Ok, here we are, The Avengers. Director Joss Whedon's culmination of everything Marvel Studios has been working toward for the past five years, since 2007's Iron Man ended with a cameo in which Nick Fury offered to Iron Man membership into something called the Avenger Initiative. The Avengers, or Avengers Assemble as it's being called in the UK, presumably to distinguish it from the 60's British television series and 90's movie of the same name, currently holds a 94% approval rating from critics on Rotten Tomatoes and is being touted as the comic book movie of the year, and quite possibly the decade. By the end of its opening weekend it has beaten out Harry Potter for the opening weekend sales record by more than $30M. So what did I think of The Avengers? I could sum it all up in a single word: disappointing.
The Avengers is a direct continuation from the last two Marvel Studios movies, Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger. Loki is released from the interdimensional exile he was banished to at the end of Thor and steals the Asgardian artifact known as the Tesseract, which was the glowing cube found by the Red Skull and used to make the Hydra weapons in the Captain America solo film. Loki comes to Earth with the goal of subjugating humanity and only The Avengers can stop him. Well, now that the obligatory summary is out of the way, let's talk about it.
I said it was disappointing, but don't mistake that as me saying it was bad. It wasn't bad at all. It was fantastic. It was supreme. But it wasn't the glorious cinematic achievement everyone is making it out to be. It's a comic book movie, nothing more and nothing less. It's a very very good comic book movie, but it isn't any better or any worse than what you would expect from the way the film was set up through the last five Marvel Studios movies. It was a fantastic climax to the past five years, and Joss Whedon did make all the right moves, it just isn't worthy of all the praise it's getting. It is definitely being over hyped, at least in my opinion.
Joss Whedon manages to give the movie no identity unique to itself, which sounds like a criticism but it is definitely a compliment. It really does act as an intersection between the characters' solo films. When Iron Man is on screen it feels like an Iron Man film, when Thor and Loki are on screen it feels like a Thor movie and so on and so on. It is like Whedon took all 4 separate and distinct movie worlds and jammed them together in a superhero hodge podge, which is the exact right feel for the movie, because the team is very much a hodge podge of heroes with separate and distinct personalities and methods. The feel for the movie was a stroke of genius.
The dialogue was also superb, with a style and sense of humor that calls to mind the Avengers comics written by Brian Michael Bendis, who is probably one of the best writers to ever touch the book. Another thing that struck me as briliant was that Joss Whedon didn't totally redesign everything, as most filmmakers are want to do. He seemed to embrace everything that Jon Favreau, Louis Leterrier, Kenneth Brannagh and Joe Johnston brought to their respective tables and built upon that rather than just trying to leave his own mark on everything. That was briliant, and it was a sure sign that Joss wanted the movie to be about the Avengers and not about Joss Whedon. Joss' love for the source material and his respect for the movies that came before seems to manifest itself in every scene.
I will say one thing, however, and that is that I was not impressed with Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner. He was good enough, I suppose, and if there had been no such thing as an Edward Norton Hulk movie he may even have been fantastic. But the fact was I spent the entire movie missing Norton and that just ruined the whole Mark Ruffalo thing for me. As hard as he tried he just couldn't make me forget that there had already been a perfect Banner and that he wasn't it. That was probably the film's biggest weakness.
All in all, The Avengers is a superb movie and it is on track to become one of the highest grossing films of all time. I will be really surprised if it doesn't walk away with at least one Academy Award, even if only for something technical. Though with the hype it's getting, it could possibly go all the way. Joss Whedon definitely knows the material, but what do you expect? The man IS a comic book writer. In fact, after seeing The Avengers I could only think one thing: now I want to see a comic book movie written and directed by J. Michael Straczynski! Comments? Sound off in the comments section below.