Archives: MARVEL’S THE AVENGERS (2012) Review

  • Avengers
(Original version published on comicbookmovie.com, 05/03/16.)


With solo outings for Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, and Captain America, Marvel Studios spent four years and five films gingerly crafting it’s cinematic universe, the intention being to eventually bring together all these heroes for the ultimate, super-powered team-up venture.  But a disparity of tones between films about a genius playboy inventor in a robot suit, a mild-mannered scientist turned giant green monster, a 1940s super soldier, recently thawed after spending 70 years encased in ice, and the Norse god of thunder himself certainly made an ensemble film seem unworkable.  However, as history shows, writer/director Joss Whedon put all the nay-sayers to shame by delivering one of the best on screen displays of super heroism in the history of the genre.
 
Having five solo movies worth of setup, Whedon is able to jump into the story with a fast-paced opening that immediately sets up the plot and the piece’s lead villain, Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, making his return to the screen after a stellar turn in 2011’s Thor.  It’s nearly impossible to say enough positive things about Hiddleston’s deliciously evil take on the character.  The performance combined with Whedon’s dialogue makes Loki one of the greatest comic book movie villains to grace the screen.  I’d dare say Hiddleston’s Loki ranks only behind Ledger’s Joker as the greatest.
 
The rest of the main cast, almost all reprising their roles from previous MCU installments, are top notch as well, but one new comer really steals the show:  Mark Ruffalo replacing Edward Norton as Dr. Bruce Banner. Though I was a huge fan of Norton’s take on the character, Ruffalo brings an oddly pitch-perfect combination of quiet, quirky, geeky, awkward, and tortured that makes Bruce one of the most likable and empathetic characters in the film.  Though Bruce is only half of the film’s Jekyll/Hyde character, he isn’t the only half to shine, as the not-so-jolly green giant is finally given the screen treatment he deserves in both character and visual representation.  The digital Hulk (whose face is finally, appropriately based on the actual actor playing his alter ego) looks phenomenal, as do the rest of the effects, which are plentiful.
 
But, though effects-driven action abounds, not an ounce of character development and interaction is sacrificed.  Every character gets its own arc, due screen time, and chance to shine, and each character is allowed to interact with every other, giving the audience the feeling of real relationships being formed in a real world.  Even secondary characters like Cobie Smolders’s Maria Hill and the lovable Clark Gregg’s Agent Coulson have important roles and never feel shoehorned or superfluous.
 
This balancing act must be credited most to Whedon, who cut his teeth on sci-fi/fantasy ensemble pieces, developing the pop smash Buffy the Vampire Slayer and cult classic Firefly television series.  Whedon juggles each character and subplot marvelously, keeping the story grounded and the humor realistically funny and sometimes subversive of genre tropes.
 
If I have to lay one criticism, it’s on the climactic battle, which to me, feels a bit too long.  Yes, we need to see that the whole world is at stake from the threat of invasion by aliens who are pretty powerful and not easy to stop, but at some point, the action begins to feel overblown and gratuitous.
 
Finally, after the dust settles and the credits begin to role, we’re treated to the best fan service credit stinger since Nick Fury popped up at the end of the first Iron Man:  a glimpse of the visage of the Mad Titan himself.
 
Thanks to Mr. Whedon and company, the film is a beautiful spectacle of the highest caliber, and I would say very few of its peers had ever reached these lofty heights before, and, dare I say, none have since. 
 
Packed with action, humor, perfectly balanced character interaction, stellar performances, and a villain for the ages, Marvel’s The Avengers stands as one of the greatest comic book superhero films of all time.