So far, Marvel seems to be doing everything right. Get a big-name star (Downey, Jr.), give him an iconic superhero that’s big on techno and low on any actual “superpowers”, and use Iron Man (2008) to introduce a far-reaching goal: showcase superheroes by themselves, then combine them into one big blockbuster of a movie: The Avengers.
After the overwhelming success of Iron Man (2008) kicked things off, other films (Thor (2011), , Iron Man 2 (2010)) followed suit, creating a bigger and bigger buzz about the superhero team-up to come.
Now, the long wait is over, and The Avengers is finally here – and, like a lot of my fellow moviegoers (it grossed $80.5 million on it’s first day), the film seemed – as it’s intended to be – a good point to start my Summer At The Movies 2012.
So would all the hype be too much for this team of heroes, or would The Avengers overcome and save the (movie-going) day?
The ensemble cast that viewers have gotten to know so well over the past few years is back in fine form in The AVengers. Robert Downey, Jr. continues to be perfectly cast as Tony Stark/Iron Man, and now uses his ego to his advantage almost as much as it used to hinder him. Chris Hemsworth, as Thor, the God of Thunder, is a bit more aloof in this film, but manages to still work with the others surprisingly well when it’s needed. Chris Evans, the goody-two-shoes Steve Rogers/Captain America, manages to hold his own against the other big guns.
Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow and Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye, while not quite in the same league as the other characters at first, also manage to contribute much more than expected (especially Renner, who manages to make Hawkeye much more impressive than viewers were expecting).
And, there’s another familiar figure, although the face once again is a bit different. Mark Ruffalo steps into the role of Bruce Banner/Hulk, and while not quite up to Norton’s rage machine, manages to turn the green guy into a likeable character.
Rounding out the cast of The Avengers are the always fun Samuel L. Jackson as the tough-as-nails Nick Fury (who he plays like an eye-patched Shaft) and Tom Hiddleston, who reprises his role as the evil brother of Thor, Loki. He manages to surprise occasionally, coming up with a few creepy glances, but his role is more of an excuse to bring these heroes together, and he doesn’t get to expand much on his previous effort.
Joss Whedon (creator of fan fave “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (TV)) takes on a dual role himself in The Avengers, both writing and directing this impressive team – and he gives fans everything they could want. Want to see Hulk and Thor duke it out? Done. How about Iron Man and Thor? Ditto. Want to see Hulk smash? Got it. How about seeing Hulk go up against Loki? Got that too. He manages to tie in all sorts of things fans have been clamoring for – and does it all deftly, while, like “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (TV), never letting the audience forget that these characters may be super, but they are also human.
Unfortunately, The Avengers is so crammed full of fantasy fulfillment sequences, the characters don’t get as much of a chance to develop as they did in previous films. Instead, he has to devote any extra time he has to explaining Ruffalo’s Hulk persona – since this film doesn’t seem to be connected with any of the previous versions at all. Instead, viewers are left with the feeling that while Whedon does a solid job of connecting with the fans, he might have been just a bit over-matched with this one.
Plus, if you put all the good stuff in the first film, what’s left over for the inevitable sequel – aside from new characters?
Still, the sequences in The Avengers are off-the-scale good, and Whedon never loses sight of his heroes even amidst eye-popping chaos, keeping the viewer in the midst of the action from start to finish. The special effects definitely add to the fun. Even Hulk, who has had a couple of different renderings by this point, looks impressive. Sure, he may not be quite as impressive as he was in The Incredible Hulk (2008) – in fact, his creation this time hearkens back a little too much to the Bana-era Hulk (2003). Thankfully, however, the silly cartoon-y creation from that film has been refined quite a bit, making him much more believable, if a bit too day-glo green.
While the action and special effects may draw viewers in initially to watch this superhero team-up, The Avengers keeps viewers happy with it’s surprisingly good sense of humor – surprising, that is, for viewers who aren’t used to Whedon’s quick wit and impressive timing.
Hoping for a superhero team-up that will kick off the summer to an impressive start? You’ve found it in The Avengers, a film that manages to be equal parts fan wish fulfillment and character-driven action flick – if only they hadn’t had to rehash Loki to play the villain once again (I mean, seriously, out of all the villains in the Marvel universe, that’s all you could come up with?).
Still, viewers might view this film as an ending – not as a natural continuation of the Marvel universe on the big screen. And that could spell trouble for upcoming Marvel films Iron Man 3 (2013), Thor: The Dark World (2013) and especially the inevitable sequel (Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)).