For a few years the superhero movies have burned me out. With the re-re-imagining of Spiderman coming out, a re-imagining of X-Men last year and the finale to a very well done Batman re-imagining trilogy, I haven’t payed much attention to the Iron Man, Thor, Green Lantern films lately.
The trailer for The Avengers did spark my interest so after hearing some good reviews I decided to check it out.
Boy, am I glad I did.
For non-comic book fans, The Avengers are a team of superheroes, much like X-Men and Justice League, that combat a greater evil than any one of them could withstand alone. It is based on the Marvel Comic series of the same name.
The film version features Iron Man, The Hulk, Thor, Hawkeye, Black Widow and Captain America. Stars of previous Marvel Comics films such as Robert Downey, Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Chris Hemsworth (Thor) and Chris Evans (Captain America) reprise their roles from those films in the first Avengers story. You almost get the feeling that all those films (some of them bad ie. Thor and others not as successful ie. Captain America) were just appetizers for this, the main course.
The story is a amped up version of the original Avengers comic with the core theme of Loki (Thor’s half brother) seeking revenge. The film version amps it up to a plot for Loki to take over the Earth, leading an invasion of alien creatures in the service of beings superior to him (watch after the ending credits btw!).
Nick Fury, played by Samuel L. Jackson, immediately seeks out the “Avengers protocol” which was an idea to gather several extraordinary people into a team to combat foes when the world needs it.
The team comes together, has several internal squabbles, but ultimately come together to defend the planet against Loki and his alien army.
The very first thing that sets this film apart is the action sequences, which feel fresh and are in service to the story – as well as the comedy. There are plenty of funny one-liners and set-ups which will make you genuinely laugh. Downey is particularly funny and there is a unique chemistry with him and Evans‘ Capt. America which feels unique.
Social commentary is heavy through this and after my last review of another Joss Whedon film – The Cabin In The Woods – it was refreshing to see a more optimistic, positive message in this story. Themes of selfishness vs. a greater cause, love, the greater good, hidden agendas and more add texture to the storytelling. Captain America even questions wearing the old “stars and stripes” because it might seem old fashion. He is encouraged to wear it because people might need a little old fashioned for what’s coming to the world. I did note a slight pro-Americana moment there, which is rare in a film industry which took “the American way” out of Superman’s lexicon some years past.
Some of the best scenes come halfway through the film as the Avengers start to bicker amongst each other about motives and how valid each of their powers are. Iron Man is nothing without his suit, Capt. America got all his powers from a bottle, Fury is a manipulator, Banner is hiding his true self, Thor is out-of-touch and so on make up an entertaining argument that distracts our heroes from the incoming attack of Loki and his forces.
Tom Hiddleston (Loki) must be given special mention here for the scene with Black Widow (the nod to Silence of the Lambs is duly noted). In the scene, the subtle game of verbal and mental chess between him and Black Widow is expertly done. The verbal tirade where he says some of the most vicious things you could imagine in such a commanding way makes him one of the best villains I’ve seen in a while.
This is of course a popcorn movie. For what it is, it’s excellent. Enjoy the special effects, enjoy the witty humor, enjoy the sheer fun of watching a well made comic book film with good actors and well-paced writing. It’s currently ranked as the 3rd highest grossing opening weekend film (after two Harry Potter films) so look for a sequel to come in the next few years.
I’m going to have to go back and watch the two Iron Man movies I avoided, and possibly watch Thor 2 … possibly.
5 out of 5 stars.