I would honestly prefer not to use the word ”nerdgasm” – oops! Too late. Well, I’ll use it just this once, then. The Avengers is here – my most anticipated movie of 2012 – and it does not disappoint! I have to hand it to Joss Whedon; the man knows what he’s doing, and he knows what the fans want. Perhaps now they’ll let him do the Wonder Woman movie for DC?! Here’s hoping …
The plot is easily summarised: the Asgardian god of mischief, Loki, makes a deal with a mysterious alien entity to send an alien army to Earth in order to enslave humankind. Loki’s part of the deal is that he gets to rule Earth, while the other guy gets the incalculably powerful alien artifact “the Tesseract” (what in the comics is called “the Cosmic Cube”, and also referred to as “the cube” once or twice in the movie). Well, we’re already off to a decent start, as plenty of epic battles in the Marvel Universe have involved this sort of thing; dangerous alien artifacts that the heroes of Earth must unite in order to stand against, in the process typically saving the entire world.
It’s neither a complex nor an intelligent plot; in fact, complaints of a very thin storyline are fairly justified. The alien army are devoid of personality or motivation, and Loki is evil because he hates freedom. Oookay.
Fortunately, however, these shortcomings matter very little. As most comics-reading people who saw the final scene of the movie are aware, the alien entity that Loki conspired with in this first attempt to conquer the Earth was Thanos – a mega-villain from the comic books who always covets powerful artifacts for the purpose of worshipping the Marvel Universe’s female manifestation of Death. When he is behind the attack, it all makes sense. And the final line in the movie (“To challenge them [Earth humans] is to court death.”) tells us that he is going to challenge the Earth again, because “courting death” is what he does – it’s all he does! Man, I hope they deliver on this promise in the inevitable sequel.
So far, so great! Still, I can understand people who say that much of the action, and the alien army, seemed a bit anonymous and lacked a proper story to back it all up. In this way, The Avengers reminds me more than a little of the most recent Star Trek movie, which pulls off the same stunt: not focusing much on the villain or his motivation, but creating an endlessly entertaining character ensemble piece whose cool and intensely meaningful interactions make up the real spine, flesh and blood of the movie. That is fabulous.
What I chiefly love about this movie is how very like the comic books it is. When prominent S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Maria Hill hears, in an early scene, that Barton (Hawkeye) has betrayed S.H.I.E.L.D., she immediately dives for cover, and is soon in hot pursuit. The way she throws her cell phone into the Jeep and jumps into the seat perfectly captures the feel and the frenetic pace of comic book action scenes, and it almost brings tears of joy to my eyes. And that’s just the beginning.
I could comment widely on every action set piece and every character interaction in the movie (and mention many other memorable comic book scenes that I would have liked to see, such as Captain America dropping from a tall building and absorbing the impact of hitting the ground by landing on his shock-absorbing shield), but suffice it to say that it is a fantastic superhero movie filled to the brim with grand effects, grander action and the grandest hero team ever committed to a cinema screen. The rewatchability factor of The Avengers is through the roof, and it instantly makes you want to watch all the previous Marvel movies again.
I wanted this movie to be great, and it was. It turned out to be the tentpole movie that all fans hoped it would be, and that is just peachy. So, did anything about it disappoint me? Well, just a bit. The story, per se, could have been a lot better. The Marvel Universe has oodles of great villains, and although Loki is one of the most often used, he is not actually all that interesting. And his character did not make quite as much sense here as it did in last year’s well-handled Thor movie. The plot itself might have been more epic, more filled with ideas that didn’t just relate to the characterization of the heroes.
And one more thing. Having had my comic book reading zenith in the 1980s, I really felt the Avengers’ quinjet – their custom-built private jet vehicle (the one that Thor arrived on top of, and pulled Loki out of) – should have been more true to the classic design. I associate the vintage quinjet so much with the identity of the Avengers that I was sad to see in its stead a jet of some newer and (to me) more generic design. A small gripe, granted, but it would so much have made my day to have seen the original quinjet design on-screen. Can you tell I’m a true and dyed-in-the-wool, if ageing, fan of the comics? You bet I am.
Thanks, Joss, for making a fan’s highest hopes come about 95% true, and producing the kind of superhero movie that sets the standard and the bar for what proper, modern, high-tech, big-budget superhero movies should look like. I bow to your expert competence and I frantically and pantingly await your next superhero movie. ‘Nuff said!
Director: Joss Whedon
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Mark Ruffalo, Clark Greggson, Cobie Smulders
Runtime: 143 min.