The best part of box-office record obliterating The Avengers is not one of The Incredible Hulk’s ridiculous trouncings of various extra-terrestrial beings, or Thor and Captain America’s exciting early standoff in the park, or even Scarlett Johansson in a tight black leather suit. No, the best part of the film is a bit after Tony Stark meets a muscular, long-haired pretty boy Thor about a third of the way through the movie, and without missing a beat calls him “Point Break,” a reference that I doubt many of the teenage fanboys understood this past opening weekend of the film (which made it all the more funny to me). Clelyn and I were in stitches.
Director Joss Whedon took his cues from the success of Iron Man, which relied so much on this kind of wit and sarcasm from Robert Downey Jr., and he spread it all across the 2 hour and 22 minute runtime and around to each of the major characters in the film. The approach is clear: Whedon and the actors all share the singular vision of just making it FUN, and it totally works.
My favorite superhero movies all have compelling themes: The Dark Knight is a crime saga with implications about spirituality and the nature of human free-will; both X-Men and X2 contain excellent commentary on equality and civil rights; and The Incredibles (if you consider it a superhero movie) speaks quite poignantly about the need for humans to achieve their true potential.
The Avengers, on the other hand, doesn’t really hold up to the others I just mentioned in terms of being thematically moving. It touches a little bit on the idea of a dysfunctional family coming together when needed in order to achieve the greater good, but overall I would say the film, as a whole, does not attempt the depth of those other films. Rather, as I mentioned, it just focuses on having fun. The film is almost wire-to-wire with action sequences, and the way those scenes were executed kind of reminded me of how my friends and I would play with our superhero action figures when I was 7 years old: balls-to-the-wall crazy, almost cartoonish in quality, yet still first-class entertainment.
The only major downgrade for the film is its villain, Loki, who is remarkably uninteresting and as non-threatening a villain as I can recall in a movie of this magnitude. Even from the beginning of the film, the audience knows that he is merely a pawn for a greater evil (which apparently we will see in the next installment), so his attempts at being sinister didn’t really have any significance other than empty threats. Too much screen time was wasted on him, especially considering that the superheroes were so much fun to watch.
All in all, the chemistry of the major players in The Avengers works so well to take a larger-than-life action film and make it, well, come to life. Let’s hope that this film is the first of several summer blockbusters that live up to their promise (if I’m honest, the trailers for Prometheus and The Dark Knight Rises in IMAX were almost as good as the film itself).
Oh, and one more thing, if you haven’t seen it yet: be sure to stay until the end of the film. The VERY end.