction by him. He’s going to be able to write his own ticket after this one.
I can’t say much more about this movie but to say it’s much better than I could have hoped and I will be seeing it again. Oh, and after two movies where they couldn’t quite get the Hulk right, Whedon gets it right and then some. Hulk smash puny film up good!
This being a Marvel movie you must stay through the credits. There are two Easter eggs thrown in. One that only comic book geeks will get and another that is…kind of different.