How many film studios have invested years of time and hundreds of millions of dollars to introduce and establish multiple separate film franchises, weaving them together with the goal of merging them into one feature film event? The answer is one. This one.
Marvel Studios has succeeded in their ambitious plans to support a lengthy series of superhero movies, each with their own unique settings and characters, with the greater goal of setting up the groundwork and introducing another. And with the help of Joss Whedon, they’ve made it totally worthwhile.
In short, The Avengers is the best and most entertaining film to come from Marvel Studios to date. Director Joss Whedon masterfully balances a wide variety of characters and stories and weaves them together with purpose, while at the same time delivering a heavy dose of wild unmatched entertainment.
The Avengers is fun as it is funny, and fans of the Iron Man style of superhero movie will absolutely love what it has to offer. That’s not to say the team-up romp is perfect, though. It’s not and its weaknesses emerge right from the get-go.
The first act of the film is problematic and from the opening scene, the movie feels awkward and disjointed. From a story perspective, it’s confusing and abrupt in introducing the villains and the film’s MacGuffin – the “Tesseract” seen prominently in Captain America: The First Avenger and in the post-credits sequence attached to Thor. Compounded with sketchy dialogue and a mediocre chase scene, fans might find themselves concerned in the first 15 minutes.
Visually, the film is too dark to enjoy during these earliest moments and the 3D is wasted outside of the neat special effects relating to the Tesseract (also known as the Cosmic Cube) – a source of infinite power and an object highly sought after by seemingly everyone and everything, earthly and otherwise.
It’s not until the introduction ends and The Avengers logo splashes on screen with thunderous music does the film hit its stride. An obligatory montage of quick, yet entertaining scenes sees SHIELD recruit the titular heroes as a result of the opening sequence and then the party gets started.
The heroes gather on the highly detailed and beautifully designed SHIELD Helicarrier, the base of operations for the secretive organization. It is here where Whedon’s proven ability to handle an array of characters, character histories and egos begins to shine.
Characters meet and interact for the first time, and fans get the long-awaited payoff of seeing their favorite Marvel heroes butting heads and working together for first time ever in the cinematic universe. And it’s awesome.
It’s not a long wait from there until the action, tension and emotion begins – and it doesn’t end until the film does, completely making up for the any substandard villains or action sequences in previous Marvel Studios productions. Where The Avengers may have not started off on the right foot, it absolutely makes up for it once the characters finally meet-up and begin working together.
Whedon tries to do too much at times with the story, most notably with SHIELD, occasionally straying away from what matters and what viewers will care about, and it’s easy to see plot threads not fleshed out and where scenes were left of the cutting floor. Nevertheless, the film is jam-packed with Marvel lore and planted seeds to be explored in future Marvel films. Although overly convenient and forced at times, Whedon’s screenplay at least attempts to offer explanations for inconsistencies presented in the film’s plot due to how the previous solo character films left off.
That’s not to say that moviegoers will need to see Iron Man, its sequel, The Incredible Hulk, Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger to understand and appreciate The Avengers. Whedon’s movie is just as entertaining to newcomers and there’s enough background and exposition there to understand and differentiate the film’s varied cast. Any moviegoer will quickly learn the personalities and skills of each hero and this is part of the reason why The Avengers represents such an incredible feat in filmmaking.
Loki (Tom Hiddleston ) is the lynchpin that binds the group together and his ruthless and relentless actions make him a formidable villain both physically and intellectually. Loki’s rivalry with Thor (Chris Hemsworth), and the relationships presented, formed and tested between the rest of the cast are what make the film so enjoyable and that much more meaningful when they share the screen together.
Dr. Bruce Banner, now played to perfection by Mark Ruffalo, earns a lot of deserved love for stealing the spotlight at times, and his banter with Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark – at his best in The Avengers – shows what comic book events in live-action should be all about. More than ever, Thor is shown to be the powerful Asgardian he truly is and those skeptical of Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow after her stint in the disappointing Iron Man 2 may find her to be the standout character of the film, again highlighting another Joss Whedon specialty. Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye and new-to-the-franchise Agent Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) take a bit of a back seat due to their lacking any backstory. SHIELD gets their time to shine with Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) taking center stage for a lot of the film as well after serving as the key connecting piece in all of the films leading up till now.
Any nitpicks from the first act become totally forgettable come time for the final action set piece, which sees the heroes battling to save downtown Manhattan from an alien invasion and finally forming the team they are destined to be out of sheer desperation.
The final battle is very reminiscent to that of Michael Bay’s Transformers: Dark of the Moon, but Whedon’s version stands its ground by offering far more meaningful combat intermixed with incredible character moments and examples of teamwork that fans of the books will find extra special. This is when The Avengers become the team they were meant to be and it is this battle that will shape the future of the grand Marvel Studios franchise.
While not perfect, The Avengers may very well be the most fun (and funny) blockbuster of the 2012 summer season and it’s going to be hard to top.
The Avengers is now playing in theaters worldwide in 2D, 3D and IMAX.
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