Joss Whedon has done what many thought impossible: Making a team superhero movie that manages to balance character, story, and action while remaining true to the source material. The Avengers is a rip-roaring adventure that is intense, funny, and smart. Accessible to new viewers and a great payoff for fans of the movie series since its inception with the original Iron Man in 2008, The Avengers sets the bar incredibly high for the rest of the summer.
In the off chance you haven’t seen any of the blockbuster films that have lead into The Avengers, this film is the story of a team that comes together to battle an intergalactic threat lead by the Asgardian god Loki (Tom Hiddleston, reprising his role from Thor). Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Hemsworth return as Captain America, Iron Man and Thor respectively, while Mark Ruffalo joins the cast as Bruce Banner (whose alter-ego The Hulk steals every scene he’s in).
Tossing these characters together and making them fight would not have been difficult; where Whedon shines is crafting a story that satisfies fans by giving them plenty of action while staying true to the characters. The Avengers are a bunch of super-powered egomaniacs that do not play well with others. Whedon, in his indomitable style, never lets the characters disappear to serve the story: Each character has a unique voice and style that makes the final battle that much more satisfying. The script is chock full of great lines that rarely feel forced, though the midsection of the movie drags a bit as the team hashes out Loki’s sinister plot.
The Avengers is benefitted by great cinematography, editing, and effects. The filmmakers use inventive angles and reflections to frame shots in new, interesting ways, never feeling constrained by reality. Cut in a way that keeps the action flowing and engages all the characters, highlighting their strengths and differences—this is a team and their differences are what make them great.
Finally, the special effects. There were times that I stopped and thought, “This isn’t real. It’s all created on a computer.” And yet, to my eye, these are some of the most realistic, effective CGI ever committed to the screen. Both in the quality of the effects and their staging, The Avengers are believable not only as characters but living, breathing entities. I know, in my head, that The Hulk and Thor aren’t duking it out on a helicarrier and yet I completely believed it was unfolding in front of me.
Joss Whedon, as I said, has done the impossible—made a great, fun, entertaining super-powered superhero movie. The Avengers is a perfect summer popcorn flick. See it in the theater, see it in 3D. Better than any of the movies that preceded it, The Avengers exceeded my already-high expectations, set by the director’s little-seen but similarly great Serenity.
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