A film such as The Avengers is not supposed to work. First off, it’s an ensemble piece. An ensemble piece that has established characters each with their own specific fan base. There are Iron Man fans and there are Thor fans and there are Hulk fans. But they might not necessarily be the same fan. Attempting to put multiple iconic characters into the same two hour movie and give each one of them enough screen or quality time to keep the base happy would seem almost impossible.
Bryan Singers’ X-Men was able to do it. But he knew that no matter what, Wolverine was ‘the’ guy and that he should be put front and center at every availability.
But The Avengers? They have Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain America (Chris Evans), Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner). How the hell was writer/director Joss Whedon going to get all these characters enough face time so that no one felt cheated?
The answer: By writing a smart, fun, big budget action film with enough humor and special effects to keep any fan appeased. That’s how.
Opening tomorrow in North American markets is The Avengers, a film that has been over half a decade in the making. Stripped down to its basics, The Avengers is a superhero vs. super villain film. Six superheroes (Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Black Widow, Hawkeye and Captain America) have been assembled by S.H.E.I.L.D. to fight against Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Thor’s hell-bent-on-destruction adopted brother who teams up with aliens (the Chitauri) to bring destruction to us helpless citizens of earth.
Their assembly however, does not come easy. Egos and tempers get in the way and such Freudian clashes result in some great one-liners (Tony Stark is the master) and a full-on battle between Iron Man and Thor (you also get to see what is stronger – Thor’s Hammer or Captain America’s shield, but we will leave that for later). With hardly time to put differences aside, The Avengers capture Loki and keep him locked away while the aliens attack New York City.
The battle sequences amongst each other are mere tidbits of fun and resolve until the big CGI sequences of the final two reels of the film unleash their fury on the highly entertained and, at times, applauding, packed house to which screened the film.
When the big budget effects (the film is rumored to have soared to a $250 million production budget) do come into play, director Whedon leaves nothing on the table. Explosions and destruction abound and our heroes have a part in some of what will become a major redevelopment plan for the country’s most famous city.
Another reason why The Avengers should not have worked is due to its choice of villain. In is imperative (or at least we thought it was), that all superhero films have great badasses to which they are opposed. The Dark Knight had The Joker. Spider-Man 2 had Dr. Octopus. And Captain America had The Red Skull. But Loki is relatively boring when put up against his Marvel movie peers. His mother dresses him funny and even Tony Stark calls his blade the “Glow Stick of Destiny”. But this is where the genius of Whedon is realized. Joss doesn’t give Loki much to do. He is important to the story – very, in fact – but the movie does not hinge upon his menacing evil.
Four of The Avengers characters have already appeared in their own movies. Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and The Hulk have all had the big budget treatment in the past five years and their characters have been well established in each origin story. Renner’s Hawkeye and Johansson’s Black Widow have yet to headline an adaptation entry with their name atop the marquee, but both are still interesting and important components to the overall Avengers dynamic.
Does The Avengers rank up there with the great superhero films such as The Dark Knight? That’s hard to answer. The moods are different. The Dark Knight was a dark and heavy piece of emotional burden with a villain as evil and unpredictable as any ever put on film. The Avengers is just a fun film experience that is sure to cross the $1 billion worldwide gross as fans and non-fans alike with revel in the witty dialogue tempered with testosterone engineered action sequences.
One thing for sure, this was the most fun I have had at the movies this year (maybe in the past few years) and couple The Avengers with Joss Whedon’s recently released Cabin in the Woods, and we have just identified who is maybe the most talented and soon to be sought after person working in Hollywood today.