Written By: Dan Geer
It doesn’t take a genius billionaire playboy philanthropist to know that Marvel made a huge gamble in creating four different superhero film franchises that would eventually cross over into one film. It was one of the biggest gambles in film history, and nothing quite like it has ever been done before. Thankfully, Captain America: The First Avenger, Thor, and The Incredible Hulk were all reasonably successful at the box office, with both Iron Man films generating the most profit out of the four franchises.
Marvel had won over audiences for the most part with these films, which, in turn, has generated a huge amount of buzz for The Avengers. Moviegoers have been highly anticipating this film since the debut of Iron Man in 2008, not to mention the millions of comic book fans who have been waiting for this for decades. Expectations are beyond sky-high, stretching along the branches of the world tree all the way out to the other eight realms (see Thor). So, it is quite a relief to be able to say that those expectations have been met, for this particular reviewer anyway, as The Avengers succeeds on every level, delivering a film with jaw-dropping action, an ensemble cast that works, and a story worthy of Marvel’s legacy.
The Avengers wastes no time with introductions and assumes you have seen the other five Marvel films that have lead to this one. Right away we’re thrown into the action and reintroduced to Thor’s ignoble brother Loki, recently exiled from Asgard, who is still hellbent on acquiring kingly status. Since this can no longer be achieved in Asgard, he strikes a deal with an advanced alien cyborg race known as the “Chitauri,” where he must go to Earth, obtain the legendary cosmic cube known as the “Tesseract” (currently in the possession of S.H.I.E.L.D.) and use it to open a portal that would allow the Chitauri army to invade Earth and pave the way for Loki to become ruler of our world.
After attacking S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters, Loki enlists the help of Dr. Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) and S.H.I.E.L.D. operative Clint Barton a.k.a. Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) with the aid of mind control in order to to steal the cube and ignite its power. As a result, S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury officially enacts the Avenger Initiative talked about in Marvel’s previous films, bringing together Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain America (Chris Evans), The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) to win back their friends and defeat Loki and his alien army.
If one could only provide a single visual of what the term “summer blockbuster” means, The Avengers would definitely fit the bill. Because we are dealing with a movie where the main characters have already been developed in their own individual films, we are simply able to get right to it and latch on for the ride. Aside from act two, which devotes most of its time to necessary exposition and set ups for the film’s finale, the majority of the film is jam-packed with some of the most spectacular and well-balanced action sequences ever put into a movie like this, particularly when the film reaches its climactic third act (which is just too awesome for words). Director Joss Whedon has proven himself a master at crafting incredible, heart-pounding action, while never losing sight of the main characters, giving each of our heroes their moment in the spotlight.
But spectacular visuals aside, the film never forgets to pull back and give time for character development. Sure, we have seen how these characters work on their own, but never with each other until now. This is a film about how a few main characters from different films with clashing personalities can somehow get past their differences and unite to fight a common enemy. Captain America’s serious soldier mentality of always following orders directly interferes with Iron Man’s laid-back, defiant personalty. Thor sort of has his own methods on how to get to his brother Loki and defeat him. The Hulk doesn’t really play well with others. But all of these heroes are still good at heart, albeit each in their own unique way, and by going through various hardships together, they find a way to get past these differences and focus on what they do have in common in order to fight the good fight. They all believe in freedom, and none of them want to see Loki take mankind’s freedom away.
It is absolutely great how Whedon and the writers have weaved all these characters together into one film. Even Black Widow, who is sort of the odd man out (for lack of a better term) for not having her own film to star in beforehand, really gets to shine here. I didn’t really care much for her in Iron Man 2, but that is only because that film wasn’t really about her and we weren’t really given enough time to know what she is all about. But this is all about S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Avenger Initiative, in which Black Widow has a much bigger part to play. Fans of the character are sure to be thrilled with her this time around.
Lastly, it must be pointed out that The Hulk is finally incredible in his latest film outing. While The Incredible Hulk was an enjoyable movie on its own, it is definitely the weakest of the films connected to The Avengers. This time, even though it takes a while for The Hulk to unleash all hell on the enemy, it is an absolute thrill when he does. He really has some great moments in this film, some of which are quite funny actually (in a good way), that will not be spoiled here. Mark Ruffalo also brings a delightful, yet subdued sense of humor to the character of Bruce Banner, while still maintaining that there is an underlying rage just waiting to be unleashed. Iron Man has always been my favorite Avenger, but now I am having a difficult time deciding if The Hulk might now outrank him.
The Avengers is really everything a comic book geek could ask for in a film like this. Marvel’s risky, yet well-informed gamble has completely paid off, and it is probably safe to assume that Marvel will continue along this path of success for years to come. There is a method to the madness that they have honed in on, and it’ll take a force bigger than Loki and his alien army to break Marvel away from it.
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