The 21st century has ushered in a golden era for superhero movies, thanks in large part to advances in computer graphics technology (CGI) which made such movies possible. The ‘X-Men’ and ‘Spiderman’ trilogies paved the way, to be followed by ‘Batman’ and others too numerous to mention. Nary a summer would go by without Hollywood shoving at least 2 or 3 superhero movies down our throats, to the point that many bemoaned that they suffered from ‘superhero fatigue.’ Then along came ‘The Avengers,’ directed by uber-geek director Joss Whedon, or ‘The Mighty Avengers’ to you comic purists.
Like the uncanny X-Men, the mighty Avengers is a team of super-powered individuals created by the legendary Stan Lee, founder of Marvel Comics (make mine Marvel!). The challenge in making a superhero ensemble movie like ’The Avengers’ is that you lose focus on any one superhero because you have to give every member of the team his or her due. The X-Men worked largely because of the charisma of its central characters, Charles Xavier and Logan (aka Wolverine), which provided the anchor point for the other characters. By contrast, it didn’t work so well for ‘The Fantastic Four.‘ With a roster full of egos like Iron Man, Captain America, Thor and Hulk, how is Joss ever going to make this work?
As it turned out, our worries are unfounded because Joss proved to be the perfect director for a movie like this. As he had shown us before with ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘ and ‘Firefly,’ he has a particular knack for dealing with group social dynamics. He orchestrated the interpersonal conflicts among The Avengers like a true maestro, be it the world-weary cynicism of Iron Man versus the patriotic idealism of Captain America or the testosterone-charged, ‘king of the jungle’ pissing contest between the Son of Odin and the not-so-jolly green giant. Nick Fury (played be Samuel L. Jackson) was the Xavier of this movie, tasked with the seemingly impossible job of knitting this group of disparate and egotistical heroes into a unified and well-honed fighting force to repel the evil machinations of the scheming Loki, who struck a deal with a nefarious alien race known as the Chitauri to invade earth and subjugate mankind.
‘The Avengers’ puts the capital E in epic superhero movies, brimming with super-powered action and superhero kickassery. Even at two and a half hours there’s never a dull moment, for when our heroes are not fighting Loki or his evil alien army (or among themselves), Joss Whedon sprinkles the movie with the witty quips and one-liners he’s so well known for. You can’t help but smile when in one memorable scene Thor tried to reason with his adoptive brother Loki, and Tony Stark swoops in on their little chat with: “Shakespeare in the park?”
And what’s a Joss Whedon movie without a few femme fatales for the geeks who can’t get a date? Scarlett Johansson was great reprising her role as the ‘Black Widow’ from Iron Man 2, but it was ‘How I Met Your Mother’ alum Colbie Smulders (and yes, her beauty does smolder) who IMO stole the few scenes she was in as S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Maria Hill, most notably the opener where she went after Loki making off with the Tesseract.
With such panache and oodles of flair, including an oh-so-cool flying aircraft carrier, The Avengers truly set a new standard in the superhero genre. The extended, chaotic battle royale in New York City in which our intrepid heroes fought off legions of invading Chitauri (not to mention the ineptitude of our own politicians) is alone worth the price of admission. This movie is not to be missed.
10 out of 10 (Joss goes 2 for 2!)