Sunday, March 30, 2014

Looking Back At: "The Avengers"

By all rights, The Avengers should have been a complete mess of a movie.  It almost seems like an impossible task.  Take a bunch of stars of their own respective successful film franchises, ask them to share screentime in an ensemble picture, yet still retain the essence of what makes their respective films good, and also tell a compelling story.  It’s an unusually complex set of circumstances to put on any director.  Thankfully, though, Marvel Studios was smart enough to bring Joss Whedon to direct this behemoth, and he has proved himself more than capable.

The first thing this movie does right is to not make the action the focus of the narrative.  The first ninety minutes of the film do have some action, but the focus is on establishing our heroes and their efforts to work together as a team to bring down an evil none of them could conquer alone.  With some smart, intricate, and funny writing, it feels a lot more like a witty comedy at some points than an action flick, which provides each of the main cast plenty of time to give some surprisingly deep performances.  The nuance is more than welcome in a genre that is oversaturated with mindless fight scenes with no more purpose than to show off the 3D animation staff’s technical prowess.

This brings me to the giant final action scene.  Yes, it is massively destructive and explosion-heavy; but the fight actually feels like it has some weight to it.  We watch Loki keep his master plan under wraps for the entire film, and then a giant army comes in through the sky to lay waste to New York.  Whedon understands how to build tension in a plot, and the anticipation pays off in a fight scene that not only shows off the abilities of each member of the Avengers, but it is so nicely choreographed that directors of other summer action flicks should look to this film as an example of how it’s done.  (I’m looking at you, Michael Bay!)

Of course, this isn’t a perfect film by any stretch.  I can nitpick here and there that some lines come across as painfully cheesy.  (“I have a plan: Attack.”  Come on.)  There are also some plot points that seem to emerge mostly out of convenience, like that weird eyeball scanning machine or the strange conclusion to Black Widow’s interrogation of Loki.  Furthermore, I’m absolutely convinced that there is a cut of this movie floating around somewhere out there that doesn’t leave out so much Thor backstory.  Though it’s still believable and you can piece together how it happens, Thor just sort of shows up whenever he’s needed to progress the plot or to provide some cool action.  He mostly seems to be here for Loki to bounce maniacal exposition off of, but I would have put up with a longer movie to see more justice done to his character, especially after the strong development he exhibited in his stand-alone film.

Overall, though, The Avengers is the impossible film that lived up to the immense hype that Marvel built in the years preceding its release.  It’s smart, funny, action-packed, and, most importantly, incredibly fun to watch.  The pieces were put together so well here that I can’t wait to see how Whedon plans to keep it fresh in next year’s sequel.

So what do you think of the first collaborative culmination of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe?  Did it live up to your expectations as well?  Leave a comment below to let me know exactly where you think this falls on your list of favorite superhero movies.

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