By Noel Manning
It is rare when a superhero film can appeal to critics and comic-book fans alike, but The Avengers finds a way to do it.
Some films transcend genre and are true art. Yet others take audiences into different worlds allowing an opportunity for escape, entertainment and simple enjoyment. In some ways, Marvel’s The Avengers marries those two concepts.
When Christopher Nolan reignited the Batman franchise (Batman Begins, The Dark Knight) several years ago, audiences witnessed high art on film in the superhero genre. While The Avengers doesn’t quite measure up to that from purely critical standards, it is one of the most entertaining films I’ve ever watched in a theatre.
The plotline itself for The Avengers is nothing new (and the weakest part of this film). A power-hungry tyrant intent of world domination finds an all-to-willing army to do his bidding. Faced with the possibility of living in complete slavery — or global genocide — an unlikely alliance of resistance fighters is formed to take on the challenge of saving humanity from this overwhelming foe. The battles are fought, by the way, by creatures with superhuman abilities, but that’s a given.
With Academy Award caliber talent (four Oscar nominees in all) uniting on screen, one might expect egos to take over and bring about disastrous results, but that is not the case here. The Avengers is a pretty incredible ensemble effort, and the chemistry is brilliant. I applaud Director Joss Whedon for that.
Photo courtesy Marvel/Disney
Whedon has long been a fan of The Avengers (and superheroes in general) so when offered the chance to work with Zak Penn on the screenplay, it was a no-brainer. Whedon previously wrote storylines for The Astonishing X-Men comic books, so he had a feel for the genre. When given the Hulk-sized prospect of directing this project, Whedon couldn’t resist.
It was a bit of a gamble on Disney’s part to allow someone with very little feature-film directing experience (only one prior film) to helm a summer tent-pole film, but Whedon became a master and has secured his place in superhero history.
Whedon is also no stranger to writing about dysfunctional families and unlikely alliances. Independently, his characters battle internal demons, shortcomings, faults and unique idiosyncrasies. But when these individuals are brought together on a quest for the greater good, self-interests take a back seat.
Any fan of Whedon will recognize these same themes in his previous television works (Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly). While this concept of selflessness becomes evident over the course of The Avengers, it is the word sacrifice that rings loud and clear by the film’s final frame. And I must say, it is a willing sacrifice from a most unexpected character.
The Avengers is amazing on multiple levels. The cinematography, music, witty dialogue, action and special effects all work together to create an unforgettable experience. This action-adventure also offers heavy doses of humor throughout, with one scene reflecting classic Looney Tunes animation.
The Avengers is 50 years in the making and in many ways a sequel to a film franchise that is already alive and well. For the past several years, this story has been foreshadowed on film (Ironman 1 & 2, The Incredible Hulk, Thor and Captain America), and with the financial success of The Avengers expected to reach over a billion dollars, audiences can expect this franchise to last at least another five years.
Ironman 3 is in the works, as is Thor 2, Captain America 2, and The Avengers 2. And with the possibility of another Hulk film on the horizon, these characters are going to continue challenging the genre and the box office.
The film is rated PG-13 for action violence and intense sequences, so beware of that before taking small children. It was, however, a perfect daddy/son day out for my 12-year old and me. It you choose to take in this film, make sure you stay through the entire credits. You’ll get a couple of surprises worth hanging around for.
The Avengers gets a solid “A” on my report card and is well worth watching a multiple times. The only downside, the bar is now set pretty high for the rest of the summer box office. This film is about the ride, about bringing out the boy in the man, especially those of us who grew up reading comics.