“The Avengers,” written by Zak Penn and Joss Whedon, directed by Whedon, 143 minutes, rated PG-13.
I’ll be the first to admit that I was an “Avengers” doubter, right up until days before its release. I had high hopes, of course, because Joss Whedon was behind it, and quite frankly, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” remains one of the greatest things to grace television screens in my lifetime. I don’t see that changing anytime soon. My doubts, however, came more from a box office perspective. A question lingered: Can Marvel parlay the somewhat successful franchises of “Thor,” “Captain America” and “The Hulk” into something bigger than its one real success: “Iron Man”? I thought not.
I was wrong. I’m a big enough man to admit that.
Seeing as how “The Avengers,” Marvel’s Superhero supergroup akin to The Damn Yankees, or Atoms of Peace if you’re one of those people, has grossed more than $1 billion worldwide, it has become impossible to neglect it on my blog any further. That, and the fact that I’ve been in a slumber since “The Artist” was at Railroad Square Cinema, means it’s time for an update.
So, here are my 300 or so words on Joss Whedon’s latest:
For those of you who are unfamiliar with “The Avengers,” here’s a quick breakdown: The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans) and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) are brought together by a government branch known as S.H.I.E.L.D. (featuring Sam Jackson as Nick Fury, Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow and Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye), to fight Loki, Thor’s demigod half-brother, and an army granted to him by a higher power to enslave Earth.
It’s a really simple good vs. evil story that gives Joss Whedon enough space to let the characters breathe, time to bond, and affords each actor an opportunity to actually build a character. With the exception of Iron Man, after all, most of these characters and their corresponding actors have barely had two hours of screen time for moviegoers to become acclimated with them. In a project where each hero needs a distinct voice, that’s key.
And Whedon’s “Avengers” pulls it off gracefully, where more careless filmmakers would have tossed lesser-known heroes (although favorites) “Hawkeye” and “Black Widow” deep into the background, Whedon gets them to stand out. The one man who will not receive nearly enough credit in all this is Tom Hiddleston, who, as Loki, is as good as any of The Avengers.
The action, although it’s written in a way that is uncanny to “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” (not a slam, by the way, I’m the one who actually likes “Transformers”), is directed in a much cleaner, uncluttered manner that lets the battles play out more like a comic book and less like a Paul Greengrass knock-off.
So, against my better judgment, I’m going to pull out one of my own film critic pet peeves, and say “The Avengers” is “just a lot of fun.” Because, really, it is. Here we have a summer blockbuster delivering exactly what it should, and setting a pretty high benchmark for the rest of the season.
While I’m on the subject of comic books, I’ve recently started reading a series by Caitlin R. Kiernan titled “Alabaster: Wolves,” from Dark Horse. If you’re in a comic shop, I highly recommend picking up issues #1 and #2. They’re well worth the time.