Remember how last year we were met with an unusual abundance of superhero flicks focusing on heroes that seemed to have come out of nowhere? It was all buildup to Marvel’s The Avengers, one of the most anticipated films of 2012. This is the first time I sought out a superhero film in theaters. I usually don’t see them because I’ve never cared for them. They’re not my kind of thing.
This is the Freddy vs. Jason for superhero fans. The story goes like this; after Nick Fury (Jackson), leader of the agency S.H.I.E.L.D., discovers that an energy source by the name of Tesseract has opened a portal allowing Thor’s brother Loki (Hiddleston) to use the source’s ability to control the minds of people, he calls together, “The Avengers.” They are The Hulk (Ruffalo), Iron Man (Downey Jr.), Hawkeye (Renner), Captain America (Evans), Thor (Hemsworth), and Black Widow (Johannson), only two of those characters never got their own film.
The first hour of the film is not-so-much devoted to character development, as much as character interactions; how do heroes react to being in a room with other heroes? There’s a nice feeling of uncertainty amongst the crowd, and we get the feeling these heroes are intimidated by the presence of possible competition. The feeling of inferiority is always lurking.
Director/writer Joss Whedon, whose subversive horror film The Cabin in the Woods is also currently in theaters, has two great things going for him right now. One, he speaks to the world of fandom and nerdom, and never disconnects himself from this sort of medium. You can see he likes these heroes, and he tries to imagine how their interactions and conversations might’ve gone on the pages of a comic. And two, he knows how to devise a brutal, relentlessly intriguing third act that never relapses. I’m not the biggest fan of hardcore, lengthy action scenes, but the half-hour to forty minute brawl in The Avengers didn’t bother me, mainly because I realized Whedon wanted to showcase all the different possibilities that could exist if six superheroes fought against one destructive villain.
Not to mention, how difficult it must’ve been to construct a film where six different heroes come together for the first time. Whedon has the task of mixing the patriotism of Captain America, the shameless cynicism of Tony Stark, the demigod-abilities of Thor, the subtleties of Hawkeye, the wise-remarks of Black Widow, and the anger of the Hulk into one coherent film. The result is superb, commendable, and utterly terrific. Each character, too, gets their own time to shine, rather than some going unsung and others fighting to get in front of the camera in a “look at me, ma!” sort of fashion.
In the mix of all the violence, talking, and scientific jargon, occasionally, comes a nice sprinkling of humor and wit. Most of the humor comes from the wise-ass Stark, whose comedic timing and infinite possibilities may lead me to seek out Iron Man and its sequel.
Marvel’s The Avengers may appear to be another superhero flick, just with more heroes and less villains, but it’s the effort that shines through the material. The effort, determination, and challenge of combining six different heroes was definitely something to overcome, and Joss Whedon (who is by no means a newcomer, with a resume comprised of the Television shows Angel and Buffy the Vampire Slayer) has made an explosive mainstream debut, with a film that dripped potential. This is a kinetic and stylistic piece of work from a man, I believe, just getting started.
Starring: Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston, and Samuel L. Jackson. Directed by: Joss Whedon.
Steve Pulaski has been reviewing movies since 2009 for a barrage of different outlets. He graduated North Central College in 2018 and currently works as an on-air radio personality. He also hosts a weekly movie podcast called "Sleepless with Steve," dedicated to film and the film industry, on his YouTube channel. In addition to writing, he's a die-hard Chicago Bears fan and has two cats, appropriately named Siskel and Ebert!