By hiring Joss Whedon to write and direct The Avengers, already out of the gate Marvel Studios was a leg up on the challenge of bringing their superhero stable to life.
Upon viewing, the film clearly takes up after Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Thor and Captain America and seems to have completely forgotten the two Hulk movies. Yet, would you believe that The Avengers is the Hulk movie we’ve been waiting for? In fact, the big green guy steals the movie. Mark Ruffalo could not have been a better choice to play Bruce Banner/the Hulk, and given his six picture deal with Marvel, we hope there’s a Hulk movie in there somewhere.
The film starts with Thor villain Loki (Tom Hiddleston) working out the details of utilizing the Chitauri alien army for his planned invasion of Earth. Meanwhile, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) is leading S.H.I.E.L.D., a top secret government facility where they try to keep the world at peace. We met the Jackson character in the Iron Man series and his role in the Avengers comic book series is enormous. He is the man who hopes to assemble the Avengers.
They have the space cube, the Tesseract, that was most recently seen crashing with Captain America (Chris Evans) into the ocean. It seems it has been recovered with Cap and scientists at S.H.I.E.L.D. are working hard at unlocking its powers. What they don’t realize is that the mysterious item is also a doorway that allows Loki to enter from his outer space perch. Landing at Fury’s front door, Loki immediately puts Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Dr. Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard) under his spell and sweeps away before the entire facility is destroyed.
Whedon then introduces his superheroes one at a time, with the first being Black Widow. The team is assembled, but it is far from easy. In fact, for those who like to see their superheroes battle, buckle up! Thor takes on Iron Man, and then Captain America, before they all find a way to get along and save the world.
The film cooks. And in classic Whedon fashion, there is a level of humor that is astounding. What else is classic Whedon is how he can take an enormous ensemble, where all the players need their time in the spotlight for plot purposes (as he did in Firefly), and make it work. It would have been easy to give Robert Downey Jr. and his Iron Man the highlight treatment, but he, like all the superheroes, is merely a player in this fantasy that must taste like manna for Marvel fans.
We dare say that all the actors achieve a level of awesomeness far beyond what they showcased in their individual movies. Perhaps it’s the theme of the film that permeated the set: All for one and one for all. Maybe it’s the magic of Whedon. Whatever it is, The Avengers is not only a superhero movie for the ages, it is a pretty fantastic stand-alone film, regardless of the genre.
If there is a standout actor, it is Hiddleston. He finds new depths of simultaneous evil and charm that are a gift to watch. Now, should we need to anoint one of the superheroes the title of MVP, it is the Hulk. Where previous films have failed to capture the true essence of the green beast, The Avengers manages to get it right in ways that had us dizzy with joy.
The final 40 minutes of the movie could have felt like a Michael Bay Transformers movie. But with Whedon at the helm, the final battle that finds our heroes finally joining forces is unlike anything we’ve ever seen of this scale and is a triumph of spectacle.
If there is any drawback to The Avengers experience, it is that we now have to wait years for The Avengers 2.