A Marvel Fan’s Spoiler-free Review of ‘The Avengers’
So, just to get it out of the way, yes, The Avengers was awesome. And if you know me at all, you know that I present that as honestly as I can; I immediately and again point out what was already offered in the title of this article—I’m a Marvel. That doesn’t mean that I’m ignoring the flaws—I’ll present them as I’ve come to understand them—but if you’re looking for a dissection-under-microscope of The Avengers, you haven’t found it.
What you have found, instead, is an attempt to argue why The Avengers is the best comic book movie I’ve ever seen.
It’s at Once the Very First of Its Kind and a Brand New Standard - One of the reasons why I was more excited for The Avengers than any of the top notch superhero movies we’re getting this year is because beyond all of them, The Avengers was the only one that attempted something completely new. And I’m not talking, “Oh, so Spider-Man’s all serious instead!? Wow!” because it wasn’t something as simple as a change in tone or even the introduction of a new character. No, this is the very first superhero movie of its kind.
Not a team movie (because, ya know, we had Fantastic Four and all 18 X-Men movies). No, this movie was the very first crossover; the Avengers are a team, but they’re all awesome solo acts combined into a single unit. They’re all huge personalities that would’ve immediately overpowered most writers.
But, despite Tony Stark’s indomitable charm, Joss Whedon was able to deliver a movie that highlighted all of the characters so well that none of them fell especially far behind. There was no forgetting that Captain America was there or wondering what ever happened to Black Widow. And that translated to there not being a moment when you wondered, “Why is that person an Avenger?” or even the all important, “Who is that person anyway?”
And in that way, this insane gamble was incredibly successful, dropping a kind of terrifying new standard that I worry won’t be topped by The Avengers 2 (or anything else) for a long time.
It Watched Exactly Like What It Was—A Summer Crossover Comic Event - In Marvel’s model for superhero movies, the individual heroes’ features act as full story arcs for their individual titles. But The Avengers acts as the large-scale summer crossover event. In that way, the movies follow the general mold of a comics season. Now, those crossover events are supposed to be epic free-for-all’s with high stakes (i.e. New York gets destroyed [like every time]).
Well, The Avengers more than delivers. It has high stakes—with aliens threatening to take over the world—great action scenes, enthralling fight scenes, the whole New York getting destroyed thing, the sense that (at the very least) the Avengers are having a hard time keeping everything contained and the fight going, the sheer awesomeness of seeing your favorite characters in the same place, working towards the same goal). Watching the final act is particularly like reading a double length final issue for a crossover (differing only in the way that it’s more insane and epic than such issues usually are [probably due to its lack of advertisements for 13 other books at the end]).
So in the end, it does exactly what it was meant to do in relation to the movies that came before it.
And so, it was definitely not disappointing and well worth the… what? Four? Five movie build up?
It Was True to the Source Material in the Best Ways - While other superhero movies always manage to get something terribly wrong (i.e. all of Green Lantern), The Avengers goes out of its way to make everything right. But like… more… everything right; I’m talking super subtle nuances that almost no one would notice that just highlight how much care was taken with it. Okay, the best way to explain it:
- When Steve Rogers is reintroduced, the gym he’s working out in looks like it could’ve been a set from Captain America (it even has black and white cut-outs of old boxers on the walls).
- When Thor is reintroduced, he lands on a hillside that looks a lot like Yodenheim (the world of the Frost Giants as it looked in Thor). To boot, a pair of crows fly by (once when Thor lands, and again in a wide shot of the landscape moments later); and these crows are Huginn and Muninn, or “thought” and “memory” / “mind.” No characters mention it or even notice, but they were put there to say “Odin is watching” in a really awesome way.
- The Avengers fight among themselves so often that you could almost say their villain for this movie was also the Avengers. And that, of course, is exactly like them; I (like any fan of the comics) was worried that they wouldn’t fight at all (which would just be silly), but of course, Joss Whedon delivered.
- Bruce Banner often had purple in his wardrobe, although never his pants (because really).
I would go on, but I’d start getting into spoiler territory and I refuse. The point is, it’s hard enough to get it right with a single character. Yet The Avengers manages with six heroes and two and a half hours.
No One Shouted “Avengers Assemble!” - And, seriously, thank God. I love the Avengers, I really do, and I even like that line, but I was worried about the inevitable quaintness of it souring up a scene and tipping the scales right into All of This Is Really Silly Land, but that never happened. So, to the people who are upset about this, I’m sorry, but seriously, phew.
There’s Just No Serious Red Flag - As my last point, I just have to say that there’s always a red flag—in every super hero movie. Whether it’s excessive shaky cam, a terrible, terrible third act, a completely unnecessary forth act, or the occasional face-palm inducing musical number, there’s always something (at least for me) that makes me say, “It wasn’t really amazing.” Unless, ya know, I’m still unconscious from that musical number.
I don’t have that with The Avengers.
I do have a list of issues with the movie, but most of them are from friends, not me. I definitely can’t say you won’t find any flaws on your watch, but I can say I didn’t… and remind you that the next part of this review’s all about the flaws you may find.
And Now For Some Nit Picking
Not Enough Actual Hawkeye - If you know anything about Hawkeye, you know that there was potential for a lot of great character moments with him. Of course, you probably also know that Whedon’s take on Hawkeye hearkens to his beginnings with the Avengers in Marvel continuity.
Of course, if you didn’t know that, you probably also don’t know that he’s actually a great character. Or that if he had [really] been there from the start, many of his moments would’ve infringed on the sarcastic humor Tony Stark wielded so well (think back to Thor and “Want me to slow him down, sir? Or are you sending in more guys for him to beat up?” for an idea of what I mean).
All of this is to say I totally understand why he was portrayed as he was and I honestly don’t consider it a flaw.
But I did want to take this opportunity to express my excitement for the inevitable arguments between Hawkeye and Captain America in the sequel (because saving a bunch of people from drowning is always the best time to make your case to Captain America that you should be leading the team instead of him).
A Case-a the Long Expositions - At least among my friends, it’s pretty well accepted that the movie started off slowly. I would say, “There was both an action scene and Maria Hill,” but I understand that that action scene wasn’t as super-powered as many would’ve wanted and that Maria Hill isn’t exactly a huge incentive for someone who hasn’t had a major crush on her since forever.
About the scenes after the intro and before the action picks up, I thought it was all well written, interesting, and completely essential for the character building that everyone really enjoyed, but, be warned, lots of people (that I know) were kinda “meh” about it.
And Uh… <Clears Throat> the Uh… … <Tries—Really, Really Tries—to Come Up With a Third Thing> - Uh… Ah hell; there is no third thing.
The Final Word
I honestly can’t think of a reason why you shouldn’t go see The Avengers. Wait! Yes I can; don’t go see The Avengers if you’re determined to hate it… Nope. Cause even the people I expected to hate it liked it.
Okay. Don’t go see it if you’re a hardcore DC… … No. Dammit. Even the really irrational, Marvel-hating DC fanboys that I know still liked it… Dammit!
Don’t go see it… if you like fun.
Or if you really, really prefer to hate things instead of liking them.
Or if you’re going to sit down and expect a complete revelation from every last theme of the movie (I’m sorry, but this just really isn’t the place to expect a revolution in cinema [so seriously, if you are expecting that, get a ticket for The King's Speech on your couch, by yourself, ya butt]).
And to anyone else, seriously, see The Avengers this weekend, before the spoiler tide takes you!