It really shouldn’t surprise anyone that The Avengers is as good as it is.
The ingredients were there – several blockbuster movies leading up to it, including the incredibly fun Thor and the incredibly enjoyable Captain America. And all the originators of those characters were on board, except the Hulk, but more on that later. The script was penned by the director, the inimitable Joss Whedon (Cabin in the Woods, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly…).
And yes, it all could have gone horribly, terribly wrong.
But it didn’t.
The Avengers is one of the best action films I’ve ever seen. Was it perfect? No, but that’s ok. It was pretty darned close.
It ties together all its predecessors if not 100% neatly, than at least not incredulously. (Tesseract anyone…?) And in a movie with so many characters – Thor, Iron Man, Captain America, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Loki, the Hulk, Nick Fury – it would be easy for any one of them to become a stock character, someone who exists merely to fill in space. It is to the credit of both actor and director, that this doesn’t become the case. Everyone has a fabulous introduction, and everyone a real character moment, some a few.
We feel the confusion that Steve Rogers/Cpt. America has about being in this brave new world, where honor and duty aren’t the same words they were when he was last awake. We see the conflict Thor struggles with trying to both save Loki (his brother…adopted) and stop him. We see the pain that Hawkeye goes through when he realizes what Loki used him for and the desire for revenge that dictate everything he does during the final battle. We experience the moments of hesitance in the cocksure attitude of Tony Stark/Ironman that lead to his moment of selflessness. We sense the anger bubbling just below the surface every time Bruce Banner/The Hulk enters the room, his violent and destructive rage just seconds away from erupting. And we see the deft manner in which Natasha Romanov/Black Widow dispatches with everyone and everything, even her own fears and insecurities.
And Loki. While the movie really belongs to the Hulk, Loki is a formidable enemy. His need for acceptance and power and revenge fuels him even beyond the point of reason. Tom Hiddleston brings a Shakespearean sadness and slightly insanity to his Loki. This recitation he did of a famous monologue from Henry V make it all believable:
It is because of all these tiny character moments that this movie succeeds. Action is action and explosions are explosions, and yes both are done well here. The attack sequence on the floating headquarters is spectacular, as is that inevitable destruction of Manhattan by an alien army, complete with the strangest giant flying robotic worm type creatures. So have no fear – the crash/bang/boom you need from your superhero movie is there…but just elevated.
Plus, this movie is FUNNY. Damned funny. So funny that I need to go see it again now. Much of the humor is in the quick-witted dialog that we have come expect from Joss Whedon, but he made the most of the physical humor available to him. The all out fight between Thor and Iron Man squeezes intense comedy from what could otherwise be mere male posturing. Not to mention half the moments the Hulk is on screen.
But to say any more about that would be to spoil it.
Like all these movies do, The Avengers ends on a moment that opens it up for a sequel. Whether it will live up to its progenitor is unclear, and I hope they keep Whedon on board. But the prospects all in all, are good. Smashingly good.