So this was it. The movie for which we all had to endure a slew of superheroes ranging from the almost painfully hokey (Captain America) to the critically panned (The Hulk movies, which I confess I haven’t seen). Why did someone as obscure as Thor get his own movie? Why were Samuel L. Jackson and Black Widow awkwardly shoehorned into the last Iron Man movie? All for one reason–so that this mega cash cow of a movie could be made.
Was it all worth it? That depends on how much you’re willing to overlook the Avengers’ glaring faults and enjoy it for what it is–a fun action-comedy romp.
The Avengers has two main things going for it. Action and comedy. The fight scenes are exciting, inventive, and well-choreographed. There’s something to be said for a team of vibrant acton heroes joining together, Expendables-style to take down an army of baddies.
As for the comedy, well, it’s almost inevitable that, with a good writer, there are going to be quite a few laughs when you put such a mismatched group of colorful characters together. You’ve got the arrogant, quip-tossing Iron Man, who makes a perfect foil to the overly serious Captain America, Thor, and the villainous Loki. You have the dry wit of Black Widow and Nick Fury. Then there’s the stark (get it, it was an Iron Man pun) contrast between the hip genius Tony Stark and the duo of Thor and Captain America, people so out of place in 21st Century America that it hurts.
If there’s one thing Joss Whedon has always been good at, it’s the zinging one-liner. So on a dialogue level, the Avengers’ script is quite successful.
On a story level, it’s a garbled mess that’s pretty much unintelligible to anyone who hasn’t seen Thor and CAptain America, at the very least. Apparently there’s some cube that does…something about portals? And some aliens want to use it to invade earth. And Thor’s brother is helping them because he’s jealous or something? This movie will never tell you such basic things as who these aliens are, why they want to attack earth, how Loki (Thor’s brother) just appeared out of nowhere at the beginning of the movie, why he has a staff that enables him to control people’s minds. Maybe it was all explained in Thor (except the alien parts, which are just bad writing), but I’ll be damned if I have to sit through every crappy Marvel superhero franchise of the last decade just so I can enjoy one two-hour-long movie.
The writers of this movie really should have chosen some new super-villain, not one from a previous movie. They should have come up with a simpler plot, one that didn’t involve a magic cube whose powers are never properly explained. As for the main villain, Loki–to be honest, he’s a bit of a letdown. The only fun he brings to the movies is when the good guys manage to shut down his long-winded cliched speeches by shooting him or punching him in the face.
The Avengers suffers from too many secondary characters stuffed in from previous movies who get no character development. There’s too much technical mumbo-gumble about gamma rays. There is only the mildest sense of peril, since it is only right before the climax that it becomes apparent what is at stake. The gaping plot holes (if what this movie has can really be justly called a plot) can’t be made up for with beautiful fight choreography and top-notch special effects.
The real problem with this movie is that there’s no real effort to make it a great stand-alone film. It’s not like the Dark Knight. It’s not even like the first Iron Man. It’s a film whose purpose is unapologetically to make money. Its story is merely an excuse to bring these well-known characters together for a few stylish action sequences. The Avengers is commercialism, not art. With all the complex superheroes on display here, you can’t help feeling that it could have been something more, especially in the hands of Joss Whedon.
It’s a fun romp. It’ll make you laugh, and it’ll give you a healthy dose of high-quality action. Just don’t expect a great story. Because you won’t get one.