Well, they’ve done it. Marvel has gone and created the superhero comic book movie that shouldn’t have worked but totally does. Marvel’s The Avengers would probably just look silly on paper to Joe Average. A World War II super soldier, a guy in a robot suit, a Norse god, a big green monster, an archer, and a Russian spy get together in a giant flying aircraft carrier to keep another Norse god and a bunch of aliens from using a glowing box to take over Earth. But with the steps Marvel has taken over the past half decade, it totally works on screen.
Up until this point, the Marvel movies have been careful to keep one foot grounded in reality while stretching the limits of viewers’ suspension of disbelief. Science found a way to use steroids to bulk up a man to peak human potential and sent him out to fight Nazis? Ok, why not. An arms dealer is captured by terrorists and forced to build a weapon for them, but he builds a suit of armor to escape? Sure, plausible, there are some amazing prosthetics out there. By giving the public a little bit of realism with its science fiction, Marvel has made their universe believable, if only just on the edge of imagination.
Without those previous entries of Iron Man, Incredible Hulk, Thor, and Captain America, The Avengers would have been a comic book movie that only fanboys and fangirls would flock to. The plot is outrageous, the science is preposterous, and the characters impossible. But in this case, the whole is so much greater than the sum of its parts. Now, when a giant flying armored dragon flies out of a whole in space and begins tearing upManhattan, the audience gets a sense of urgency, watching the destruction inNew York, and roots on the larger-than-life heroes, instead of just sitting in the theater, arms crossed, eye rolling, thinking “Faaaaake!”
But even for those who have never seen any of the previous Marvel movies, there is a lot of fun to be had with The Avengers, due in no small part to Joss Whedon’s writing and direction. Whedon is known for creating characters (Buffy, Angel, Captain Mal, even Dr. Horrible) that are usually more powerful and ultimately cooler than the rest of us but are oddly relatable due to their flaws. That’s the essence of a Marvel comic book character and why Whedon was the perfect choice to take the reigns.
The conversations between the heroes feel, but certainly not ‘sound’, like those that regular people meeting for the first time might have. The initial caution about opening up too much at first, the bickering due to clash of egos once the truths are revealed, the reluctant team-up putting differences aside. The dialog is fresh and funny throughout it all. Humor is sprinkled liberally throughout the movie as anyone familiar with Whedon would expect. Several times in the theater, people were laughing so much, they’d miss the next line. (More incentive to see it again? Clever trick, Joss!) But the humor doesn’t come at the expense of the action or drama; the balance of emotion is perfect. And the action on-screen is easy to watch and follow, unlike other summer blockbusters of the past (*cough*Transformers*cough*).
Still, as enjoyable as The Avengers could be as a stand alone movie, it really should be the capper of a marathon viewing of the other Marvel films (as many people across the world undertook). There are a couple of things here and there that might not fit continuity 100% between the films, but, hey, welcome to comics. Marvel did try to clean up a little with the short “The Consultant” found on the Thor Blu-ray, but it’s not necessary to have watched it.
The Avengers will be the summer movie against which other summer movies will be compared for years to come. At least until The Avengers 2 comes out. Speaking of which, do not leave when the credits start rolling. As always, there is a scene during the end credits; that is no surprise. What is a shocker was what was revealed as the teaser of things to come. The reference won’t be obvious to non-comic fans, or maybe even comic readers who aren’t necessarily “Marvel Zombies”, but it has been hinted at in a previous movie, and, trust us, it promises to be HUGE! We cannot wait to see where the next slate of Marvel movies takes us.