Before The Avengers, with the exception of the X-Men franchise – which stars various mutant teams – capturing several famous superheroes together on celluloid has proven almost impossible. The main obstacle is how the rights of various comic book characters are scattered between different film studios. Meaning, in Hollywood Spider-Man is Sony’s, Wolverine belongs to 20th Century Fox and for them to fight together some studio would have to budge, which is unlikely. Which is why in 2005 the Marvel company, partly responsible of reviving the superhero film genre with Blade and X-Men, launched its own film production company and formed a strategy to achieve the impossible: develop their properties in the film industry with high quality and fidelity to their comic book roots, then join them in an epic feature film free-for-all.
The success of 2008’s Iron Man ensured the go-ahead of this master plan which resulted in The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger. These titles were only a prelude to the main event: the team-up of the stars from all those (along with Hawkeye and Black Widow) in Marvel’s The Avengers (a.k.a Avengers Assemble), possibly the most anticipated film of this summer and the last 4 years.
(Or the last 14, or 23, or 33…)
The Avengers in a Nutshell
Six famous gifted beings from the comics, together sharing the same cinematic adventure? That is perhaps the biggest wet dream of those who grew up with comic books and television. Every child and cinephile with a young soul wants to see The Avengers and has a very strong idea of how the film should be. As if the pressure of those fans were not enough, Disney (Marvel’s new owner) is counting on that film being a success in every way given the disappointing box office of John Carter just few weeks ago. Expectations for The Avengers are high, possibly insatiable. Can it surpass all of them? Is it worth suffering long lines to see it on opening weekend? Is The Avengers, in fact, good?
Yes, yes, a thousand times, yes! The Avengers is everything a fan of the Marvel Universe could wish for in a movie, brimming with enough spare charm and energy to also entertain casual viewers.
The plot: An alien invasion led by the “Norse god” Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is heading to Earth, therefore Nick Fury of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Samuel L. Jackson) must recruit Tony “Iron Man” Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), Steve “Captain America” Rogers (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Bruce “Hulk” Banner (Mark Ruffalo), Natasha “Black Widow” Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) and Clint “Hawkeye” Barton (Jeremy Renner) to save the planet from evil forces as part of the Avengers Initiative. Not an easy task, considering that at least four of them have saved at least one city on their own and the six are noted for their massive pride.
How The Avengers Manages to Balance Its Big Ensemble
Director Joss Whedon (Serenity) was creator and producer of series like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly and Dollhouse. Such television pedigree made him the perfect candidate for this project, which should be treated both as an standalone story as well as an episode of a modern saga narrated between several franchises. The filmmaker has plenty of experience in balancing large casts and respects the roots of every superhero. His film highlights evenly the strong personalities and virtues of each character in a delicious visual feast. Rogers represents the conscience of the group while Stark is its cynicism, the Hulk its rage, Thor its passion, Barton its thrust for revenge and Romanoff its longing for redemption.
All cast members have a chance to shine here, even Clark Gregg as Agent Coulson, Nick Fury’s right-hand man in S.H.I.E.L.D., who has served as a liaison between nearly all the previous films and serves an important role this this time around. It feels like everyone had fun with their roles, none perhaps more than Hiddleston, who plays Loki as a real threat without forgetting his naughty side. Only Cobie Smulders falls short as Maria Hill, mainly because it is her first appearance in this universe and is given very little time to liven up her S.H.I.E.L.D. agent.
A Delicate Balance
The screenplay, originally by Zak Penn with some Whedon rewrites, contains dialogue tailored to the style of each actor. It’s also packed with humor and the right dose of drama. It’s not perfect, but searching for loopholes in a superhero story would be like scientifically trying to prove they can exist in reality. If my analytical mind thinks it’s a bad idea to lock up a powerful creature in the secret base of the good guys, my inner child would ask him where exactly would he want it imprisoned and then order it to go buy more popcorn.
Whedon understands two important things about the superhero genre: a) character development is imperative for the audience to care about what happens, and b) said audience wants above anything else to see super-beings in action. This being the first time that all these icons are together in a live-action film, Whedon takes the opportunity to demonstrate their skills through misunderstandings that result in super-fights among the heroes. Although Mark Ruffalo pulls off an excellent Dr. Banner (arguably exceeding the efforts of Edward Norton, Eric Bana and even Bill Bixby), we all want to see him become the Hulk as soon as possible and destroy everything around him. Whedon knows this and is happy to oblige. Every audience member will leave the theater with one or more favorite heroes, but Hulk is certain to sweep away the child vote.
The Avengers is not a transcendental film, that much is clear. It’s not intended to teach its followers the greater truths of the human condition (many dramas already dealing with that every autumn and do it so well that we shower them with awards earlier the following year). Those who have never been tolerant of “fantasy” stories waste their time going to see it. However, each and every promise the creators behind The Avengers have made for the last seven years, the final product handsomely fulfills.
Like The Dark Knight, Spider-Man 2 and the first Iron Man, The Avengers outshines its genre to become a solid, intelligent and amazing piece of entertainment. It will become quite difficult for Marvel Studios to surpass themselves after this initiative, but that’s a mission for the coming years. Meanwhile, the summer blockbuster season started early this year and apparently it’s gonna be great.
Movie title: The Avengers
Movie description: Director Joss Whedon successfully executes Marvel Studios' master plan in this superhero extravaganza.
Date published: 2012-04-27
Director(s): Joss Whedon
Actor(s): Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Cobie Smulders, Clark Gregg, Gwyneth Paltrow, Stellan Skarsgård, Alexis Denisof
Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy