Where is your usual toy review? Not here because in this entry you are going to be treated to a movie review. It does however have a figure line on the shelves. Marvel's The Avengers movie doesn't come out until May 4th 2012 but I was treated to an advance screening the other night. It was both written and directed by Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire slayer, Firefly tv series) and has in all respects has set the bar for all superhero movies from here on out. Scratch that. The Avengers has redefined the 'superhero movie' into something greater because that until now that term has generally denoted a single individual in which a movie is based around. Iron Man, The Dark Knight, Green Lantern, Blade. But here we have many, some who were the star of their own movies and some who were secondary characters in them.
No one character is the star of the Avengers. This is not Thor 2, Iron Man 3, or Black Widow 1. The lens is drawn back to show them as a group but each character is still profoundly explored by Whedon to an even deeper extent than in their own title films. Whedon has done the remarkable here and created a movie where no actor shines brightest and each role is an integral one. Leave one of the superheros out and the whole movie would collapse. There is no filler here, no last minute additions or studio exec ideas thrown in. What you see is a group of individuals brought together in a time of crisis and discovering how to work not just as a team, but as friends.
You heard me say superheroes right? Some of the internet trolls have already jumped on the but-no-super-powers bandwagon. How can Black Widow, a regular human female (tho top of her class assassin/spy) and expert marksman Hawkeye who can probably only bench what the average body builder can, be thrown into the mix with the likes of lightning-wielding Thor and repulsor-ray blasting Iron Man? Easily, because they are Avengers. Whedon reaches into the comic books and pulls from it the characters as you remember reading them. He doesn't add any bells and whistles that weren't there before. You don't get 'altered powers' to fit a movie-verse style. What worked in the comics works here and perfectly.
That being said Avengers pulls no punches. There is no 'Cloud-lactus' instead of a giant purple man wearing a giant purple helmet. I'm looking at you, Fox Studios. No attempt is made to ease the audience into understanding who or what is going on because the fans are watching. From the very beginning you are hurled into outer space amidst razor-edged floating asteroids with beings conversing there. How are they not floating off? Is there a forcefield dome around them with air? Well this is the Marvel Universe and that is exactly what happens in the comics. We took the leap into Marvel's unexplained cosmic forces with Thor and Captain America. Now you had better learn to swim.
Back to the characters without 'powers' Black Widow and Hawkeye. They have their own special abilities that make them part of the team. Combat abilities that suddenly become very clear and very deadly. Black Widow doesn't need a mystical hammer to kill you, she just needs to get behind you. Hawkeye doesn't need to slam his fists into cars or throw buildings to win, he just needs a single arrow and you will not be walking away from the fight. These perfectly matched character traits are apparent in all the superheros from Captain America to the Hulk.
Ah yes, the Hulk. He is a fan favorite to many. But this is not the hulk from either previous films. This is not Ang's or Norton's Hulk. This is Comic Avengers Hulk as if Whedon has peeled him up from the page and placed him on film..and he will be everyone's favorite. Having a different Hulk required a different Banner this time around, not a decision made lightly. Mark Ruffalo's David Banner is as perfect as can be and as the Hulk he is as much of an actor as his real-life actors. I will spoil one thing for you because it needs to be. We have been lied to, Hawkeye never shoots him with a gas arrow as mentioned in interviews. Hulk is not a mindless beast or a tool. Because that's not what the Avengers need. They need a teammate and this is Comic Hulk through and through.
You're also going to laugh throughout this movie and laugh hard. Whedon brings his quirky charm through the midst of battles and downtime. From Hulk's schoolyard-style grudges to Captain America's naivety of modern life, it's the humor that adds a special sparkle to the Avengers and creates the movie's truly most memorable scenes, one in particular. I know this because leaving the theater I continually overhead people talking about the exact scene which brought a smile to my face. People are going to talk and they are already comparing Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises to The Avengers. They're choosing sides and arguing which is better. But a comparison implies that two things have similar aspects to be compared, that they are in the same league as each other.
The Avengers is not a superhero movie. It is not a summer action flick. It is not a dark and gritty origin rewrite. No, the Avengers is the first glimpse of a comic book universe that you remember reading about and writes a whole new tale for you. Whedon takes the best of each character and weaves an incredible story in your mind that brightens the dulling comic page memories of Hulk fighting on city streets, of Captain America teaming up with Iron Man, and you will be shown that the God of Thunder is truly a force to be reckoned with. Make sure you sit through the first half of the eye-candy credits, before the scrolling full credits. You will be treated to something that opens up frightening new possibilities for our heroes. That being said, GO SEE THE AVENGERS!
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