“The Avengers” is a freaking hard movie to review. Every time I type a word, I pause and fantasize about the next time I’ll be able to see it and – pun intended – marvel at it all. This film is the culmination of many years of preparation, giving this superhero dream-team their own individual films — Iron Man, the Incredible Hulk, Thor, Captain America, and so on. Each film had its own set of attributes and faults, but none were the revisionist take of the genre that some clearly aimed for. “The Avengers” may not just be the superhero film of the year, it may be THE superhero film. End-all, be-all. It deftly weaves all of the best parts of each film, bringing it together to make a whole that is not only cohesive, but improving upon everything that came before it.
The driving force and pulsing personality behind “The Avengers” is writer-director Joss Whedon. Here is a man who has made his career on character-driven, snappily-written geek fodder: in essence, the perfect man to handle this material. His personal imprint can be found in every moment of the film — the film’s banter that constantly provokes laughter while further developing its characters, the visually cohesive, no-nonsense style, the frequent double-checking of genre trappings and cliches. It is, however, (also in Whedon tradition), not a wholly original story.
The film’s plot is set into motion somewhat awkwardly. With all the exposition and character re-introductions, the first hour can often be a shaky one, bouncing between dozens of characters and villains and galaxies. The villainous Loki (last seen as “Thor”‘s brother in his own film) has come to Earth to claim ownership over every inferior one of us. Here is where the “Avengers Initiative” comes into play — where Samuel L. Jackson’s eye-patched Nick Fury assembles his all-star squad of worldly defenders.
One of the more interesting aspects of “The Avengers” is very simply, that it GETS that these people shouldn’t be together. These are six people who have little-to-nothing in common, from personalities, to fighting styles, even species. Honestly, save for the 45-minute climatic set-piece (in which New York is destroyed and my fanboy giggling hits a high), “Avengers”‘ most enjoyable aspect is the interplay between these guys. Although they, evidently, must learn to get along for world-saving purposes, for the first 100 minutes it’s a volatile, tempestuous dynamic between them. In other words, distinctly human. And very very witty.
“The Avengers” is a film that, for all of its glitz, glamour, pyrotechnics and Scarlett Johansson donning skin-tight suits, is all about character. There’s so many satisfactory character beats here. So fleshed out are these people that it actually retroactively adds depth to them, in a way their past films failed to do.
Speaking of Johansson, her character, Black Widow, is a perfect example. Debuting in “Iron Man 2” as one-note eye candy, she here is given a sense of purpose, depth even. Playing master assassin alongside Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye, they’re both given their own set-pieces, just as bad-ass as the ones for characters triple their size.
All of the characters in “The Avengers” have been in films of their own. This much I have already covered, both in this review and in those films’ respective critiques. But given the sheer pleasure of watching these dissimilar yet totally awesome characters fight together, I’m not sure I ever want to see them just by themselves ever again. These characters have been given the proper care to allow for satisfying individual arcs and moments, but very simply, WORK together. That’s all I want to convey to you. This shit works. And it’s a miracle. If not for that, go for the biggest single action sequence since “Lord of the Rings” wrapped up in 2003. A-
(Here is where I awkwardly shovel in all manners of nitpicks I couldn’t fluidly discuss in the main body paragraph. There’s some logic holes the size of Bill O’Reilly’s ego at play here. As I said earlier, the first hour feels clunky in editing, given all the information needed to convey. The converted 3-D adds nothing except a slight sense of murkiness. Samuel L. Jackson is underutilized. Why? Dude’s got an eyepatch, come on!)