Movie Review: The Avengers
By Matthew Huntley
May 10, 2012
If it’s a summer blockbuster you want, it’s a summer blockbuster you get with Marvel's The Avengers”. I stress “summer” because the movie’s larger-than-life heroes, classic good vs. evil storyline, wall-to-wall special effects and innumerable action sequences appropriately reflect Hollywood's biggest season. Had it opened any other time of year, it might have felt out of place. Not that a movie’s value should be judged by its release date, but we’ve become so used to linking summer with big-budget tent poles that we often find ourselves evaluating them based on certain criteria, like the ones I mentioned above. “Summer blockbuster” has practically become its own genre, and it’s a category unto which The Avengers lives up to sensationally.
The movie is, of course, the long-awaited culmination of all the Marvel superhero movies from the past four years, which started with Iron Man and includes the other title characters from The Incredible Hulk, Thor and Captain America. There are other heroes in the mix too, including Black Widow and Hawkeye, and together this group of exceptionally skilled individuals makes up The Avengers, a crime fighting team organized by Nick Fury and his underground S.H.I.E.L.D. unit. Given how much money this movie will make, I won’t say that “it all comes down to this,” because there will surely be more standalone sequels and another ensemble one. It will be a long while before The Avengers die off, and if they continue to be in movies as good as this, well, I say keep ‘em coming.
What director and writer Joss Whedon, along with a very talented team of other artists, has managed to do is seamlessly combine several franchises into one working order. Because the material is so mainstream, that might have seemed like an easy task, but to oversee a project this large takes a lot of care and attention. After all, the last thing Whedon wanted to do was betray fans of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s beloved comic book characters. A less experienced storyteller might have let the multiple threads get out of hand, but Whedon performs a delicate balancing act and we’re amazed by how much weight each of the characters is given in such a busy movie, which we know will boil down to an inevitably long (probably too long) climax. Granted, we don’t get too involved with each of the heroes, but that’s something we can forgive since they each had their own dedicated movies leading up to this one.
On that note, The Avengers is not a standalone movie in the sense you can walk into it without having seen its predecessors and know what’s going on. It’s a sequel to all of them, so prior knowledge is a must if you want to know who these people are and what they’re doing. Whedon puts this onus on the viewer and wisely skips over formal introductions and recaps, which would have taken too long, and gets right down to business.