Movie Review: The Avengers
By Edwin Davies
April 30, 2012
Over the past four years, Marvel Studios has slowly been putting together the pieces to form The Avengers, a film version of the comic series that brings some of the studio's most powerful heroes together. The ambition of the project cannot be overstated: over five films, the studio has constructed an approximation of their comic universe that remained faithful to its origins without ever producing films that were only aimed at the converted, even if sometimes, as in the case of The Incredible Hulk, only the converted showed up. Considering the risk involved - the very real possibility that, had any of the films faltered badly in the early going, the whole thing could have fallen apart - the build-up to The Avengers alone is something quite remarkable, maybe unprecedented.
Of course, all that build up has to lead to something, and The Avengers itself was always going to be the most difficult part of the whole enterprise to pull off. With so many characters who possess so much back story, it would take a real delicate balancing act to ensure that each of them got their time in the spotlight without letting one character overshadow the others, or without allowing the film to devolve into a formless mess.
Fears of that eventuality are allayed early on when writer-director Joss Whedon opts to slowly bring The Avengers together. Rather than leaping right into the fray, the film initially focuses on re-introducing S.H.I.E.L.D. Agents Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), as well as the Asgardian demi-god Loki (Tom Hiddleston).
Loki returns to Earth with the help of a mysterious outside force, intent on conquering the planet that played such a pivotal role in his defeat at the hands of his brother, Thor (Chris Hemsworth). After Loki steals the Tesseract, an alien cube that could be used as a source of infinite power or the cause of catastrophic devastation, from S.H.I.E.L.D., it falls to Fury to assemble The Avengers, a team of Earth's mightiest superheroes, to avert an almost unimaginable catastrophe.
Whedon's background as the creator of ensemble-heavy television shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly serves him well in The Avengers, as he manages to balance the different characters without ever letting any of them take too much focus. Although Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is undoubtedly the most prominent member of the team, having been the lead of the two most popular films in the Avengers series, it never feels like the film is just "Iron Man and Company", but like a film about a team of people who have to figure out how to work together for a greater cause.
Ample attention is paid to Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor, Bruce Banner/the Hulk (played with just the right mix of nervousness and seething anger by Mark Ruffalo) and Whedon seems to be genuinely delighted at the opportunity to place these iconic characters in scenes with each other. The scenes of the members of The Avengers interacting with each other bristle with Whedon's typically clever, playful banter, and it's a joy to watch the actors spar with each other, be it verbally or the other way.