Writer/director Joss Whedon knows a thing or two about not only being one of the most spirited creative minds out there, but also for having a little fun with it all in the process. As anyone who appreciated his cult-following, critically adored seven-season-long television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer can attest to, Whedon knows how to drive characters and a narrative through thrilling, comedic and dramatic territory with his signature creative style. In the big-screen, summer blockbuster opening actioner Marvel’s The Avengers, Whedon takes on majorly sacred comic book character territory and weaves a cleverly handled, thrilling and highly entertaining popcorn flick.
Based (of course) on the massively popular Marvel comics, The Avengers follows the formation by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) of the aforementioned Avengers team of heroes when all of living kind on Earth is under threat by someone of another universe. The threat comes in the form of Loki (Tom Hiddleston), the adopted brother of Avengers hero god Thor (Chris Hemsworth). Loki controls a cube of energy that can make an opening between Earth and the universe beyond. Naturally, as anyone who wants to take over Planet Earth would desire, Loki wants civilization to bow down before him and he will take things from there; otherwise, he will declare war on Earth with his fleet of reptile-looking monster-machines.
In addition to Thor, the Avengers to take on the task of defending Earth against Loki’s threat would include Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), the Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner). With so many heroes, in less capable hands a director could lose an audience through the danger of being too over- or under-exposed to any one particular character in favor of another, but Whedon admirably takes command of his cast and all are allowed to shine about as equally. Audiences can gleefully cheer on one hero in one scene and root for another hero in a scene soon to follow. Whedon gets the very premise of their story and executes it all nicely: coming together, egos and all for some, and forming a united team to save the world.
Of course, the path to being a team starts out rocky to say the least, and Whedon has a lot of fun with his varying hero “duals” as the film moves along. But when they do all ultimately take on the momentous threat, it is great to see Whedon handle it all with a great amount of style, creativity and a whole lot of his signature wit. As he was known on Buffy for doing, Whedon can take what can seem like a more serious moment and come out of nowhere with something of incredible wit and “zing,” which is what drives the fun of the film all the more.
One of the joys of the film is that it is highly entertaining even for non-fan boys (or girls) of the comics. By providing sufficient enough back story for each hero to get the general idea of what makes them individually tick (or, in some cases, what sets them off), one hadn’t even necessarily needed to watch any of the heroes’ recent solo films to follow along with their ultimate united-front challenge and Whedon’s narrative string. Overall, Whedon made for a nicely accessible crowd-pleaser through and through.
Assembling a straight-forward narrative that didn’t take the Michael Bay approach of summer blockbusters by being loud and yet ultimately hollow and mindless, Whedon commands The Avengers to be full-on entertainment—in other words, a summer popcorn blockbuster done right. Through careful hero puppeteering and a few doses of his signature sly wit, Whedon delivers a blockbuster that deserves to be the box-office record breaker that it has quickly achieved. The Avengers is indeed a film to be appreciated by both the popular masses and the critics that look for more in a motion picture—it delivers for all.
4 ½ out of 5 stars