Saturday, May 12, 2012
By James Wortman
1) Joss Whedon Kept it Simple
Let’s face it: Bringing together Captain America, Thor, Iron Man and The Hulk onscreen has all the makings for a cinematic disaster. Despite the fact that each of these characters’ solo adventures took place in a shared universe, Whedon was tasked with a lot of heavy lifting in bringing all of these heroes together as a team and giving them a reason to stand together. As complicated as this film could have been—essentially weaving four separate mythologies into a singularly coherent narrative—Whedon told a relatively simplistic alien invasion/take-over-the-world story with Thor’s brother Loki as the antagonist. Loki’s presence on Earth shakes things up, prompting S.H.I.E.L.D. and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) to call together Earth’s Mightiest Heroes to quell his plans for world domination and save the day. That’s about as complicated as the core plot gets.
Because the actual story wastes so little time unraveling itself, we’re allowed to enjoy Cap/Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), Hulk/Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Iron Man/Tony Stark try to figure out how they’re going to work together as a team despite their clashing egos. We’re also given the opportunity to see Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) –both of whom had minor roles in previous Marvel Studios films—flex their muscles as they share the screen with their more iconic team members as they fend off Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and his enlisted alien army known as the Chitauri.
2) The Hulk Steals the Show
Talk to anyone as they’re walking out of a screening of The Avengers and the first thing out of their mouth will probably involve the words “Hulk,” “awesome” and an enthusiastic expletive or two. Bruce Banner has been a character that, for whatever reason, has never worked in a feature-length production…until now. Ruffalo is an example of perfect casting, making all of us (hopefully) forget about Eric Bana’s dull portrayal of Banner in Ang Lee’s Hulk and Ed Norton’s wiry, angsty and decidedly not nerdy Banner in 2008’s The Incredible Hulk—the character’s introduction in the Marvel Studios canon. Ruffalo’s Banner is tortured, sure, but he’s also got a dark sense of humor about the monster living inside him and that’s refreshing.
And when he transforms? Damn. The Hulk is amazingly fun to watch during the film’s final battle and, without spoiling anything, he’s responsible for two of the film’s best comedic moments. Ruffalo is reportedly signed on for six future films in the cinematic Marvel Universe, which means we’ll be getting plenty more of this version of Banner/Hulk. Let’s hope other filmmakers follow Whedon’s example and continue doing this character justice.
3) The Post-Credits Sequences Pay Off (in Different Ways)
Ever since the “Avengers Initiative” was unveiled in a post-credits sequence in Iron Man back in 2008, it’s become tradition for Marvel Studios to reward fans with the fortitude (and bladder control) to remain seated once their films have ended. In this case, we get an exciting glimpse at where this franchise is headed as well as one of the most hilariously “Whedon-esque” sequences in the film.
4) The Final Battle is Full of “Wow” Moments That Give Each Avenger Time to Shine
Once Loki uses the Tesseract (Cosmic Cube) to open a portal that unleashes swarms of Chitauri upon Midtown Manhattan, The Avengers jumps into high gear as we get to see Earth’s Mightiest Heroes kick all kinds of extraterrestrial ass. You never really get the sense that these characters are in any real danger, but thanks to some great visual effects and some really inventive action beats, the battle’s still a blast to watch. Plus, it’s also home to those two Hulk moments I mentioned earlier.
5) There’s Much More to Come
This franchise is already six films in and we’ve barely scratched the surface. Along with a confirmed sequel to The Avengers, we can also look forward to Iron Man 3, Thor 2, Captain America 2 and logically, considering the overwhelmingly positive response to The Hulk in this film, another solo outing for Ol’ Jade Jaws as well. Although it’d be presumptuous to say that The Avengers will own the summer of 2012—it’s barely even begun, after all—I think it’s safe to say that Marvel Studios has cornered the market on superhero films for the foreseeable future...and this is a good thing.