by Dave Minkus
I never quite know what I’m going to get with
Joss Whedon. I’ll be the first person to admit that he’s talented and has a certain charm. However, I’m not a card-carrying Whedonite. I adore Firefly and Dr. Horrible, but can’t stand Buffy, Angel or Dollhouse. His run on Astonishing X-Men was good until the big reveal, and then it lost me. I definitely don’t hate the guy’s work, but he isn’t a lock for me…until 2012. Between Cabin In the Woods and now The Avengers, I’m 100% sold on the man. I might not love everything he does, but I’m guaranteed to at least give anything he does a shot.
A little background is in order here. I really dig comics, but not the mainstream ones. I’ve never liked the Justice League or Avengers comics that much because it was just a bunch of heroes fighting villains without much story or character development. No, I went for The West Coast Avengers and Justice League International. Yes, they were mostly B-grade characters, but without the constraints of having to adhere to the same plot over and over and over and over, these books were able to find fun ways to explore their characters. Yes, the fought epic baddies and all, but the characters were front and center (ie. what the prime books never were from what I could tell). So, when I heard that not only were we finally getting an Avengers movie and that Joss Whedon was writing it, I was conflicted. Joss is known for writing great interactions between characters and developing those characters. I was worried that Marvel was going to shoehorn him into writing a stodgy movie that had no sense of fun. Please allow me to take this moment to say that I, David Minkus, was completely wrong for doubting Marvel/Disney or Mr. Whedon. They absolutely knocked this one out of the freaking park.
If you’ve been following along with the previous Marvel movies, the setup isn’t anything you aren’t ready for. If you haven’t seen any of the previous Marvel movies, you really need to before seeing this film. I’ve read elsewhere that Marvel has pulled off the unthinkable. They’ve talked the moviegoing public into getting into a 5 year comic arc that cluminates in The Avengers. It’s absolutely true. While technically The Avengers could still be considered an origin film because it’s how the group gets together, the film makes the smart choice of assuming you’ve seen the rest of the Marvel films so they don’t have to go through and completely re-introduce every character. Loki (Tom Middleston) got free, he’s got buddies and he wants to take over the earth and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) needs to get some help to fight them off. There’s your set up. The film is two and a half hours of exploring that every way they can.
I know some people are going to say that the film is dialogue heavy and has too much exposition. I personally loved every second of this film, including when people weren’t brawling. The dialogue is classic Whedon filled with the perfect amount of humor, sarcasm and humanity brought to each character. Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is the class clown and gets most of the best one-liners. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is a bad man, but is also the but of some great jokes. Captain America (Chris Evans) is the straightlaced soldier. Hawkeye is a bit of a mystery in the film and of course Black Widow is just downright awesome.
Oh yeah, and then there’s Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo). The character has been played by three different actors at this point and I was really worried that Ruffalo wouldn’t be able to pull it off. Again, I was wrong. Banner is a man who is in control and at peace with who he is, but he’s been beat down. He’s a bit haggard and he’s kinda done being the passive guy. He’s everything we need, especially in this group. Oh, and the Hulk. Dear, sweet Hulk. I’m not kidding when I say he completely steals the movie.
And then there’s the action. Oh, the action. Yes, you get heroes throwing down against each other in pretty epic ways, but when the film REALLY kicks into gear during the last 30-40 minutes, the action is absolutely frenetic and insane. The closest thing I can compare it to in terms of scale is the fights during the Transformers movies. There is one VERY important distinction to make, though. You can actually tell what the heck is going on and who is doing what. The pace is frenetic to say the least and incredibly satisfying. This is where you’ll have the crowd out of breath, but finding time to cheer almost constantly, moreso when The Hulk goes nuts.
I do have a few problems with the film, but they’re nitpicks more than anything else. There are logic leaps that don’t quite work about 3 times during the movie, but they aren’t major and they don’t detract from the spectacle of the movie. No, my big nitpick is with the 3D. If you can possibly see the film in normal 2D, please do. The 3D surcharge doesn’t bring anything new to the experience and is just an excuse to get more of your money. Save your money for when you go see the film again, because you’re going to.
This is a crass summation of the film, but it’s true. The Avengers is a fanboy wet dream in all the right ways. Every single character gets their time to shine, the interactions are very well written, and the action is just simply off the charts. Anyone who has ever said that Whedon can’t do action will be served a nice slice of humble pie upon entrance to the theater. This film isn’t a deep introspection into the human condition. It’s a summer blockbuster that actually earns the overused term “thrill ride”.
Now if only Warner Brothers would get him working on the script for Justice League International. I’m dying to see what kind of scheme he’d have Booster and Beetle cooking up and how they’d find a new way to piss Guy off…