The Avengers possess some amazing talents, but none more so that their abilities
to strike heroic poses in the midst of a world-threatening battle.
The Avengers is not so much a film as it is a spectacle. It doesn’t offer much of a story for the superheroes it pulls together, as much as it provides a generic doomsday scenario that allows them to come in and play off one another.
I don’t mean that in a bad way. There’s a lot of value in what this movie offers. It’s a fun and witty crowd-pleaser, an entertainment of the highest order. And, because of the way Marvel studios has approached their whole business plan, the movie has the leeway to get by on the charm of its writing, performances and special effects.
Seeing all the box office records The Avengers is obliterating, it’s difficult to remember how much of a chance Marvel was taking when they first journeyed down this road of interweaving franchises. Outside of the Hulk, none of these characters had previously proven to have major crossover appeal, and his recent foray into theaters (Ang Lee’s Hulk) had been met with great indifference.
However, in hindsight, the approach was ingenious. In Iron Man, Thor and Captain America, the studio offered up three great films, each one of which was highlighted by a nuanced and character-driven story brought to life by a well-chosen director and a nicely distinguished lead performance. The Incredible Hulk was satisfactory at best, and Iron Man 2 buckled under the weight of shoehorning S.H.I.E.L.D. into the narrative as a set up for The Avengers, but having now seen the culmination of the plan, it’s hard not to be impressed with what was accomplished here.
Most of the heavy lifting was done last summer by Captain American and Thor. With those films offering up MacGuffin (the Tesseract from Captain America) and the main villain (Loki from Thor), Joss Whedon was able to hit the ground running with The Avengers.
Nick Fury doesn't really get in on the action in The Avengers,
but does get to blow up a plane with a rocket launcher.
Whedon delivers exactly what he aims to with this film. The action sequences are uniformly fantastic, especially the finale, which uses some impressive camera trickery to create the illusion of a long take that interweaves throughout the mayhem occurring throughout Manhattan.
Even more importantly, no character feels marginalized. Yes, by and large, the star is Iron Man, but everyone gets a chance to shine. With so many characters, there are a lot of various story threads in play in the movie. I thought it best to take them one at a time.
· Captain America vs. Iron Man: A lot of time is dedicated to the stylistic clash between the humble, patriotic Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) and the flashy, egotistical Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), both of whom are at the forefront of the action for much of the movie. Rogers feels largely out of place in this modern and cynical world that Stark very much personifies, and I think this was a great dynamic to play up in the film especially given Cap’s familiarity with Stark’s father. The whole thing works really well, but the one bit of this thread that bugs me is the conclusion of Rogers’ whole thesis about Stark being a selfish man who can’t make the truly heroic sacrifice. The script literally takes the ending of Iron Man, substitutes a nuclear device in place of Warmonger, and calls it a day, which seems a bit uninspired.
Robin Scherbatsky has some pretty big shoes to fill.
· Brotherly Interactions: Even though his brother is the main villain of the piece, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) takes a back seat for most of the movie. He doesn’t show up until the midway point, and when he does, he gets very little time devoted to him outside of fight sequences. What he does get is a few choice scenes with Loki that prove to be the most emotionally resonant things in the piece. Even though Loki’s tried to kill Thor and his father, is now attempting to destroy a world Thor holds dear, and isn’t even his real brother, Thor wants to move past all that because he truly cares for Loki. It’s a good angle for the film to take, because unlike the humans, Thor doesn’t have as much at stake personally – it’s not really his world, and he’s indestructible. As such, even though his is far from the flashiest part, Hemsworth is my pick for best in show because of how much complexity he brought to his limited screen time (and now with the success of Snow White in the Hunstman, I hope the guy blows up in a big way and gets offered some good parts– he has loads of movie star charm).
That’s a lot of words on The Avengers, so I’m going to wrap up now. In the end, the film isn’t the best Marvel film, but it’s a ridiculously fun ride that successfully rehabilitates it’s previously problematic characters (Hulk and Black Widow), while bolstering the Q rating of its moderately successful ones (the sequels for Thor and Captain America will probably make twice as much as the first entries after getting spotlight roles here). At the end of the film, every character is left in a pretty interesting place, and I’m excited to see where Marvel goes from here in expanding their ambitious movie universe.