There are many things about myself I keep hidden from the outside world. My love of comic books, and their associated films and tv shows, is not one of those things. So, like any self respecting comic book nerd who can get by on weird sleep, I got to the theater at 10:30pm on May 3rd, tickets in one hand, overpriced soda (worth it for the collectable cup) in the other, and settled in among the costume clad masses to watch Marvel’s long anticipated The Avengers. From the reviews I’d been reading, the comments on social media ahead of the world premiere, and the 95% the film is pulling on Rotten Tomatoes, I was expecting no less than a no-holds-barred, star-studded, superhero action flick of epic, face melting proportions. What I got, was surprisingly satisfying.
So, after two and a half hours of sitting in a room full of fanboys and girls gasping, laughing, cheering, and generally enjoying the hell out of the movie they’d been waiting so long to see, we have come to the difficult part of the evening (morning? It’s 4am … whatever): trying to write an objective review as a fan of comic books, genre films, and, your god and mine, Joss Whedon. Here goes nothing …
I try to go into every Hollywood film not expecting too much, since that is usually what I get. I also make an effort to judge a movie for what it is, instead of attempting to compare it to others with much different goals. There is no sense comparing an action film to a straight drama. They simply don’t have the same goals. Now that I’ve qualified my approach to film reviews, I’ll be straight with you: The Avengers is probably the most successfully executed comic book movie since, well, ever. It may not be as gritty as Watchmen, or Christopher Nolan’s recent Batman reboot, and it may not stick to its source material as strictly as many fans may desire, but what it does is create a fast-paced, extremely enjoyable superhero action film, while not sacrificing plot or character development in favor of flashy effects, and mind-blowing explosions.
Possibly the most impressive feature of Joss Whedon’s screenplay is that he manages to balance no less than six superheroes, plus Nick Fury, Loki, and a smattering of featured background players, without making it feel bogged down by dialogue and exposition, and without using a single montage I might add. Characteristics of each main hero develop and change entirely as a means of pushing the story along. Dialogue is quick, witty, entertaining, and often intercut as voiceover so as to constantly give you information and insight into the story. Each and every character has quirks, issues, and baggage, and each develops in a manner that is both organic and relatable. In fact, even the extended battle scene allowed for character development, while playing to the high octane action for which the genre is famous. Whedon’s natural ability to give you just enough time to breathe during these intense periods is something that I’ve always admired.
One key thing that struck me, personally, is that it doesn’t try to be much more than an introduction to the greater world of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Avengers. It introduces you to the issues between the heroes, the positions they play within the team, and their inherent strengths and weaknesses, but does so by pitting them against an enemy that, as fans of the comic are well aware, is not their ultimate foe. Often, comic book franchises will use the most recognizable villains first in order to drum up interest, which forces future installments to use lesser villains, and suffer for it. By using Loki, instead of another, more formidable opponent, the film not only gives Thor a reason to return, and thus, join the Avengers Initiative, but it builds up anticipation for a greater, and more intense altercation in the inevitable sequel (which will, hopefully, be helmed by Whedon).
At the end of the night, Marvel’s The Avengers was well worth the wait, and is more than worth the price of admission. While it doesn’t push the boundaries of filmmaking, and probably won’t be winning any Oscars, it does give fans a satisfying look at what a comic book film should be, and, hopefully, what we can expect in the future.
Oh, and a little bit of advice: hang around until the credits are done rolling. You’ll want to see what “treats” they’ve left for us this time around.
Overall Rating: 9/10
As a Comic Book Movie: 10/10