Marvel’s The Avengers Review

Went to see The Avengers today. It was $5 Tuesday, so it turned out pretty affordable.

The Avengers comic series is one of those classic, main storyline comics that was a bit past its heyday when I finally got a chance to buy comics like a true believer. I knew about the facts of it, but not the poetry. Still, over the past few years, the Marvel movies have familiarized people with Iron Man, Thor, Cappy, and those crazy secret agents from SHIELD. (I don’t think anybody ever forgot the Hulk.) I went from knowing who they were to knowing them as characters I really liked. But I kept my expectations low.

This was a darned good movie. The setup didn’t take too long, the characters were strong, and it was a true Marvel-style slugfest. By which I mean that the fights and action were grounded and limited just enough by reality (and love for New York and for people) to appeal to your heart as well as your love for action and adventure; but there was also lots of cool stuff going on. Lots and lots and lots. Also, Whedon’s direction focused on giving you just enough time to see what was happening in an action scene, without lingering long enough to make CGI obvious, and yet also without using the shakycam. The fights were comics art and epic poetry, just like they’re supposed to be. There was also a good helping of Marvel jokes and slapstick, without letting the comedy take over; and there was even a bit of dead people staying dead, as used to be the Marvel way.

And the SHIELD helicarrier was awesome, as it should be. I think Steranko was smiling a cool smile somewhere, in his incredibly cool local lair of coolness.

The acting was pretty darned good. Whedon trusted his actors to be able to act, and react to each other. There were things that played out without being talked about, and things that when talked about became obvious in hindsight from the acting. There’s even a quietly funny scene after the credits, which is nothing but acting. (Extremely realistic acting, too, if you’ve ever seen people really really tired at the end of a long, emotionally exhausting day.)

Black Widow got to be extremely competent, which was nice. (In Marvel Comics, some comics writers like women characters and build them to be more interesting, while others basically use women characters as punching bags and ruin their lives. I think we all know Whedon was one of the comics fans who liked Marvel women interesting.) She also got feelings, great dialogue, strong action scenes, and a chance to trick the trickster. Very little was said about her sad backstory; but it was obvious that Whedon had told the actress to act from her character’s backstory. Very nice work.

Hawkeye got very clearly differentiated from DC’s Green Arrow. People who don’t see much difference between the two archer characters are a sore spot for old school Marvel fans, so I’m very glad this was taken care of. Hawkeye was done amazingly well and charismatically, too.

And Cappy and the Hulk totally stole the show, in their own separate Moments of Supreme Awesomeness. There were also several times when ordinary people got to show their heroic chops, also in the classic Marvel style.

Joss Whedon pretty much buried his ego and usual directorial quirks for this movie. He didn’t ignore his strengths; but he made a Marvel Comics movie, not a Joss Whedon movie. It takes a big man and fan to do that, and I forgive him for many of his previous artistic sins. :)

I enjoyed it a lot.

Make Mine Marvel!

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