in Review

The Avengers

This is what we’ve all been waiting for. The bulk of super hero movies from the past four years, Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger, all lead to this. One movie, six super heroes. It’s exciting to think about, and even more exciting to watch. It took a lot to get here, but The Avengers was certainly worth it.

Earth’s mightiest heroes are all where we left them; Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.) is living large, The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo now) on the lam, Captain America (Chris Evans) is alone in a strange new world, Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Black Widow (Scarlet Johansson) are off being badass agents, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is off in a magical kingdom. One person isn’t where we left them: Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Thor’s scheming brother who fell off the rainbow bridge in that movie. He’s not taken exile well, and he’s got an army to help him get revenge. And so a plan is set in motion to begin an interplanetary war, a plan that can be stopped by no lone super hero. Fortunately, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) has been putting a team together.

A lot of the credit for The Avengers has to go to Joss Whedon, who co-wrote and directed the film. As someone who not only loves comics, but has written his own, he is able to deftly handle these larger-than-life characters, delivering satisfying closure for all the Marvel movies leading to this one. Iron Man learns to be less selfish. Captain America finds a place for himself and becomes the leader he never quite was in his own movie. Hulk finally makes progress on controlling himself, his main concern from when he was Edward Norton. Whedon pays due diligence to all of these beloved characters, and it really pays off.

The ending of The Avengers is Transformers: Dark of the Moon. Straight up: a once-divided team fights a seemingly endless army of invading aliens pouring out of the sky while trying to get to the one skyscraper that isn’t being knocked down. Only, it’s a million times better because the action’s easier to follow, it’s not 400 minutes long, and I actually care about the characters. Even Black Widow, who I know basically nothing about, is fleshed out as a great character, with some of the best scenes in the whole movie.

Of course, this is in part due to the cast as well. I particularly want to point to Mark Ruffalo, since he’s the best Hulk yet and please Mr. Ruffalo, if they want to do another Hulk thing, you should be the one to do it. Robert Downey, Jr. continues to dominate every scene he’s in, but the rest of the cast tries their damnedest to rise to his level, and pretty much succeed. I hope Tom Hiddleston had as much fun playing Loki as he seems to be having on screen, because he made for an absolutely great villain and also I hope he’s not in another of these movies for a while. Too many super hero movie sequels have been ruined by villain repetition.

If you haven’t seen the movies leading to this one, if you don’t care about this stuff at least a little bit, this might not be the movie for you. I think The Avengers does well enough introducing each character, but it would be a whole lot of information to process very quickly just to keep up as a newcomer. And certain things just would never make sense. But for those of us that have been keeping up, in all just a huge payoff. I can think of a handful of scenes that fanboys will be chatting about with each other for years to come. It’s hard not to believe that this is the peak of super hero cinema.

The Avengers is almost certainly my favorite of the Marvel super hero movies. I’d like to say it’s my favorite super hero movie full stop, but Chris Nolan’s Batman movies exist. It’s almost not fair that the last trailer they showed before The Avengers was for The Dark Knight Rises, as if to remind me that super hero movies can achieve a level of greatness beyond a gigantic nerdgasm. The Avengers exists in a different world from Nolan’s series, a much, much more fun world, where there’s snappy jokes and the thing closest to a theme is ass-kicking. I like being in this world almost as much.

  1. There are two bonus scenes, one in the middle of the credits, one after. The first is a hint of things to come, the second is a fun, but inessential, character moment.

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