Disney and Marvel took a $220 million gamble on Joss Whedon to helm their lone movie of 2012, The Avengers. After the devastating loss that the studio had with John Carter, it needs this to be a monstrous hit and it has already recouped its budget from overseas ticket sales alone but is it worth the hype?
Whedon is a gifted show runner, capable of managing an ensemble cast so that everyone gets their fair share of plot and character development. However, where Whedon’s talent truly shines in The Avengers is his ability to surround the extraordinary with the mundane to make it easier for the viewer to understand. Superheroes are not only faced with villains and the end of the world but a troublesome younger brother, having to become a team player at work and not understanding what the young people are talking about. It’s the little things that connect us with them as people even more, like the Black Widow (Scarlet Johansson) rolling her eyes or Loki’s gleeful smile when people are shrieking in chaos around him.
In theory, the Avengers are six heroes with their own larger than life stories that have to put aside their own egos for a common cause. This doesn’t always run so smoothly to our enjoyment. When they aren’t fighting among one another, they also have their doubts about Shield and Director Nick Fury’s true intentions. The only person the six trust or have even have the smallest ounce of respect for is Shield Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg). Coulson pulls double-duty as both character and a representative of the audience. His idol since he was small boy has always been Captain America (Chris Evans) and he’s very proud of his set of mint trading cards, including asking the captain to sign them. Who wouldn’t ask for an autograph if given that chance or become tongue-tied in the presence of a hero? Coulson also cares deeply for the men under him whether it’s making sure Thor’s girlfriend is safe, the quaver in his voice at an agent being compromised or choosing the safety of soldiers over the mission. In a movie full of big names, Gregg is memorable well after the closing credits start.
A movie could excel or fail on the strength of its villain. As with the original premiere issue of The Avengers back in 1963, Loki (Tom Hiddleston) has come to Earth to cause trouble. Unlike some of the more obvious villains like Red Skull or Iron Monger, Loki is more complicated which makes for a more interesting villain. He’s desperate to have somewhere to belong where he feels respected and loved after finding out everything he thought he knew was a lie. In his current state, he seems to feel the easiest, best way of getting that would be to make everyone on Earth respect him through fear. The best scenes are when his brother Thor (Chris Hemsworth) confronts Loki. The conflict in Loki’s mind is evident by how close he comes to joining his brother and then, his pride and hurt prevents from actually doing so. Hiddleston is also allowed to show more comedic range here than in the previous film, Thor.
There have been complaints about the middle being slow and heavy with dialogue. It’s not necessary to have seen the previous films in order to understand what’s going because everything is explained. Even canon questions about the validity of deleted scenes are answered for the fans as well as other queries, like who would win in a fight between the Hulk and Thor?
The Avengers was filmed with both digital cameras and 35 mm film that was converted into 3D. This leads to a lack of uniformity among theatres. Some showings will have a greater 3D effect than others will. Still, when the 3D is properly aligned, it feels like you should be able to just reach up and touch Thor or whoever is jumping off the screen.
With snappy dialogue, superb direction, excellent casting and little details that might not even be fully appreciated until the second or third viewing, Whedon has set a high bar for all future Marvel films especially Avengers 2. It’s not to be missed.