In lieu of all the dark and grim movies this summer season seems to be offering, it’s nice to see a movie that embraces escapism like “The Avengers.”
The film dives into the weird and the mystical right away with no qualms about alienating the audience. But then again, with a built-in fanbase like “The Avengers,” they have nothing to worry abut.
“The Avengers,” directed by Joss Whedon (“Serenity”) is Marvel’s biggest endeavor yet, throwing together all of Marvel’s biggest stars together in one flashy blockbuster. The star-studded list includes Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr., “Tropic Thunder), Thor (Chris Hemsworth, “Thor”), Captain America (Chris Evans, “The Losers”), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson, “We Bought a Zoo”), the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo, “The Kids Are All Right”) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner, “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol”).
Needless to say, there are a lot of characters, not to mention strong personalities, to keep in harmony in one film.
However, as director and co-screenwriter, Whedon does a tremendous job. The dialogue is snappy, the banter is witty, and each character gets their moment to shine in the sun. Yes, even Hawkeye.
The film’s plot itself is pretty simple, with the government agency S.H.I.E.L.D losing a precious item, the Cosmic Cube, to this movie’s Big Bad, Loki (Tom Hiddleston, “War Horse”). As a great source of energy, this Cube has the ability to make or break the world, as per usual for a deus ex machina device. Director of S.H.I.E.L.D Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson, “The Other Guys”), in a desperate attempt to gain back the Cube, calls on this world’s only superheroes. The only thing is, they all hate each other.
Whedon does an excellent job of weaving together the intricacies of having such dynamic characters meet and interact. Each character gets their own hero shot along with a grand entrance, building anticipation for all the fans in the audience. However, by making them all interact in a very hostile way, Whedon builds the way for character development and team struggles, a conflict that he has crafted so well before with television series like “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Firefly.” However, Whedon is not only a master weaving together a team, but a master of dialogue.
The dialogue is probably the strongest part of “The Avengers.” The lines are fast, funny and full of exposition, allowing way more rooms for laughs than one would initially expect. Downey Jr. excels in Whedon’s trademark snark, rattling off punch line after punch line. As Black Widow, Johansson gets to break free from the stiff characterization of her character in “Iron Man 2,” reveling in her witty and comic lines. The film even pokes fun at its own characters, making it quite a meta and pop culture-saturated film, something Whedon is well-known for.
The high-energy dialogue supports the nonstop action of the film, which is perhaps one of its low points. Though “The Avengers” is a blockbuster and a superhero film with certain expectations, it often felt like the movie was composed of action sequence after action sequence, punctuated by a few select moments of exposition. While the action scenes were magnificently flashy and they flow very smoothly, it caused the plot of the film to move along rather slowly.
However, this being a Whedon film, it’s not so much the plot that matters as the characters. Despite most of the film being a snarkfest between the main characters, the stars clearly had a lot of chemistry with each other, and you found yourself rooting for them to work together. Even the supporting characters played their part, such as the lovably deadpan Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg, “Mr. Popper’s Penguins”), who acted as a sort of emotional link between all the characters’ films. Of course, since Whedon is behind the helm, one of these characters to whom you’ve grown so attached has to die so that Whedon can rip out your heart and stomp on it on the ground.
Despite the jumble of elements that hold together this film, it works. “The Avengers” could have easily slipped into dangerous Michael Bay territory with its wealth of aliens and science fiction, but it was grounded by the dynamic characters and masterful dialogue. It’s not a perfect movie, but it is a great superhero movie.