But out of Uncle Ron's stacks, he only ever had one issue of Marvel's iconic team: The Avengers. Reading that book was like reading a tantalizing preview of all the things that could be--the idea of a group of conflicted, bickering heroes coming together for a greater good, to face those foes that no hero could face alone. It was unfathomable! It was amazing! It was...a teaser for all those things that could be out there. And, truly, there was! I started watching the "Marvel Action Hour" on CBS, and the spectacular Spider-Man and X-Men series which aired on Fox.
|Marvel's greatest gamble:|
Needless to say, I was nervous. While Jon Favreau's Iron Man films were spectacular and Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger and The Incredible Hulk were all quality films, blending their various idiosyncracies would prove a monumental task, despite the scaffolding made throughout each film. When geek-icon Joss Whedon was brought aboard as writer-director, I grew apprehensive. While Whedon was well versed in comics, having spent quite a bit of time on "Astonishing X-Men".
And that's where we emerged this week. The build-up for Avengers was one for the ages and, of course, one we couldn't resist, as the JourneymanGM, FridayNightWill, Chris2, GeoMike, the PlatinumChick and I headed off to Fairborn for a 3D showing.
In a word? Brilliant! (And, at this point, the spoilers begin--turn away, if you fear!)
The storyline of Avengers is simple enough: Tom Hiddleston's Loki has emerged from Asgard with the help of some mysterious benefactors (who are spoiled brilliantly in the credits!) in search of the Tesseract--the Cosmic Cube used by the Red Skull during Captain America: The First Avenger. Loki seeks dominion over the Earth and Nick Fury's SHIELD command stands in his way.
The film opens with a literal bang, as Loki's theft leaves the SHIELD facility crumbling and the action split between Nick Fury's escape and Maria Hill's pursuit of Loki through a series of underground tunnels. Cobie Smulders (of How I Met Your Mother fame) brings the right attitude to the role of the all-business Maria Hill, but outside of this opening action scene, she doesn't have much to do. Word is that just under an hour of footage was cut for the final version of The Avengers, so hopefully she'll see more screen time in the DVD/BluRay cut.
From there, the titular Avengers begin assembling. Black Widow (Scarlett Johanson) heads to India to collect Dr. Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), Nick Fury pulls Captain America (Chris Evans) out of proverbial mothballs, and Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) heads to Stark Tower to recruit Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.). However, the bonds bringing these heroes together begin cracking in the second act, providing internal conflict that must be conquered before the external threat of invasion.
What really struck me was the level of characterization given to each of the Avengers. Whedon somehow manages to find time for unique pairings and groupings of the heroes to act together, using their natural charisma to fuel the conflict and charm that makes the film work on so many levels. While I had no doubts about Robert Downey Jr.'s ability to bring Tony Stark's snark and self-obsession to the table, real surprises emerged from Ruffalo and Johanson. Black Widow really didn't have much to work with in Iron Man 2, so seeing her really come into her own as a deadly martial artist and manipulative spy was really a treat. Similarly, Mark Ruffalo's treatment of Bruce Banner brought a lot of humor and humanity to a role that typically reeks of melodrama and inhuman rage. Plus, the script really calls upon Banner's ability as a scientist, which gives him some great scenes with Stark and with Steve Rogers.
|Black Widow flees from |
the rampaging Hulk!
It's because of this that my favorite scene in the movie isn't one of the action scenes, or even a conversation. The second of two post-credits scenes--the first, setting up a cosmic-level sequel!--has our heroes, exhausted and battered, sitting down at a meal together in a shwarma joint, referenced earlier in the movie. This scene of camaraderie, of togetherness despite differences, despite toil, despite conflict, really shows all the things that makes The Avengers great. And what's better? It's wordless. No dialogue, no witty repartee necessary. It's just a matter of cinematographic perfection.
|The Avengers, assembled!|
A payoff for 60 years of comics
and 5 long years of incredible films!
Really, I have but few nitpicks about this movie. Early on, Hawkeye is mind-controlled by Loki, which stunts his depth of character in the second and third acts, in comparison to the depth provided by his foil, Black Widow. Thor suffers from the same issue, though not to the same degree, as the development built in his own movie provides relationships for Hemworth's ability. We never really get a good look at the Chitauri, though they're meant to be faceless, alien troops, led only by the charismatic Hiddleston.
But, all these are minor quibbles. The Avengers provides the greatest, most true-to-the-medium comic-book movie experience ever seen in a theater. After 5 years of build-up and anticipation, Marvel Studios has pulled off the impossible: a gestalt film linking their films together in a manner never before seen. See this movie. See it multiple times, even. This one changes everything.
See it, revel in it, and enjoy it!