The Avengers smashes like the Hulk!

There was an idea to bring together characters from different comic book movie franchises and put them in one movie so the studios could make a ton of money. It was an old-fashioned idea, lifted from the very comic books that the movies were based on.

But such a movie was thought impossible. For a long time, comic book movies were limited by the special effects technology available at the time, and by the public perception that comic books were “kid’s stuff”. As a result, movies based on comic book characters were really cheesy and campy.

Even when these things started to change in the 1980s and 1990s – as comic books that you would never show your children were published and as actually very good comic book movies were filmed – movie studios were still not sold on the idea of pairing characters from different movie franchises together. Although it kind of makes sense that fans of Movie Franchise A would want to see a film from Movie Franchise B if one of A’s main characters was in it, the basic fact is that movies are far, far more expensive and time-consuming to make than a bunch of drawings on laminated paper. Though, to be fair, the studios did green-light a few experiments with movie crossovers:

But when Marvel Comics decided to start making its own movies in-house instead of contracting the work out, they were not limited by generations of ageing, (perhaps wisely) skeptical studio bosses. These new kids on the block, with something to prove and no experience to tell them otherwise, thought to themselves “why not?” So, from day one they were working from the idea that they would make all of their movies within a single continuity, sharing supporting characters and themes, and even having their plots intertwine. They found success with Iron Man, and soon they turned out blockbuster after blockbuster with The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor, and Captain America. All of this building to their crescendo: The Avengers, a team-up movie where all of their heroes must team up to save the world.

The Avengers had a whole bunch of things going against it. It was attempting something that had never been put on live-action film before. It had to balance seven characters, each with their own baggage, and make their interactions seem realistic. It had to do that while keeping the “fun” spirit that has made Marvel’s movies work so far. And it had to do those things while also having epic actions scenes that would surpass their previous films. And it had to do all of that while living up to four-years-worth of hype.

AND THEY PULLED IT OFF!

The decision to hire Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly) as writer and director really paid off. Whedon works best with intricate, convoluted stories, and his talent shines in this movie. He makes the tension between the characters, and particularly Iron Man and Captain America, absolutely palpable. He shows us new and unexpected sides to Black Widow, Nick Fury, and Agent Coulson. And he manages to, somehow, make a team-up between a playboy billionaire, a supersoldier from World War II, a monster, an archer, a spy, and a freakin’ Norse god actually make sense.

Then again, Whedon alone isn’t to thank for this movie’s success. Tom Hiddleston eats up his villain role as Loki, at once truly menacing yet clearly acting out of a childish desperation for some sort of attention. Scarlett Johansson shows us she isn’t just there to be eye candy for the teenage boys; her Black Widow has plenty of depth and plays a huge role in moving the plot along. And Samuel L. Jackson, well, he completely “Samuel L. Jacksons” his role as Nick Fury, especially at the film’s climax. Plus, it has the best Hulk on film to date, by far (perhaps not making him stand alone as a charcter helps?).

The Avengers just does everything right. It avoids the common mistakes action movies make, and keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout. Not to spoil anything, but a pretty big character from Thor is put in serious peril and you spend the movie wondering if this character will make it through the film all right. The film has so many memorable lines and moments that you will probably be talking about it for weeks.

If you are a comic book fan and haven’t seen this movie yet, DO SO! This is Marvel’s BEST movie, and that is really saying something. Heck, I’m going to go ahead and risk a flame war to say it is better than Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. I bet Christopher Nolan is sweating profusely with his third Batman movie set to be released in July.

In fact, I think the Batman comparison is appropriate. Nolan’s Batman films have all been centered around the premise of “let’s make this something that we could believe in the real world”. The Avengers goes in the exact opposite direction, embracing its comic book heritage and showing us a world filled with wild, silly, and completely unrealistic stuff that is basically in the film because it’s cool (flying aircraft carrier, anyone?). Instead of taking itself super-seriously, the movie has decided, “let’s just have some fun with this!”

Fun. Sometimes, that’s all we need out of a movie.

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7 Responses to The Avengers smashes like the Hulk!

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