I think we were all kind of afraid that they’d blow it, that they’d dreamed too big and reached too far in thinking that it would be possible to make a cohesive Marvel Movie Universe encompassing multiple franchises and culminating in an actual Avengers movie. There were a million ways it could go wrong. Keep in mind, The Avengers is a sequel to four different franchises. If any of the movies tanked it could have spelled disaster. They hired a director who, despite his huge geek cachet, has only directed one other film – which kind of really bombed – and isn’t exactly known for his thrilling action scenes. Would the multitude of leads (or more accurately, their agents) fight over who got the most screentime? Any of these, or a myriad of other possible disasters, could have derailed this grand experiment in cinematic nerdery. But, holy shit, they pulled it off.
Let me put any fears you may have to rest right now. Everything works. The Avengers is everything you want out of a comic book movie.* It’s big and fun and dramatic and hits all the key moments that you’d hoped it would. Were you expecting snappy banter among the heroes, and between the heroes and the villain? You’re in for a treat. Did you want to see that age-old comic trope of heroes fighting each other when they first meet? You know that’s there; it was in the trailer. Were you hoping each character would get to show off their individual powers or skills and actually matter in the big climactic battle? Just you wait and see.
I’m going to try to go as light as I can on the plot here, so as not to spoil too much.
Loki’s got an alien benefactor who gives him a cool new weapon and promises him an army once he retrieves the Cosmic Cube Tesseract. Fury calls in the Avengers to try to stop him. Lots of other stuff happens, but that’s the story in its most basic terms. Basically, it’s an origin of the team story. And be forewarned, it mostly assumes you’ve seen everything building up to it. There are references to the earlier films, but no major attempts to tell the audience anyone’s backstory.
While the plot might be a little thin, you never notice it because you’re far too busy paying attention to either some fantastic action set piece or an even better character moment. We all know Joss Whedon’s specialty is in his characters’ relationships, and he absolutely does not disappoint. Probably my favorite thing I’ve seen all year is Tony Stark and Bruce Banner bonding while geeking out over the tech on the SHIELD helicarrier. The two have such an instant rapport that it’d be impossible to not see them hanging out after the events of the film. Similarly, every scene with Agent Coulson and Captain America is just wonderful. I’m not going to spoil it for you, but if you liked Coulson before, you’re going to love him when you see him with Cap.
And, of course, like you’ve probably already heard, the Hulk just runs away with the whole damn movie. Mark Ruffalo’s Banner, despite pretty much everyone’s reservations, makes you forget all about Edward Norton and Eric Bana. He plays a reserved, snarky Banner who has learned to control who he refers to as “the other guy.” And just wait until you hear how. Possibly even cooler is the Hulk himself, he’s a raging beast who remembers who his friends are and hilariously holds grudges. This is the way he should have been portrayed all along.
Something that might be a little surprising to fans of Buffy and Angel is how nice the fight sequences look. It’s true that in the past Whedon’s action has always lacked action, but not here. Here the battles are dynamic and epic. It’s entirely possible that this is due to a talented team of Assistant and 2nd Unit Directors (some of which have worked on previous Marvel movies, others on the Lord of the Rings films) or it could be that he’s added to his skill set. Either way, it’s a far cry from when he’d simply set the camera down and watch Buffy flip a vampire onto the ground.
There is something I kind of feel the need to point out though; Marvel’s been keeping the identity of Loki’s alien army a secret and I’m not 100% sure I know why. A lot of fans were right when they guessed the Chitauri (highlight to reveal), but it doesn’t really matter because they seriously tell us in the first minute and they could have been any aliens anyway. It’s like Whedon threw a dart at a list of alien names. Weird.
But that’s really the only thing that I could possibly complain about, and it’s not even worth complaining about at all. With that being the case, The Avengers is as perfect as you could want a blockbuster to be. I loved this movie and cannot wait to see it again.
And for the love of zombies, stay through the credits. There are two extra scenes. One that sets up what’s to come, and one that pays off something that was set up earlier. They’re both amazing.
I give it 9.95 VINTAGE TRADING CARDS out of 10
* – Unless you wanted it be to super-dark and “grim and gritty,” sorry but it’s not The Dark Knight. Something more akin to that will be out in July.