The Avengers, the careful culmination of years of planning, multiple blockbusters, hundreds of millions of dollars and loads of patience is finally here, and it does not disappoint. The best comic book adaptation since 2008's The Dark Knight and arguably the best Marvel Studios movie ever, The Avengers is exciting, funny, visually stimulating and thoroughly entertaining, the very definition of a good summer blockbuster.
Not a good summer blockbuster. A great one.
Joss Whedon, the man behind "Buffy the Vampire Slayer", "Firefly" and most recently the critically praised The Cabin in the Woods, has taken the best elements from what can best be described as Avengers prequels - Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Thor and Captain America - and developed a synergistic production that fires on all cylinders.
I personally doubted whether Whedon could pull it off. If anyone could, he could, but the odds were against him. The superhero team might work in a comic book, but how do you mesh the world of Iron Man, which is more or less grounded in reality, with the supernatural worlds established by The Incredible Hulk and, even more contrasting, Thor? Just as importantly, how do you bring together actors who each have their own superhero franchise and give them equal time, without bogging down the story with endless ego trips?
Somehow, amazingly, Whedon found that perfect balance. While Robert Downey Jr., who by far is the biggest actor in the group, definitely plays a central role, Tony Stark is only a cog in the wheel. Each character has a role to play and, impressively, his own arc, which makes him or her more relatable and interesting. The Avengers could have so easily devolved into a straight-laced action movie where the characters spout shallow lines and then duke it out against a green screen, but Whedon avoids such a fate.
The movie has just the right amount of character development, and the character-driven scenes work seamlessly with the creative action sequences that Whedon throws at the audience. Each action sequence is bigger than the last, and increasingly complex and engaging. The visual effects are extraordinary, which is all the more impressive given that the effects in last year's X-Men: First Class and Captain America were less than stellar.
It should also be noted that after two so-so attempts, someone finally figured out the Hulk. I never understood the appeal of the raging, green monster, and the two theatrical attempts over the last decade did little to persuade me otherwise (Ed Norton's The Incredible Hulk was fine, but not spectacular). He isn't a character that works well on his own, but set against something bigger - say, a team of peers - the Hulk finally is in the right place. Not only does Mark Ruffalo turn in a great performance as Bruce Banner, but the Hulk shines in the epic climax, overshadowing the rest of the characters.
The Avengers exceeds expectations in every facet. It is one of the best comic book movies to ever grace the big screen, and is one of the first must-see movies of what is shaping up to be an explosive summer.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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