Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Avengers

I have been waiting four years for this. Marvel Studios announced the Avengers movie the Monday after the first Iron Man came out in 2008. Heck, they announced it even earlier by putting Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury at the end of the credits. Now four years later, having seen The Avengers, I can't believe they not only pulled it off, but knocked it out of the park.

Admittedly, I'm a lifelong comic book reader, so I don't know how that colors my opinions. I'm also a part of the cult of the movie's writer/director, Joss Whedon, whose career I've been following since the first episode of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV show aired when I was in 9th grade. The Avengers was pretty much made for me.

But Marvel and Whedon didn't just target the nerds with The Avengers. They crafted a giant event film for the largest audience possible. An event film that truly feels like an event. Not since the Universal monsters started meeting Abbott and Costello has a studio so successfully combined characters from four separate movie franchises into one movie.

For those of you that live in a cave, The Avengers is the story of Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, and The Hulk all team up to defeat a world-threatening evil. Rounding the team out are superspy Black Widow, crackshot archer Hawkeye, and Nick Fury, the morally ambiguous director of SHIELD, a global peacekeeping organization.

The Avengers are not well known for how well they get along. These guys have big egos, and wildly clashing personalities. Part of the fun in the first half is watching the good guys duke it out with each other, in basically the most epic pissing contest in cinema history, before things start going crazy in the second half and they have bigger fish to fry.

The second half is where The Avengers really takes off. It's a slow build, but once the last 45 minutes come along and the heroes battle an alien army, ravaging New York City in the process, the movie provides one huge crowd pleasing moment after another. I think just about every thing you ever wanted to see done with these characters is done.

Joss Whedon is a lifelong fan, too, and he understands what we, the viewers want to see, and he delivers it with wild abandon. The characters are imbued with all the complexity and humanity that made them endure in the first place. Downey Jr. shines as always as Tony Stark/Iron Man, and the Chrises Evans and Hemsworth bring it with Captain America and Thor. Scarlett Johannson gets a whole lot more to do this time around as Black Widow, the spy with Red in her past. But the characters who stole the show for me were Mark Ruffalo's Bruce Banner/The Hulk, finally done right in a movie, and Tom Hiddleston's Loki, the perpetually monologuing, pompous Norse God of lies and mischief.

Also, did I mention the movie is extremely funny? The dialogue is endlessly witty, and there are several big comedy moments throughout. The audience laughed more at The Avengers than a lot of comedies I've seen.

I could go on and on and on about The Avengers, but I feel like I would be in danger of falling into one of those "and the part where this happened... and then the part where THIS happened..." situations, where I just list everything. I loved it. And I don't think you need to know the comic books to love it too. The Avengers is a real-deal phenomenon.

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