Film Review: The Avengers Sets The Blockbuster Bar High
The first big summer blockbuster of the year has finally arrived with the release of “The Avengers,” and it has proven itself to be an admirable opponent for other upcoming titles like “Prometheus,” “The Amazing Spider-Man,” and “The Dark Knight Rises.” Combining the plot lines of the previous five tie-in movies (“Iron Man,” “Iron Man 2,” “The Incredible Hulk,” “Thor,” and “Captain America: The First Avenger”), along with the addition of Black Widow and Hawkeye as members of the Initiative, “The Avengers” has created possibly the single greatest fanboy experience for Marvel enthusiasts. Even if you’re not invested in the separate story lines, the jaw-dropping visual effects and superbly written witticisms make this the perfect summer movie for everyone.
Similarly to the opening scene from 2008’s “The Dark Knight,” the film wastes no time in introducing most of the major players and the main conflict of the film. Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Thor’s half-brother, returns to Earth through the portal created by the Tesseract, a powerful source of energy that Loki uses in a deal with an alien race whom he hopes to use to subjugate the Earth. Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) wastes no time in activating The Avengers Initiative, uniting all known superheroes to help save the Earth from Loki’s vengeance. From here on out, the film jumps back and forth between stunning action scenes and the best writing for a Marvel film since the original “Iron Man.”
The film is masterfully crafted by Wesleyan’s own Joss Whedon ’87, who takes the helm as both writer and director. “The Avengers” proves that Whedon’s finally ready for the inevitable flood of studio offers he’s about to receive—the script is filled with vibrant dialogue, and Whedon has perfected the vernacular for each individual character so well that it quickly becomes sheer entertainment to watch the sharp taunts and bickering within the provisional family that he has made out of this ragtag team of heroes.
Loki himself is an extremely significant upgrade from his flat portrayal in “Thor.” Hiddleston seems to be having a lot more fun with his malicious character, and this translates into a much more threatening and compelling villain to watch. Along the same line, the biggest surprise of the film for me was Mark Ruffalo’s spin on the Hulk. Eric Bana and Edward Norton never really seemed to properly fill the role of the Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde-turned-comic book scientist. In a fantasic delivery, Ruffalo gives Dr. Banner a number of wonderfully awkward quirks that underscore his extreme anger as the Hulk, making his transformation into the Hulk all the more satisfying.
Even Captain America (Chris Evans), whose individual movie lacked the vigor that most of the other tie-in movies had, has some great humorous and action-filled sequences throughout the film. Perhaps the reason that he and the Hulk felt more accessible to me as an audience member this time around was that they were two members of an all-star ensemble cast rather than starring characters in their individual films. The film didn’t heavily focus on their own stories, but they still were given enough importance for me to care about them and excitedly anticipate their presence in the immense battle scenes. As for other major characters, Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man is just as good as his previous two turns as the character, although it’s not too difficult to see that he’s essentially playing himself on screen as playboy-billionaire-genius Tony Stark.
Overall, “The Avengers” definitely performed well while juggling what one might consider too many characters to handle, a problem which resulted in 2007’s “Spider-Man 3” failing miserably. Even Black Widow and Hawkeye, the seemingly less important Avengers, find a good deal of purpose in the film aside from just being eye candy (as in the case of Scarlett Johansson in Iron Man 2). At the same time, their characters do feel slightly underdeveloped in comparison to the main four heroes of the group. Hardcore fans of Whedon will likely not find Black Widow as strong-willed as most of his other female protagonists in the past.
Still, “The Avengers” has shown that it’ll be a force to reckon with, both financially and critically, in terms of summer blockbusters. It’s a tremendous start to a hopefully amazing year, and it should be the first thing on your summer to-do list if you haven’t made it down to Destinta yet.