For roughly two weeks before the UK release of The Avengers, I avoided as many clips and spoilers as I could, as is my custom for Superhero Films ever since an abundance of spoilers ruined what was left to enjoy of X-Men: The Last Stand. However, after leaving the theater, I felt that my efforts had been somewhat wasted. The plot of The Avengers was so simple that there really wasn’t very much to spoil at all.
Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely loved the film and I definitely would have enjoyed it less if I had broken my spoiler embargo. But I walked out a little confused about why so much effort had been spent on keeping the plot secret (by the filmmakers). Because it really wasn’t all that secret. Loki returns to take over the earth, now backed by an alien army. Nick Fury recruits Earth’s mightiest heroes to stop Loki. In fighting and out fighting ensues. And (spoiler!) the Avengers win the day. I guess I was just hoping for something just a little bit more. But as far as summer popcorn films go, The Avengers hits the mark even more accurately than Hawkeye.
So with that out of the way, let’s talk about what made the film freakin’ awesome.
When it came down to choosing someone to helm this project about a superhero team, it was clear that there was no better choice than Joss Whedon. His voice and his eye worked perfectly to bring all these heroes together. I’m a big Whedon fan and was stoked to see what he could do with such a big budget film and I was not disappointed. His fingerprint is all over the film. Lots of interesting camera choices, reflections and long shots that worked quite nicely. And let’s not forget the hilarious dialogue.
Unlike other Superhero Team films, like the X-Men and Fantastic 4 franchises, The Avengers doesn’t have a central character. Instead, the team itself goes through the different stages of the Hero and they rise together. Nick Fury acquires the team. They adjust to their new status and each other’s powers. They [spoiler] lose a mentor and rise to the occasion, finally defeating the villain.
So what about the Avengers themselves? Just as The Avengers lacked a sophisticated plot, so too was it light on character development, relying on the audience having seen the characters develop in their own films. This is perhaps most noticeable in Captain America’s character, as he is the most out of place, roughly 50 years out of place, in fact. And yet, he seems to adjusting quite well to the future, and things like new fashions, computers, and all of his friends and loved ones being dead doesn’t really seem to bother him. We see him get a bit angsty during his introductory scene, but after that, it’s fairly smooth sailing. But he does kick some ass and makes for a pretty badass leader, once he accepts the role. [NOTE: Whedon has admitted that the original cut of the film had an additional 30 minutes, most of which revolved around Cap dealing with the new world]
One of the mainstays of Whedon’s projects is a nerdy character that acts as Whedon’s own mouthpiece. Xander in Buffy, Wash in Firefly, Topher in Dollhouse. But Whedon is no longer the nerd on the sidelines, and neither is his new voice, Tony Stark, the coolest of the nerds. Having already been out on two adventures with Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man, one would think we’d all know what to expect by now. But Whedon has Stark spouting out so many memorable lines that it drowns out the quotes from his previous films. Hilarious doesn’t even begin to cover it, especially when he’s going up against Captain America.
I will be the first to admit I was disappointed that Edward Norton would not be reprising the role, more because I’m a fan of Norton in general than because I liked his turn as Banner. But I must say I was pleasantly surprised with Mark Ruffalo’s take on the character. I was pretty much sold after the first scene, where Banner tries to keep himself and Black Widow calm so they don’t have to deal with “the other guy”. Ruffalo’s Banner may not be afraid of his own shadow anymore, but he is definitely still afraid to even say the word “Hulk”. His nervous hand-wringing and unassuring assurances that he’s got “the other guy” under control easily made Ruffalo my favorite Banne so far. And once the other guy finally does come out to play? Well, let’s just say we definitely know who the heaviest hitter on the team is.
And then there was Thor. As great as Chris Hemsworth was last summer, it seems that here he is just around for his muscles and his hammer. He gets about the least amount of character development of the group. Every time he tries to have a serious moment with Loki, someone busts in with a BFG and blows them away. He doesn’t disappoint on the action, though, and even gets in a few cracks on Stark.
All in all, Whedon managed to pull together a pretty fantastic film. Aside from the expected lack of character development and complex plot, the film made for a pretty good ride. I suppose as a writer, I had higher hopes for a project that had been in development for so long, but such is Hollywood I guess. Looking ahead, the new trailers for this summer’s The Amazing Spider-Man and The Dark Knight Rises seem to promise some more complex Superhero Films to come.