So here it is, after five films spread across four years, all five littered with little hints and tid-bits as to what was to come; after the bomb shell that the great Joss Whedon would be at the helm as writer and director and it’s finally here: The Avengers is here. And after all that anticipation, all that planning, all the excitement and intrigue being built up for four long years and all we are handed is a phoned in, lackluster, cheesy, idiotic, loathsome, shocking, borderline-
Are you guys actually buying this? Can I stop pretending now? THE FILM IS FREAKIN’ AMAZING!
Now Showing this week is the incredibly hyped The Avengers, written and directed by Joss Whedon (of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel and Firefly fame). At long last the lead heroes from Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Thor and Captain America have come together to form the superhero ass-kicking team know as “The Avengers”. Basic plot premise (free of spoilers) is that Thor’s pseudo brother Loki has returned to Earth with plans of conquest after gaining the support of an unknown alien force, and his plans require the use of the Tesseract (the glowing blue cube from Captain America). S.H.I.E.L.D director Nick Fury decides that now is the time to put the Avengers Initiative into effect, for it will take Earth’s mightiest heroes to defeat Loki and his impending invasion. And that’s all I can really say without saying things that you might not want to know going into the film.
The Avengers is an amazing achievement since, as I have said before, it is easily a film that could have collapsed under its own weight. With four superheroes who have all had their own films, along with a cast of S.H.I.E.L.D characters and Loki himself, the sheer amount of strong characters each being of focus and being packed into just over two hours could have easily been chaotic and shallow. But that is not the case with this film. Every character, both heroic and villainous, gets their deserved amount of characterisation and interaction and it is all achieved without anyone stepping on anyone else’s toes. The Avengers is teeming with deep characterisation for each main member of the team, some more obvious than others (my personal favourite being Iron Man’s simple, one line exploration!). And each of the Avengers has their physical power both demonstrated and challenged by the other members of the team, and it was an effective way to not simply assume that Thor could thunder-blast everything into oblivion before anyone else could do anything. For example, the Hulk cannot pick up Thor’s hammer as it’s too heavy for him, but Thor’s hammer cannot make a dent in Captain America’s shield. These moments both stroke the Marvel fan boys in their “who would beat who in a fight” fantasies as well as establishing the strength of the Avengers as a unit.
I simply cannot reiterate enough just how good a job is done with the characters of this film. Not one of them is wasted, and they are all useful. I mean, we can all agree that Captain America is the lamest and most useless of the Avengers team. When you have a bullet-proof, flying munitions man; a gigantic, super-strong wrecking ball of a hulk; and the goddamn God of Thunder, then a man who can simply throw (and hit people with) a shield really well is kind of the Meg Griffin of the group. But The Avengers finds the perfect place for Captain America, not only as an effective martial artist but as a leader. That’s where he comes from, leadership in the second world war. Iron Man and the Hulk are brilliant scientists and Thor understands the enemy better than anyone. The film has found the perfect way for them all the function together. But the best aspect about this film is the fact that they don’t function well together, not at first. These people really butt heads with each other, with them all being super-humans and having that constant sense of competition as to who is the better hero. And they all find ways to get under each other’s skin, finding the perfect things to exploit and hurt each other with. It is these moments that are the best parts of the film, seeing the flaws in each one of these iconic heroes.
But how on earth is The Avengers achieving this level of perfection? Come on, you all know what I’m going to say now:
The reason this film works so perfectly is because the script is brilliant, and the script is brilliant because Joss Whedon just gets it. His specialty is to play with an ensemble of strong personalities, and also varying personalities. He can see every scene from the perspective of each character and knows what they would say and do within their personal framework. More to the point, he saw all of these things in a genre that many people don’t believe them to exist in: the superhero movie genre. Mark my words, superhero movies are infinitely better when one actually tries to focus on characterisation over simply blowing things up, and this is something that has been rarely seen outside of Christopher Nolan’s Batman films. Combine this level of script depth with Whedon’s trademark wit and you have one hell of a script.
However, speaking of blowing things up, the action portions of The Avengers are awe inspiring. The scale of some of the battles (particularly the finale) and the quality of the visual effects are breathtaking. Each hero has such a unique effect on the battlefield, and all of them are amazing to watch (and you haven’t lived until you see the Hulk in action!). Not a cent of the estimated two-hundred-and-twenty-million dollar budget was wasted. That final battle will stick in my mind for the rest of my cinema-going life.
I have seen around that many viewers have compared The Avengers to Transformers: Dark of the Moon, claiming they are similar in plot and experience. And I suppose they would be right if you ignore the fact that The Avengers is actually a good film and is devoid of incoherent action scenes, low brow/forced humour, and Ken Jeong. Others have criticised the story for being simple, and it is but the depth and complexities of The Avengers comes from the characters and their effects on each other; the “bad guy wants to conquer Earth, good guys must stop him” story is simply the framework for these characters to blossom.
Anyone who knows me, and perhaps some avid readers if they’ve been paying attention, will know that I have a list of films to which I give a perfect score. They are all there for different reasons, and there is no specific criteria other than this: “I wouldn’t change a thing about this film”. There are always nitpicks to be had, but in these films they are negligible. The list has grown over the years, recently reaching nine films at the beginning of the year. But now I feel that my list has out grown the name of “my list of films to which I give a perfect score”. Now I believe I can safely call it “my Top Ten”.
See you next time!
P.S. As is the usual with these films, don’t leave as soon as the credits start rolling. Those with knowledge of the Marvel universe will have their mind’s blown. And if you aren’t someone with that knowledge, ask someone who is privy to it so that it can blow your mind too!