Let’s face it, The Avengers just had to be good. Because if it didn’t live up to the expectations placed on it, the entire geekdom may just let out a collective sigh of disappointment so massive I’m not sure the universe could take it.
Okay, I’m exaggerating. Slightly. But we, the geeks, wanted this to kick some serious ass very very badly. We wanted it to swagger into cinemas with the arrogance of Iron Man and obliterate all other comic book flicks with a power akin to a Thor hammer swing or a Hulk smash. We wanted it to…be…really good…like…Captain America? I’m sorry, I don’t have any Cap puns. We wanted to come before our Demigod and Unofficial Elected President of the United Nations of Nerd Sir Joss of Whedon©, get on our scrawny little knees and say ‘You did it. Well done, sir. Well done.’ Quite simply, we wanted this superhero movie, a culmination of several other superhero movies, to be so super-ly super that even the most super-ly elitist Marvel fanboys could put down their comics, venture out of their secret lairs, watch it and say ‘Cross my heart and swear on Stan Lee, that was fucking super.’
Well, let out a sigh, comrades…a sigh of relief, because The Avengers would have to be the super-est mothertrucking superhero film of all time. Of all time! It is a complete triumph for writer/director Whedon, Marvel Studios and the comic book film genre. It’s got your set pieces, your eye-popping effects, your lots of shit blowing up, and everything you want in your big dumb action flicks without being, well, dumb. It’s got your classic good vs. evil, minus the cheese, add additional modern pop culture references (how very Whedon-esque…) It’s got fantastic one-liners and numerous moments of ridiculously good comedic timing, it oozes cool and it is fun, fun, FUN. It’s got everything you want from a superhero movie, all delivered with levels of panache and bravado that make all lesser efforts of the genre look like a daggy Mini, ready to be crushed by this big, brash tricked-out Hummer.
Aside from all the bells and whistles, and supersuits, and submarines, Whedon’s script packs a punch in itself. The plot is basic (as an action plot should be) but well executed and full of wit. Loki has assembled an ugly, intergalactic army to wage war on Earth, and only the uniting of SHIELD’s finest (Black Widow and Hawkeye), a few special, shall we say, ‘independent contractors’ (Iron Man, Cap, and Hulk) and another Asgardian on the side of the good guys (Thor) has any chance of stopping him. Whedon has done a fantastic job to write each character well, staying true to their iconic traits and idiosyncrasies, while also remembering that this is a film about the assembly of a group, and a group of strong personalities and clashing egos at that. These guys are not about to instantly sit down to tea and crumpets together, and many of the film’s best fight scenes (of which there are many, all hard-hitting and wonderfully choreographed) are actually Avenger vs. Avenger. Once the group does band together, all the character setup of the prequel films as well as the first half of this one pays off, as every character has an important role, and the failings of one hero can be balanced out by the strengths of another (Iron Man’s arrogance being tempered by Cap’s practicality and military mindset, Hulk and Thor’s brute strength and rage contrasted by Hawkeye’s clinical calmness).
Having already had a film (or in some cases two) each to get into character, the cast all deliver comfortable and entertaining performances. Two who have grown into their roles particularly well are Robert Downey Jr as Tony Stark/Iron Man, who has now set the bar for all smartarse-y wisecracking heroes to come, and Tom Hiddleston as Loki, who is equally adept at mischievous and malevolent, and also put in some fine comedic work and facial expressions as the punchline (or sometimes punching bag) for the heroes. New to the role of Bruce Banner/The Hulk is Mark Ruffalo, who provides the best film incarnation of the character yet, rejuvenating the Hulk from a brooding dullard and a CGI’d joke back to a funny and thouroughly kickass Marvel favourite, who in my cinema got the biggest laughs and the biggest cheers. By the time the film gets to the climactic final battle on the streets of New York City, every character has a special place in the audience’s heart. And what a battle it is. Taking everything big, bold and explosive and amplifying it even more, it is (pardon the use of the ‘S’ word again) a super-sequence of action excellence; a visually jaw-dropping, pulse-quickening thrill ride that gives the film the ending it deserves.