The Avengers. It’s the movie that’s been in the making since who-knows-when, but got kick-started in 2008 thanks to Iron Man. It’s asked more out of movie viewers than before, asking them to see 5 mainly-unrelated movies beforehand to get the full experience. And all the preparations could’ve been for naught had the final product stumbled. It doesn’t. Not for a moment.
It’s well-paced. Even with having to introduce several new characters (Maria Hill and Hawkeye/Clint Barton in particular, although the latter got a cameo in Thor) to the already sizable cast of heroes, the movie doesn’t drag. It comes out of the gate running. The heroes get introduced back one by one, giving the audience who may have missed the origin movies a nice taste of what the heroes are like without feeling like “Previously in the Marvel Universe”. And the pacing is particular incredible in that there’s only a handful of action scenes. It helps that these are big, long action scenes with plenty of “Holy crap!” moments. But the movie does slow down to look at these heroes along the way.
With Joss Whedon’s script (along with his direction), though, these moments shine just as much as the action. The heroes are at each other’s throats for most of the time, without feeling like the whole movie is a bunch of heroes fighting on each other. It has plenty of comedic moments without getting groan-worthy (I hate fish out of water stuff, and even though the opportunity was there for the still-recently-unfrozen Captain America, the few moments they have of it are actually cleverly done). It flows. It doesn’t feel like we’ve suddenly set aside the action for plot, we’re just getting a different degree of the movie.
The action scenes themselves are phenomenal. Again, it doesn’t forget to be witty along the way. But it throws together special effects and big battles. Each one clearly stands out. The location, the contenders, the big moves that are done. Everybody gets their own awesome moments. Even Black Widow, who almost feels out of place as the pure normal of the group, but then does something that reminds you of why she’s there. She’s not just “the chick”, she’s as much the big kickass action hero that everybody else in the group is. Another stand-out is Hulk, who’s definitely been perfected in terms of CGI, mannerisms, and just general feel of him. And they manage to give his feeling of power right. At one point, he tries to pick up Thor’s hammer and fails, and even though I know it’s a CGI “monster” trying to pick up a prop hammer, I felt like it was a powerful being completely confused about why this simple thing was so heavy. I also particularly love his gorilla-like stance and grunting that he does at times. I don’t remember this being done in Incredible Hulk (although I could just be forgetting), but it just works so well for the character.
Even though the acting isn’t necessarily the standout here, the performances work for the characters. Mark Ruffalo, coming on for the first time as Bruce Banner, simply takes over the character from the instant he steps on screen. He has the look, the mannerisms, the way of speaking that you’d expect of an intelligent scientist living under the constant fear that he’ll suddenly lash out and destroy everybody around him. Robert Downey Jr. has pretty much been Tony Stark since the day he was cast (and possibly before then), and he’s not slacking here. Chris Hemsworth continues to prove himself as the next action superstar. Even my less-than-great feelings towards Cap’s own movie have been turned around. It seems like Chris Evans has gotten into the character more and feels more like the Cap I know and love. Even when he’s being an absolute cheeseball at times, well, he’s Captain America. He gets away with it.
Apparently, Whedon was inspired by the silver age Avengers stories. It shows, in a good way. In the older comics, there was a lot of talking with only quick bouts of action. Of course, instead of cheesy silver age dialogue, we get Whedon’s intelligent script-writing. There’s also the basic concept of what happens. No matter how big the threat, no matter how much in-fighting goes on, ultimately the heroes come out on top. A lot of recent comics tend to be inspired by silver age in the lightness of the stories, but blur the line with gore and darker themes. This movie succeeds where those failed, feeling wholly fun. It lives to be entertaining, and it succeeds all the way.
If you’re looking for THE superhero movie, this is it. If you’re looking to see Whedon at his best in terms of writing and directing, this is it. If you’re looking for the movie that will probably redefine the summer blockbuster for years to come, this is it. I could go back and watch it again. I probably will go back and watch it again.