Over the past few years Marvel has been wracking up a slew of great films based on their universe’s superheroes. Starting with Iron Man, Marvel moved though the Hulk (The Incredible Hulk, just so there’s no confusion), Captain America, and Thor, each with quite a bit of deserved success. In addition to Hawkeye and Black Widow, these characters make up the avengers, and sticking to the additive math, the greatness of each of these previous films adds up to one incredible, possibly the best, superhero movie.
The idea of a film based on a slew of characters has been on the minds of many for a while, but there was always a chance that it just couldn’t work. For one thing, if it had been the Justice League, the heavy hitters of Batman and Superman might steal focus as fans cry out for their favorites to get their screen time. But with the Avengers, we have a group of heroes that each have a following on their own, but are about equal as far as the mass audience is concerned, giving them the best chance to make this work. Adding Joss Whedon as director and writer sure doesn’t hurt.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, but if you have a large cast full of strong individual characters, give it to Whedon and he’ll know what to do. He did it ages ago with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and he did it earlier this year with Cabin in the Woods. So why not trust him? With this group, he manages to create a dynamic that makes each character shine both on their own and with the group as they bounce off of each other through the good and the bad as they try to find their footing as a team hesitant to work together. If they had a group uniform like the X-Men maybe the comradery would be in there from the get go; but no, we’ve got no team colors to bring them together as heads begin to butt.
Everyone has issues, everyone has angst, but the drama does not overshadow what we are here to see, which can only be described as a celebration of the genre and superhero mythology, starting with being sure that every character has their moment to shine. Ensemble or no, all of these characters deserve their memorable entrances and hero moments, or simply just moments to stand out, and no opportunity is wasted. That’s right, even the lesser known Hawkeye and Black Widow, who have only guested in other hero’s films so far, are given enough opportunity here and credit to their character to display why they’re a part of the team. Of these two I will have to go with Scarlett Johansson as my favorite of the lesser known as she uses her psychological manipulation and agile fighting style to make a name with this male group. However, out of the heavy hitters, I’ve gotta go with the Hulk on this one, which I would have never thought going in.
Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man has his nonstop supply of one-liners, of course, and nothing against Thor or Captain America, but there was a new level to the giant green rage machine that has never been brought to my attention before. Firstly, the big guy is quite the accidental comedian during the large city brawl (that is done waaaaaaaaaay better than how Transformers: Dark of the Moon’s final hour, or seven, was handled) as he lets the green run deep, but to put it simply, the angry wrecking ball ruining the life of Bruce Banner is actually given the chance to become a sympathetic character as we examine the relationship between Mark Ruffalo’s Banner and his bottled up alter (thanks in large part to some insight by Tony Stark).
Whatever your extreme dedication to the current Batman run, or any other film of the genre and subgenres, consider your definition of Superhero before going into this one and you’ll understand why I say this could possibly be the best superhero film, and you just might come out seeing eye-to-eye with me on this one.
Final Grade: A Follow @BewareOfTrees