I’m not the biggest fan of Marvel Studios rushing out films to reach franchise synergy. Iron Man was a fantastic trip, but my loins went limp after seeing Iron Man 2 and the adventures of Thor and Captain America. Everything felt like hasty productions to me. It’s almost as if those superhero endeavors weren’t movies any more than they were stepping-stones to a pile of cash. Leading up to the release of The Avengers, Marvels’ attempt at crafting a variety hour niche of the comic book genre, I was timid. The trailers promised set pieces and action to the max, but my caution was constantly resurrected by a film that seemed like it had too many large personalities lacking equilibrium. Despite my lack of interest in most of the characters and a fear of a film too big for itself, I waived any negative preconceived notion based on one name: Joss Whedon. Whedon, who is fresh off his efforts on the terrific The Cabin in the Woods, has a knack for crafting interesting, involving material that should not work. In the case of The Avengers, where Whedon serves as screenwriter and director, he has accomplished a feat that will surely set the pace for other comic book teams.
Admittedly, the film’s biggest flaw is partly in its existence. As is the case with many summer films, the evil doers that plague our world tend to do so with very little driving force. In this case, donning the cape of antagonism is Loki (Tom Hiddleston), the baddie that made Thor’s life a living hell in his respective film. Loki is a “by the numbers” villain. He simply just wants to rule the world and is willing to reach the throne by destroying the land he’d inherit. No matter how singular the script makes Loki, Tom Hiddleston expands the character’s pathos through a dangerous charm. His smile, when associated with his piercing, isolated eyes, hints at a maniacal madness that the screenplay doesn’t even bother touching. Hiddleston’s efforts alone help raise the stakes as Loki attempts his invasion via an intergalactic portal and unimaginative creatures. Enter in S.H.I.E.L.D and their fearless leader named Samuel L Jackson. (Sidebar: We have reached a point that Sam Jackson no longer acts. He is merely himself in costume.) Under Sam Jackson’s guidance, Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Hawkeye (the under-utilized Jeremy Renner), Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) , Bruce Banner/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Captain America (Chris Evans) and Thor (Liam Hemsworth) come together to save the world from Loki’s oppression. Actually, the Avengers defending Earth from Loki’s assault isn’t really engaging. We’ve seen it all before, but what we haven’t seen in a film is the varying squabbles that develop between the Avengers themselves.
Considering that the squad of heroes features massive egos and personalities that are the antithesis of one another, the Avengers end up constantly fighting each other amidst all the end of days shenanigans. This not only leads to a collection of great set pieces, but it also allows each actor a memorable character moment. Each character has their moment as a vibrant star in a sky full of flashing lights. I must admit, if there was one scene stealer present, it would be Robert Downey Jr. As Tony Stark, RDJ is a rock star. His nonchalant attitude and penchant for handing out nicknames always left me wanting more. Thankfully, under Whedon’s watchful supervision, RDJ doesn’t over power the rest of the cast; he just provides them with a lightning rod of inspiration. Now, the infighting lends itself greatly to a final half hour that impressively destroys Manhattan and adequately captures all the talents of each individual Avenger. With the scope of the film being gargantuan and the action constantly reaching dizzying heights, it’s hard not to let the waves of awesomeness rush over. I became especially giddy seeing the Hulk bouncing around Manhattan buildings as if he was in a pinball machine.
For all of the special effects wizardry and Hulk smashing, it’s the humor within that makes the film memorable. As demonstrated in his previous work, Whedon has a phenomenal knack for delivering humor in various ways. Granted, it shouldn’t be that hard with the likes of Robert Downey Jr. floating around the set, but Whedon’s humor catapults the film to a new stratosphere. Whether it’s a sight gag revolving around the Hulk or Loki recanting for a drink when he’s beaten, Whedon spices up the action by eliciting genuine, universal laughter. As it stands, humor is the film’s greatest gift, while the action is the shiny, overpriced wrapping paper around it. For fan boys and casual moviegoers alike, The Avengers is the perfect summer film. It has spectacle, stars and the overall desire to please. Clearly, it hit its mark.