MARVEL’S THE AVENGERS
BY CHRISTOPHER HASKELL
MAY 20, 2012
Besides considering myself somewhat of a nerd when it comes to movies and the like, I have never been a huge comic book person, apart from the occasional Spider-Man comic I would purchase from yard sales in grade school. Though not wholly knowledgeable about comic book lore, I still felt highly excited when Christopher Nolan’s take on Batman became a sensation, proving that comic book heroes had a place in mainstream media. When Marvel came out with “Iron Man” in May of 2008, I was skeptical even though I had been a fan of that summer’s “The Dark Knight.” After finally viewing “Iron Man,” I was completely sold on it, mainly due to Robert Downey Jr’s performance in the role he was born to play.
Fast-forward four years to 2012, after five Marvel films were released, all of which were somewhat interconnected. I still had some skepticism towards the release of “The Avengers,” mainly because I questioned how they could top the five films that had blown my expectations and how they could handle that many characters and keep things fresh and exciting. Following the conclusion of a midnight screening of “The Avengers,” I can easily make the statement that next to “The Dark Knight,” “The Avengers” is one of the best comic book adaptations ever produced.
In the age-old good versus evil story, Loki (Tom Hiddleston), the half-brother of Thor (Chris Hemsworth), comes to Earth to steal the tesseract, a highly sought-after self-sustaining energy source. Planning to bring an army of Chitauri, an alien hostel race, to invade and enslave Earth, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and the group known as S.H.I.E.L.D. aim to stop Loki and send a message to the universe that you can’t mess with Earth. Combining the five prior Marvel films, Fury brings together the Avengers initiative, a group of superheroes that can act as guardians of Earth. The only problem is that they all have separate agendas and temperaments. The team consists of the super soldier Captain America (Chris Evans) and the high-profile billionaire with a high-tech armor suit, Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.). Also, the Asgardian God of thunder, Thor, and the scientist who turns into a giant green monster, The Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and The Black Widow (Scarlett Johanssen), two members of S.H.I.E.L.D, also join the team.
Filled with action sequences, decisive moments, and hilarious anecdotes,
give credit to the master storyteller Joss Whedon for handling all the characters with enormous care. Whedon acts as a carnival juggler who can simultaneously keep 15 or more bowling pins in the air without dropping a single one. Each battle between the perfect villain Loki and Captain America or Thor and Iron Man or The Incredible Hulk and The Black Widow becomes an event with awe-inspiring details and effortless grace. The characters jump off the screen and with each having their own films prior, have enough back-story to keep from detracting from the action.
The boss battle is epic, keeping the impossible tasks completely impossible until the appropriate time has passed. Too many times, boss battles end prematurely or with minimal effort. For example, the boss battle between Iron Man and War Machine versus Mickey Rourke’s Whiplash was over before it started in “Iron Man 2,” leaving a void at the film’s end. The Avengers face a battle that keeps them (and the audience) guessing until a logical solution emerges from the war. By doing this, you garner more respect for what these heroes have to power through, and it finally gives off the notion that it takes more than a simple swing of Thor’s hammer to take down these villains.
Many cheesy parts fill this film, including many of Nick Fury’s speeches, Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg), and his Captain America trading cards. To offset this campy nature, Joss Whedon weaves in his clever humor. Most of the jokes come full circle much later in the film, including a few of my favorite bits, including a 10-dollar bill, a “Wizard of Oz” reference, and many shortened speeches from Loki, interrupted by Hulk or Iron Man.
Undoubtedly the best Marvel film to date, “The Avengers” film reaches almost miraculous levels of intricacy without losing pace or character arcs. Joss Whedon handles his giant cast of characters perfectly, delivering satisfying arcs for everyone involved, a juggling act that only an experienced director could enact. There is no one-person show, as every character has their turn in the spotlight for justified reasons that are not just for show. There is also a balance between wit and action that I cannot say I have witnessed in an action film prior to this. Whedon establishes running gags with punchlines that appear at opportune moments, delivering a sort of intelligent banter between the director and his audience. Also, the action sequences rival almost any superhero film to date, with no characters lost in the shuffle and even breathing new life into the epic moments that appear in the trailers. At a brisk two hours and 22-minute run-time, “The Avengers” could have easily been extended much longer without complaint, but still delivers enough punch for the money.
With more individual films on the horizon and talks of a second “Avengers” film, it will be interesting to see what another director could bring to the films. Joss Whedon’s career will continue to take off from here on out, which thousands of fanboys believe has been long overdue. With the film reaching over $1 billion worldwide, “The Avengers” is set to break all the box office records, and rightfully so.
May 4, 2012
Zak Penn (story by)
by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby
Walt Disney Pictures
(for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action throughout, and a mild drug reference)
Robert Downey Jr.
Samuel L. Jackson
Harry Dean Stanton