‘The Avengers’ Won My Heart…and a Place in Superhero Movie History

The time has finally come…for The Avengers to rule the box office! Does it deserve such glory?  In one word: YES.  In two: HELL YES.

Quick Take Review: The Avengers is a funny and exciting film, made by people who clearly know what they’re doing.  Joss Whedon did an amazing job with this film, and he really used all the characters/actors at their bests.  It wasn’t all about the action, or all about S.H.I.E.D., or all fun and games, it was about this group of extraordinary people learning how to work together.

Long Take Review:

I admit, I had high expectations.  Ever since it was announced that the film would be directed by (and written by) Joss Whedon (the great man who brought us Firefly, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Dollhouse, and the epic Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog), I have been dying to see The Avengers.  I decided early on that it would be the king of superhero films, and I wasn’t even a little bit disappointed.  The film gave me everything I wanted, and more (stay past the epilogue and the credits if you want to see something truly special).

My number one concern for the film was that it wouldn’t have the time or ability to give all of its ‘avengers’ interesting things to do.  There is only so much time in a film, and there are more than enough stars to fill it.  Would Samuel L. Jackson take precious screen time away from Robert Downey Jr.?  Would Scarlett Johansson manage to make Black Widow interesting in any way?  Turns out, Joss Whedon is such a master, he managed to build a complete story that gave each of the characters their own journeys AND make me actually start to like Black Widow (or, at least, stop disliking her)!

The story begins with Loki, played by Tom Hiddleston, declaring his desire to become the ruler of Earth and its inhabitants.  Those of us who saw Thor and sat through the credits, we knew that Loki had been preparing to infiltrate S.H.I.E.L.D. to help him on his quest for vengeance on his brother, Thor.  When Loki manages to infiltrate S.H.I.E.L.D., Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and his trusty right hand man, ‘first name’ Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg), started on their mission to unite the most powerful heroes to create a force that could stop Loki and his army.  So, if you ever wondered what it would take to get Thor, Iron Man, The Hulk, Captain America, Black Widow, and Hawkeye in a room together, there’s your answer.

The genius of the film is that it takes it time when it needs to, allowing for the awkward pauses and awkward first encounters.  It only makes sense that when you bring a few mad scientists, a god, a guy with epic vision and aim, a girl spy, and a man from another time, there is going to be an adjustment period.  It was really fun to see all the characters learn to work together and interact with each other.  The stand off between Thor, Iron Man, and Captain America wasn’t bad either.

Tony Stark/Iron Man (played brilliantly once again by Robert Downey Jr.) built an instant friendship with Bruce Banner/The Hulk (played by Mark Ruffalo), and an instant rivalry with Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans).  As a Chris Evans fan (since The Perfect Score, thank you very much), it was really exciting to watch him go toe to toe with Robert Downey Jr.  I have always maintained that Captain America is the most interesting superhero in The Avengers because of his past as a brand, a government puppet, if you will.  Steve Rogers didn’t become a hero when he became Captain America, and I find that very interesting.  So, it was great to see more of him, especially seeing him find his place next to a ‘self-made’ hero, like Stark.

The MVP of the group, though, was The Hulk. Bringing Mark Ruffalo in to play the role of Bruce Banner completely caught me by surprise.  It’s such a departure from his previous roles, I just hoped that the part was worthy of his abilities as an actor.  I have seen the most recent ‘Hulk’ films: Hulk (2003) staring Eric Bana and The Incredible Hulk (2008) staring Edward Norton, and I believe that it was a good decision to cast someone else in the role.  It gave the film a chance to leave those other films behind and start from scratch with Bruce Banner.   Mark Ruffalo played the character, not as a bitter man, but as a quiet, thoughtful one.  Along with the writing, his performance allowed for Bruce Banner to be more than The Hulk, and there was always the feeling that this was a curse, not a blessing, without it being hammered (no pun intended) into the film. In the story, Bruce Banner is not brought on to the team because of ‘the other guy’, but because of his brilliant mind and experience with Gamma Rays.  This was a brilliant decision, as it made the payoff of him finally turning into The Hulk that much better.  (The audience gasped, we could barely contain ourselves.)  The elation felt at that moment was only exceeded when the whole team finally united in the final battle.

As for the others,  I’m happy that this film gave Chris Hemsworth a chance to really show what he could do.  The best scenes in Thor were the ones between Thor and his lady-love, Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) because they were emotional, relate-able scenes.  In The Avengers, Hemsworth had a lot of emotional scenes to do, as he was facing off against his own brother, the ‘bad guy’, Loki.

This film also gave us a better introduction to some [new] characters: Black Widow, Hawkeye, and Agent Maria Hill.  Played by How I Met Your Mother star, Cobie Smulders, Agent Maria Hill seemed to be of more importance to the issue of gender equality in the film than the actual plot itself.  Still, she kicked serious ass, and got to participate in a pretty awesome chase scene, all while fully clothed, so, I’m a fan.  As for the other woman, I was not a fan of Scarlett Johansson’s introduction to the franchise in Iron Man 2.  She seemed to serve one purpose: to look hot in her Black Widow outfit.  But in this film, she suddenly became a real person.  Black Widow/Natasha hints at a very troubled and tortured past,  while also proving herself a vital part of the team with her ability to get bad guys ‘monologuing’, revealing important information.

Jeremy Renner fared a bit better with his cameo as Hawkeye in Thor, but still, I was apprehensive. In the end, I was actually very interested in them, and the movie made me especially curious about what their past is, together.  There has been a lot of talk about giving them their own films, but I hope they consider combining them.  I’m not sure how interested I would be in a Black Widow movie, but I would definitely buy a ticket to see Black Widow and Hawkeye.  Sadly, Jeremy Renner didn’t have too much to do in the film, but, what he did do gave me a bit more confidence in the Bourne Identity reboot he’s staring in this August, The Bourne Legacy.

The cherry on top was definitely the group’s antagonistic interactions.  Tony Stark was always there with a quick jab (sometimes literally), but the others fought back.  And, seeing how all the heroes interacted with the threat of The Hulk was really interesting: they were all slightly afraid, but also knew that they needed him.  And the rivalry between Mr. Stark and Steve Rogers was excellent, and it made sense in the story.  Sometimes, in these types of films, you can tell that there are specific plot points that the writers wanted to push, even if they don’t quite work with the film.  Tension within the group was definitely one of these necessary plot points, and Joss Whedon managed to make it completely natural within the world of the film.

And so I would like to end this review by praising Joss Whedon.  Not only did he write an amazing script, he also knew when to branch out from the traditional ‘super hero’ movie structure and style (the classical music scene, anybody??).

Whedon’s direction made this film exciting, thrilling, dramatic, and funny.  Moments of humor were peppered in throughout the film, with some of the biggest laughs earned during the big final battle (and not from dumb ‘take that’ dialogue).

To anybody that is interested, I implore you to go out and see The Avengers.  You don’t even have to go this weekend–this movie’s probably going to be in theaters for a while.  Even if you’re not that into super-heroes, I would definitely say that this film is worth your time.

Did you see The Avengers?? What are your thoughts?  Who’s your favorite hero of the group?  Oh, and, did you stay past the end of the credits?

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