What They Say:
Marvel Studios presents ‘Marvel’s The Avengers’–the Super Hero team up of a lifetime, featuring iconic Marvel Super Heroes Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Thor, Captain America, Hawkeye and Black Widow. When an unexpected enemy emerges that threatens global safety and security, Nick Fury, Director of the international peacekeeping agency known as S.H.I.E.L.D., finds himself in need of a team to pull the world back from the brink of disaster. Spanning the globe, a daring recruitment effort begins.
In the end, The Avengers is an almost painfully simple film but one that has its complications as well. The films overall storyline is straightforward in that it’s bringing a disparate group of people together that can stave off an alien invasion if only they can work together by getting past some of their problems. It’s a big, chaotic but fairly predictable piece in the end but it’s how it’s put together that makes it work so well. And context. You can’t forget the context. The journey of this film being made is something that was hoped for back in 2008 when Iron Man came out and with every new installment since then until the formal announcement. And for this old Marvel Comics fan who got into that universe back in the early 80’s, it’s not something that I ever truly thought would come. Everything that’s put into this film, from the cast to the creative team and the marketing push for it has been spot on. It has truly mainstreamed characters that back when I was a kid you were mocked and bullied for saying you liked.
The structure of the film is what you’d expect where you get the first act that introduces the threat, a little awkwardly, and then slowly but surely introduces the heroes and the connections that they have together. As they do come together, the villainous and scene stealing Loki comes into play by walking into their den, a fantastic representation of the Hellicarrier that SHIELD has, and that throws the already complicated relationships that they share and ups the ante through division and deceit that’s befitting him. Wrap it all up in a third act where they have to come together, rally to save the world and face some big challenges with all their might. They are Earth’s Mightiest Heroes afterall. And while it may not be smooth because it’s a hard fight on top of what we’ve seen in the individual movies, it’s very, very well done by going big and exciting while showing just how wonderfully they can all work together.
That may seem like I’m minimalizing it a bit, but it’s standard story structure. What it is that makes it exciting is the characters and the fact that they’ve built it through several standalone movies with different directors, writers and yet maintained a continuity throughout it all that just worked. Seeing their stories come together into one after the small connections before, and the bigger ones like Black Widow and Agent Coulson along with Nick Fury, is just exciting to watch. The banter and interplay is a big strength of the films director, Joss Whedon, and it’s in full evidence here. Every time you feel like Robert Downey, Jr. might be dominating the wit, something else comes along from another character that just reminds you that this is an ensemble cast and they all have big moments.
Some are naturally better than others, but there’s just a very good deft handling of the various personalities and conflicts. Many movies tend to have three or four main characters at most but the majority tend to be the pairing of two people going against the odds. The bigger picture here makes the handling all the more impressive, especially where you feel like the Hulk character is getting a decent rewrite to where he should be. I enjoyed the previous film, and this one builds on the events there, but it shifts him from the out of control monster with a dash of humanity about him to something far more interesting, more heroic. While Captain America embodies it the most, it’s drawn out of all of them as it progresses and definitely makes a change with who they are that should spill into their own individual films when they cycle around again.
The most important thing about this film beyond tying everything together at last in a big way is that it truly does open up all the films to something more. Thor was a big change for the Marvel films since it introduced the Asgardian gods, going with the natural but good idea of magic being science we just don’t understand, and it showed more of the bigger universe that’s out there and how it’s all connected. Everything was grounded in what we started with back with Iron Man but at the end here it’s a vastly different Earth. With what he has to face off against alongside everyone else, we see the scale of the threats and it actually hints at the potential of something massive with its end of film tease. With there being word of a galactic scale film at some point, this opens the door much wider to it.
On the more character driven level, there’s a lot of neat little things to be had with this film, a lot of it coming from the dialogue to be sure. But also advancements in other areas. I really liked the segment early on with Tony and Pepper Potts at the Stark building in New York City with how playful they are and how absolutely natural it felt. There’s a lot of good fights that happen throughout that will please fans including the very fun Hulk vs. Thor fight that goes on, which gets a bit of a return nod much later to great delight. Black Widow has the obviously very fun sequence at beginning when she’s off on her own mission but there’s some good development for her throughout as well as she deals with this big boys club and completely holds her own. Simply put, there’s a ton of great moments in the film, including some surprising ones with how Thor and Loki build on what happened in the Thor movie. With the cast of principle characters like this and the superb writing team on it with the dialogue and banter, it’s little surprise that it just clicks constantly and handles them deftly. Everyone gets their time in the sun but as a whole unit as well. Nobody feels left out.
The Avengers is the culmination of what Marvel Studios started with Iron Man and has really done something amazing here. I didn’t have any overly huge expectations with the film, I knew what its end goal really was in the end, but it was how it was put together that I was more interested in than the story itself. The cast of characters here is fantastic, the film keeps things moving even during the somewhat weaker second act, a forced but necessary problem, and the film as a whole really is strong. When you step back from it and take it in, it fires on all cylinders even if it does require some knowledge of the past films in order to get the most out of it. What’s really fantastic about this film though is that while it brings these characters together, it doesn’t just have them spinning their wheels in their own stories. They all grow and change here because of what happens so it’s not just like a summer comic mega event where nothing changes. That’s a huge thing in the end I think and has me eager for the sequels to the individual character films to see how they roll off of this and into their own stories again. Definitely recommended and a great big screen adventure to take in, even if we only did it in 2D having given up on 3D after last summer.