Opening tonight/today/tomorrow here in the U.S., this blockbuster superhero fantasy has already amassed megamillions at the box office overseas. The long awaited summer of smash is kicked off with this, the long-awaited super party of superheros. Probably as far back as the original Superman, yes the one starring Christopher Reeve, people began wondering when Hollywood would reach this moment. The moment when a superhero team would come to the screen with believable special effects. It took a couple of generations, but here we are. And, well, you’re all wondering – did it work? Yeah. Yeah, it did.
Some disclosure here. I’m a much bigger fan of the DC heroes than Marvel’s. But admit to being a Whedon fan and have to admit, he did more with the characters than I expected. In fact, Mark Ruffalo’s proves once again what an amazing actor he is. And thanks to Whedon guiding the animators, this Hulk really seems to be an extension of Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner character. This is not only one of the best surprises in the entire film, it leaves you hoping they will finally stick to one actor and offer up a couple more Hulk films with a character as complex and conflicted as the one hinted at here.
The film starts off with a nasty villain breaking in to S.H.I.E.L.D.’s super-max facilities to steal “The Tesseract,” aka the “Cosmic Cube” from early Captain American comics, as well as the recent film interpretation. Thor’s evil half-brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is the villain in question, and he seems to be acting in concert with an equally evil bunch of ugly aliens who share his need for power and thirst for revenge. Or vice versa. It’s enough to kick the story into gear and, right away, Whedon introduces a nice twist involving some of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s key agents and researchers. Loki gets away and Commander Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) ignores the orders given by S.H.I.E.L.D.’s council, instead opting for his own strategic response which he calls “The Avengers Initiative.”
Whedon veers slightly from the plethora of comic books here, but it’s a must in order to make all of the prequel films starring the individual heroes make sense with the filmic time and place presented in this particular film. It doesn’t matter, because this is one director who does his very best to stay true to the original subject matter, sure to please hordes of fanboys and girls everywhere. And thus ensure boxoffice success.
Fury sends various members of his organization out to enlist the individual heroes. Agent Colston must get Tony Stark/Iron Man’s attention. Agent Romanov (Scarlett Johansson) must bring Bruce Banner in. And Fury gets Captain America. The one uncalled for, Thor, appears on his own when he realizes what his brother has done. This initial meeting between Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Iron Man, and Captain America (Chris Evans), leads to some brawling between the egotistical Stark and the well-intentioned God of Thunder. It is up to Cap to bring their focus back to the matter at hand.
Eventually Loki is taken to S.H.I.E.L.D.’s flying fortress and the spies and heroes put their heads together to try and figure out what Loki could possibly want to use the Tesseract for. There is more infighting, some inspired mistrust initiated by the actions of some of our good guys against the actions of others, and during this confusion Loki’s minions attack. Thus begins the early start of the battle which will continue and escalate until the climax of the film.
The Avenger’s works on many levels for the great, thunderous hordes of fans who have been waiting patiently for this moment. For those of you looking for an entertaining film, you will find it. Although I have little doubt some of it will seem to drag for you. And children will eat this film up like a $20 bucket of popcorn and want heaping piles of seconds and thirds. Both Disney and Marvel should realize riches beyond their wildest dreams in ancillary sales of merchandise, new theme park rides, and other amazing ventures their marketing wonks are probably even just now dreaming up.
And Whedon does an admirable job with a number of characters taken from another media, but a few have been established by recent films and therefore the level to which he was able to expand their characters must have been hampered somewhat. I mostly refer to Iron Man and Captain America. Which is unfortunate. For a few generations now, the world of the superhero has been an amorphous thing, flexed and shaped by the needs of the particular story. Why not do the same for this film? Undoubtedly it is because the current owners – Disney and Marvel – do not want to confuse their audience and risk losing ticket sales. Too bad, because Joss Whedon is one of the few writer/directors capable of making such changes and doing so successfully.
The Avengers is sure to be a box office smash, and will likely spawn many sequels. And best of all, it whets the appetite for a summer audience hungry for blockbuster entertainment. And that audience will undoubtedly be sated by the far superior next chapter in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy.