And there came a movie, a movie unlike any other, where Earth’s mightiest heroes and heroines found themselves united against a common threat. On that day, The Avengers became the greatest comic book film ever created, and for pure unbridled and exciting entertainment value, this may be Earth’s greatest movie ever.
The Avengers’ director and co-writer Joss Whedon has been a genre fan-favorite for the past twenty years and when the reins of The Avengers movie were placed in his capable hands, the collective geek community breathed an enormous sigh of relief. But no one could have predicted how masterfully Mr. Whedon would pull-off the heroic task of combining the strong individual characters and established story-lines that make up the Avengers into a captivating and cohesive film that pays homage to decades of source material while remaining fresh, edgy and exciting.
The road to The Avengers film started in 2008 and was paved with the successful release of Iron Man, directed by Jon Favreau. A great director with a fantastic big-name cast, a well-written script and cutting-edge special effects propelled the comic-book movie to a new level of excellence and acceptance in the Hollywood community. This became the Marvel method of making movies and it was also the Marvel Studios production company’s first foray into pulling the strings on a feature film that they controlled all the rights to.
A potential Avengers movie was teased at the end of Iron Man with a surprise appearance by the S.H.I.E.L.D. Director, Nick Fury, who shows up in Tony Stark’s penthouse to tell him about the “Avengers Initiative.” The “after-the-film-credits” Avenger teases continued throughout the next four Marvel films, The Incredible Hulk (2009), Iron Man 2 (2010), Thor (2011) and Captain America: The First Avenger (2011), leading up to the new Avengers movie.
The fact that Marvel Studios has been able to pull-off the feat of combining the talent involved from the preceding superhero movies is a miraculous achievement unto itself. The only person missing from this equation is actor Edward Norton, who played Bruce Banner (the Hulk) in The Incredible Hulk movie. Everyone else has stepped off the set of their respective individual films and into The Avengers without missing a beat. Edward Norton was replaced by actor Mark Ruffalo, who does a great job in this film.
The Avengers story involves Thor’s adopted and mischievous brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and the Tesseract (or Cosmic Cube as it is called in the comics), which is a containment cube that holds the unlimited power of the universe. The cube is used by the Red Skull in the Captain America movie and is recovered by agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. at the end of that film. In The Avengers, Loki gains possession of the device and he opens a dimensional portal allowing alien beings to wage war on the Earth, until Nick Fury brings the Marvel heroes together “to fight the foes no single super hero could withstand!” The movie’s alien invasion sequence is intense, epic and like nothing you’ve ever seen before.
The assembled Avengers are Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), the genius billionaire with a weaponized suit of armor; the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), a giant green monster that is the most powerful creature ever to walk the Earth; Thor (Chris Hemsworth), who is literally the Norse God of Thunder and can control lightning with his hammer, Mjolnir; Captain America (Chris Evans), the super-soldier created by the military during WWII, who was frozen in time and now finds himself in the modern era; the Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), a seductive former Soviet super-spy who now works for S.H.I.E.L.D.; Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent and the ultimate marksman who favors his bow and specialty arrows; and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), the director of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Supreme Headquarters International Espionage Law-enforcement Division) and the man who brings all the heroes together and ultimately unites them.
Also carried over from the pre-Avengers films are Gwyneth Paltrow as Tony Stark’s assisant, Pepper Potts; Stellan Skarsgård as Erik Selvig, the scientist and Norse mythology expert from the Thor film; and Clark Gregg as Agent Phil Coulson, who was seen in most of the other films and plays a major role in threading all the pieces of The Avengers together.
Although this movie is literally epic in every way, the secret to its success, as with its predecessors, is in the humanity of the outlandish characters. They are so amazingly well-developed that you relate to them on a base-level that not only has you sympathizing with their pain and predicaments, but lets you feel through their eyes how much fun it would be to actually be a superhero.
Even though The Avengers previews and trailers have been plastered everywhere in the media for the past few weeks, the film still manages to surprise, over and over again, topping itself each time as the creators have saved the best stuff for while you are in your theater seat. Of special mention is the Hulk, who after almost 35 years of film & television history, finally earns the tag of “incredible” when you see him in action at his Hulk-smashing best. It’s as if the scenes were pulled directly from the pages of the comic books and thrown up on the big-screen in amazingly realistic live-action.
If you are an Avengers comic-book fan, then you are certainly going to love this movie more than the average film-goer, but even if you are new to The Avengers you are STILL going to embrace this movie for its sheer summer-blockbuster action and adventure. The special effects are top-notch; it has a cadre of first-tier actors; its script is tight, fun and manages to play to the strengths of its multiple and varied characters without losing focus on the story. In the screening I attended the people were so excited that there were parts when I could hardly hear the dialogue on the screen from the crowd’s uproarious reaction – which was a very cool experience and not something I’ve felt at the theater for years.