The Avengers is more than a movie – it is a cinematic event. No major motion picture has ever before combined four wildly successful blockbuster franchises, each with its own protagonist, and crossed them over into one gigantic film.
Needless to say the plan for The Avengers was audacious to the point of near-hubris, but writer-director Joss Whedon has delivered a film that largely lives up to Marvel’s ambition.
It probably helped that most of the groundwork was already laid with the prequel films; meaning The Avengers doesn’t waste time with needless exposition.
Instead, the film devotes its energy to bringing a bunch of superheroes together and expanding their individual stories. Importantly, every character gets equal screen time, and each is imbued with a strong blend of comedy and drama.
Despite varying levels of character development, The Avengers succeeds on a character level because the story is about bringing these superheroes together. It’s engaging to see these distinct personalities play off each other, and it adds a depth to the film not usually present in the standard superhero fare.
Whedon, creator of cult TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, is an avid comic book fan, and it shows – he operates with an instinctive understanding of how someone with the unshakable morality of Steve Rogers (Captain America) is going to handle a wild card like Tony Stark (Iron Man), and how that clashes with the arrogance of Thor or the moodiness of Bruce Banner.
However, one of the film’s few flaws is jumping into several conflicts without providing an adequate set-up to the scene. The second act of the film lacks flow, and some of the arguments feel manufactured.
Despite this brief stutter in the middle, when The Avengers swings into the third act it becomes a fine exponent of the ‘blockbuster’ picture.
The destruction of downtown Manhattan bears a striking resemblance to Transformers: Dark of the Moon, but while Michael Bay has a greater mastery of 3D, Whedon delivers a much more coherent narrative featuring characters you actually care about.
While this is a genre I’m personally not a huge fan of, The Avengers is absolutely top of its class within the realm of superhero flicks. By combining a cast of wonderful characters, brilliant comedy, and spectacular set pieces, Whedon has created the biggest and best superhero movie in film history.