Jason Stives assembles the Avengers…
While Agent Nick Fury may be the man responsible for bringing the Avengers together to fight evil, it is director Joss Whedon who brought The Avengers to the big screen with a bang that no one thought possible. It was no easy feat but sometimes it’s just easier to have fun with what’s been given to you and fun is definitely the word that should unanimously describe this movie. The Avengers is a funny, action packed thrill ride that is more than just a comic book movie and it might well be the best of its genre.
The set up is simple: Banished Asgardian Loki (Tom Hiddleston), who is in alliance with an alien race known as the Chitauri, travels to Earth and steals the Tesseract (a powerful device that can open a portal to another dimension) from the headquarters of S.H.I.E.L.D. With the world in threat, Agent Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) calls upon the greatest forces in the world to find and stop Loki from unleashing the Chitauri fleet on the unsuspecting people of Earth. Fury along with Agent Natasha Romanov aka Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) enlist the likes of: Captain America, Iron Man, and the Hulk to aid S.H.I.E.L.D. in this search and along the way partner with Loki’s brother Thor, who has returned to Earth to return his brother and the Tesseract to its rightful home. That is as simple as the plot gets and the film utilizes its simple set up to develop a film full of heart and adventure about remarkable people coming together to do remarkable things.
The film paces along well considering its lengthy running time which is something it needed to do to explain everything. The set-up takes a good hour and while it can be a bit tiring it allows our heroes to be reintroduced and for them to learn to coexist in such a world threatening situation. The interaction between the members of the Avengers is playful and heavy in confrontation at time but egocentric behavior seems to be checked at the door immediately. Considering this is all he is known for, Tony Stark is more reserved here although his wit is in fine form and of his three film appearances this is a more heroic and sensible Iron Man in which his presence doesn’t hamper down the film.
Whedon quickly establishes the equality of each character and their internal struggles are mapped out plainly without having to backtrack over previous content. Captain America is the veteran soldier struggling to deal with the world that has changed around him, Iron Man is looking to pay for his past dues but still avoids being called a hero, and Thor is still the God-like warrior of his previous appearance but is far more in tune with his fellow heroes than expected. Chris Evans in particular gets a lot of screen time as Captain and instead of feeling like just part of the team in a world he doesn’t understand he asserts himself and adapts quickly to the situation and by film’s end is calling the shots. Of the main four, Thor doesn’t get as much room to flex character wise but is given more than enough space to swing his hammer accordingly and has some great clashes with the Hulk in particular.
If there is one thing that comes off as an out of the park homerun for Whedon and company it’s the amazing realization of Bruce Banner and his alter ego the Hulk. Having had two attempts prior to bring Hulk to true form on the big screen, the results varied both positively and negatively. The Avengers highlights the Hulk as a tipping bottle, one that as it gets closer to its eventual result leaves worry in the people watching it boil over. The man that is the Hulk, Dr. Bruce Banner hates this extension of his existence and he is far more the timid creature than the beast within but still exhibits strands of a lost soul capable of unbridled rage. Here Mark Ruffalo brings the right balance to the character’s perception with a sense of sarcasm, gentile futility, and untrusting nervousness. Whedon was smart in waiting almost a full hour into the film before having Banner release “The Other Guy” to the public and from there on out Banner is taken from being a dark, thinly veiled enigma of a character to a smashing, destructive force who gets the job done in barbaric leaps and bounds.
There is also a lot to be said about the film’s humor which creates some wonderful one liners and something that keeps the film from veering into a serious tone and lightens the already colorful and vast world that the audience is immersed in. Action scenes abound the last hour is a tour de force of explosions (the good kind not the Michael Bay kind), falling buildings and enough shield and hammer throwing to shame a medieval Calvary. There is a great minute of one continuous shot of the Avengers in action against the Chitauri fleet over New York and it feels like the greatest line of defense is present on Earth. Needless to say the destruction is great and it’s choreographed beautifully with the visual effects shining through creating an awe inspiring threat in the Chitauri invasion and a battle for the ages on the ground between our heroes and their enemies that is both claustrophobic and incredibly riveting.
Are there things that don’t work? Yes, but its utter nit picking that one can wave away: the feeling that the threat being spoken of isn’t as great as they make it out to be, the slow boil that builds the first hour of the movie and the lack of character build for Hawkeye and Black Widow. Considering her previous screen time in Iron Man 2, Black Widow is given some great moments of clarity and more than enough time to beat the hell out of someone but we still feel like there should’ve been more. Gender equality is abound here and Scarlett Johansson does a great job of making Agent Romanov a likable, strong female character who is tempted by her emotions but holds them back when work needs to be done. The lack of time spent with Hawkeye lies in how he spends most of the film acting as a possessed muscle for Loki but when he is given time to shine with his skills and some great one-liners he does so with gusto making this reviewer wish that he is given more to work with in the sequel.
A great movie hits the audience at all the right points of escapism that a casual movie goer goes for: it has laughter, heart, action, thrills, and the means to make the audience cheer and erupt with applause. It allows us to enter a world where our worries are turned off momentarily and we care for these fictional characters as if they are a reflection of ourselves. The Avengers is a great movie and one that no doubt is worth revisiting as we begin this long summer of big name blockbusters.
Rating: 9 out of 10 (Outstanding)