After about a decade’s worth of preparation and about half a century of waiting (The Avengers debuted in 1963), Marvel fanboys and fangirls can finally be at ease knowing Joss Whedon’s The Avengers does not fall short of its huge expectations. It does well to balance elements of humor, seriousness and —the most important component of any superhero movie— we-striking action. So basically, it has a vast amount of exaggerated explosions and features weaponry decked out with CGI. But Whedon is also able to capture the unique spark we all look forward to in a movie like this: the cohesiveness and well-oiled machinelike teamwork that the heroes dish out in the midst of adversity.
Although The Avengers’s plot is no challenge to follow, it achieved the movie’s duty of establishing a connection between heroes who each have worked alone and forcing them onto a team they generally had no interest in.
The Incredible Hulk, played now by Mark Ruffalo in lieu of The Incredible Hulks’s Edward Norton (who replaced the 2004 The Hulk’s Eric Bana), comes from a history of failed movies that tried to bring justice to the behemoth who was exposed to Gamma Rays, though the reboot was significantly better than its ancestor. Ruffalo adds a cool touch to Bruce Banner, staying true to his intelligent background and acting as the sympathetic protagonist who is aware of his “Other Side” and has to strive to avoid any provocation.
The remaining Avengers are comprised of Chris Evans as the intrepid Steve Rogers/Captain America; Robert Downey Jr. as the narcissistic playboy Tony Stark/Iron Man; Chris Hemsworth as the Asgardian Thor; Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff/The Black Widow; Jeremy Renner as the hotshot Clint Barton/Hawkeye; and of course Samuel L. Jackson as the cyclopean Nick Fury.
The movie works to prevent any one hero from stealing the lime-light, but it’s arguable that Iron Man did become the star. Besides that, it provided everyone an equal share of the glory of screen time and storyline, but whether a character pulled as much weight as the next during a fight is another question. Whedon competently allows each hero to stay loyal to their individual powers and traits, even highlighting them with liberal slow-mos and zoom-ins here and there, but he’s as successful when it came to melding each power together to form a formidable team to stop Tom Hiddleston’s Loki and his Chitaurian army.
What seemed to ring in my mind all during and after the movie was how well it produced intense edge-of-your-seat moments and still fluidly work in a joke here and there. After the dynamic duo of Thor and Hulk wreak havoc on several Chitaurians, how does Whedon end the scene? The Hulk unexpectedly punches Thor from one end of Manhattan to the other as lighthearted revenge for their skirmish before. Or when Stark and Loki have a verbal showdown on how they predict the war will end, they resort to childish arguments— Loki’s “I have an army” is shot down by Stark’s “We have a Hulk.” But rest assured: the moment is never killed and the joke only works to define a character’s personality and circumstances into the scene.
Though it’s not essential that you watch each hero’s backstory to understand the movie, it would help to understand certain lines, feelings or connections between characters such as Thor’s disheartened composure when it comes to dueling and confronting his adopted brother Loki, or Captain America’s confusion with everything that goes on around him– a man from the 1940s thrust into an age filled with lasers, flying robots, invisible hovercrafts that fly up from beneath the ocean, extraterrestrials that reign down by the thousands from a rift in Manhattan’s sky and… a Hulk.
Whedon didn’t break any barriers, didn’t cross any lines and didn’t break any ground in The Avengers, but he sure did a fantastic job at creating an intersection for heroes from different stories and intertwining them, earning him brownie points just for not failing at such a hard task. The movie plays it safe with a cookie-cutter plot-type: the heroes initially have no idea what the definition of a “team” is, going toe-to-toe with each other, weapons hot, and by the end of the movie, they come together and create a montage of team butt-kicking. Whedon did justice to the Avengers and definitely assembled them: Rogers called the shots, Stark kept the crowd laughing, Hawkeye made impossible arrow shots possible and Hulk smashed.