Summer Movie Review: The Avengers (AKA: An ode to Joss Whedon) *spoiler-free*
**This is a spoiler-free review since I wouldn’t want to spoil one moment of enjoyment of this utterly unique cinematic experience.**
I’ll admit it, I was a bit wary coming into The Avengers screening last night. I have been following this one-of-a-kind cinematic collaboration by Marvel since Iron Man and have been breathlessly waiting to see if they managed to pull it off. The previews looked good, but there were a few shots that left me with some doubt that it would be an okay movie, rather than a cinematic marvel (pun intended). I am so pleased to announce that it is the latter. All of my doubts vanished as the movie quickly unfolded. I really shouldn’t have ever doubted Director (and creative genius) Joss Whedon. He has never disappointed me and he rose above even his own exquisite previous work. Have written the screenplay himself, Joss has created both a singularly unique vision, but also managed to deftly integrate four franchises and set up each hero’s individual journey into their future sequels.
I have to give kudos to not only Joss and his team, but to the creative minds at Marvel that hired him, despite his lack of commercial success. While the geek community may have cheered when he was hired, it wasn’t necessarily the obvious or safe choice, so bravo Marvel for taking that chance. I have no doubts that this will be Joss’ most financially successful film and I sincerely hope that it brings him the far-reaching respect and success outside of the geek community that he so richly deserves. I also have to give a hand to each of the creators of the individual franchises who had to integrate the larger Avengers plot lines into their own films while maintaining their own creative freedom and integrity.
So, is The Avengers the best superhero film ever? While some may argue YES, I think this movie goes beyond that. Never before has such a large-scale integration of films and characters been attempted and I think it would be unfair to compare The Avengers to a movie centered around a single hero. The end result of years of planning, integrating the plots of five films, the bringing together of such talented actors and spinning off of as many as five future franchises deserves a round of applause. The fact that it got made is impressive enough, but the end result is more than I could have dreamed of. But seriously now, I will stop gushing. Can you tell I’m excited?
I kept having flashes during The Avengers about how the same movie, helmed by a different Director, would have looked. There were moments that came so close to veering into cheese territory, but Whedon’s ever-earnest style of filmmaking never allowed it to go there. There was maybe one frame of the whole movie where I rolled my eyes ever so slightly, and it was something really minor. In true Whedon style, there are moments of both extreme darkness and of side-splitting hilarity. This is the largest action-movie that he has directed and I was a little nervous about his handling of huge action set-pieces, but they did not disappoint. I found myself gripping the arm-rests several times and the audience burst into applause multiple times during the film. There is a real intelligence behind the film (another Whedon trademark) and I will admit, I didn’t entirely understand every little thing that was happening. I can’t wait to watch the film again this weekend for an even deeper appreciation of the script. There were no cheesy recruitment montages, no overly complicated explanations for things that weren’t really needed and plenty of surprises.
You may have heard that Bruce Banner/The Hulk steals the show and you’ve heard right. Not in a bad way though. His character is much more fleshed out and confident than what you saw in both The Hulk and The Incredible Hulk, and the addition of Mark Ruffalo turns out to be a stroke of genius. I will be very surprised if Hulk doesn’t get his own franchise after this film. Each of The Avengers gets their own moments of focus and your enjoyment of the film will be further deepened if you’re caught up on each of their individual films. That having been said, I brought a friend who hadn’t seen anything but the Iron Man films and she loved it too. Scarlet Johannson’s Black Widow also surprised me and I found myself enjoying her far more than I thought I would. There wasn’t a ton of character development for each hero, but that’s not what this film was about and it made me long to see them each in their own films in the future. By not dwelling too much on any one person, the star of this film was truly the ensemble cast as a whole. There are no weak links here in my opinion.
I hope you all enjoy The Avengers as much as I did and I can’t wait for the movie to be released this weekend so that I can start discussing details with all of you. Until then, Avengers Assemble!
*Just two quick notes here: 1) As for which format to see it in, I saw it in IMAX 3D and while the 3D was well done and resulted in no headaches, it was really subtle and didn’t add to my enjoyment at all, so I say skip the upgrade charge and see it in 2D. 2) Apparently there are two tags over the credits (I missed the latter!), so make sure you stay until the bitter end!