Written and Directed by Joss Whedon
Starring Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johannson, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston and Samuel L. Jackson
Captain America: Stark, we need a plan of attack.
Iron Man: I have a plan. Attack.
Comic book movies or superhero movies or whatever you want to call them, all inherently have a very difficult task to accomplish. They all have to cater to a notoriously picky niche market, made up of detail oriented fanboys, while still remaining broad enough to appeal to the masses. They cost a fortune so they cannot afford not to attract the widest audience possible, but if they play it too broad, the fanatics will denounce the film and ruin any chance it has of making any money back. THE AVENGERS is the mecca of superhero movies. It reportedly cost $220 million to make. It features no less than seven iconic Marvel comic characters. And, given just how darn good it is, it actually stands the chance to become the biggest superhero movie of all time.
If you’re like me, the first ten minutes of THE AVENGERS might be a little bewildering. The script presupposes that you’ve seen all the Avenger related movies leading up to this one. As it turns out, I have, with the first IRON MAN (Robert Downey Jr.) and THOR (Chris Hemsworth) being my favourites. Still, that doesn’t mean that they are always freshly at the forefront of my mind. So once I pieced together that Thor’s brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston) was working with an alien race to take over Earth by harvesting the energy from what is known as the Tesseract, I was good to go. (I’m sure the history behind this premise is far more rich than I’ve just described but for casual Avenger fans like myself, this description is more than adequate to get your bearings.) What follows the initial and inevitable set up though is two hours of non-stop excitement with a surprisingly solid amount of depth and character study to make THE AVENGERS the perfect popcorn movie to kick off the summer.
It is Loki’s mission to force the people of Earth into submission by using great force. His belief is that freedom is the world’s greatest lie, that pursuing a life of slavery and worship unburdens the individual of feeling any sense of failure. Without any unique goals, there is only the common to pursue. You should know that Loki has a bevy of his own daddy issues to work out and vanquishing Earth is just his way of dealing with things. You should also know that Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), the leader of S.H.I.E.L.D. (which stands for Supreme Headquarters, International Espionage, Law-Enforcement Division) is not going to just allow this to happen. So he enlists the help of six individuals, all of which possess a particular power or skill that makes them a definite asset to have in an intergalactic war of this magnitude, and dubs them The Avengers. Unfortunately for Fury, The Avengers are all also intense loners who do not play well with others.
Perhaps the greatest honorary Avenger out there is writer/director, Joss Whedon. Marvel entrusted a film they have been building up to for years now to a man who has built a reputation for creating deeply engaging yet still highly entertaining genre fare on television, like “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”, but whose only feature length film (SERENITY) tanked. Whedon is right at home here though and he has a seemingly easy time balancing the screen time between all these heavy hitters, from Chris Evans (Captain America) and Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye) to Scarlett Johannson (Black Widow) and Mark Ruffalo (taking over the role of The Hulk from predecessor, Edward Norton), while simultaneously juggling all of their individual arcs and development. The genius of Whedon’s work here is that he has them all subtly fighting against each other and against the idea of working together long enough to forget they were fighting so hard against themselves before any of this started. And when they start fighting together, that’s when THE AVENGERS goes from being a great comic book movie to being a great movie, period.