Entertaining Platt: Marvel’s The Avengers (2012)

May 5, 2012 § 1 Comment

Avengers SMASH!

Okay, it’s official: Joss Whedon now has my permission, for what it’s worth, to direct any fun movie that requires an ensemble.

His best work – Buffy, Angel, Firefly, and now Marvel’s The Avengers – involves groups of interesting people, sometimes working at cross purposes, finding common ground when faced with a greater threat.

I’ve always had solid confidence in Whedon as a writer and director – he’s one of my heroes. I wasn’t sure how successful he would be in trying to wrangle a decent story and a good balance of performances out of a Marvel heroes team movie with a bunch of big-ego, high-dollar actors and a few not-so-bigs.

After watching The Avengers, I can safely say Whedon hit this one into orbit.

Last time I remember a movie hitting all the right marks for me like this would have been The Hangover and The Dark Knight. Before that, it would’ve been Whedon’s underrated Serenity. And before that? I’d have to look all the way back to Ghostbusters or Raiders of the Lost Ark.

The dialogue’s great – especially the well-chosen glib one-liners saved for Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man, but also the subtle observations from Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner.

And the action sequences? It’s a comic book movie, right? There’s great pacing. Everything kicks off with adrenalin at S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters and roars along, with occasional breaks to catch breath, develop character, and level a forest with a well placed Norse hammer strike before capping it all with an alien invasion throwdown in the middle of Manhattan. Make Michael Bay sit through this movie about a dozen times. Show him how great (and comprehensible) action sequences are done.

I had seen all the movies that acted as setup for this one. Really, I now sort of wish I hadn’t. The Avengers story presented by Whedon does an excellent job of establishing the characters and what makes them tick, often better than the previous films ever tried. Case in point: I didn’t care much about Black Widow in Iron Man 2, but as presented to us in The Avengers, she matters – although she’s definitely inspired here by other strong female characters in Whedon’s past, including Buffy Summers and River Tam.

That brings me to another point: As great as the jabs and confrontations are between Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor, the rest of the Avengers team does an admirable job of repeatedly stealing the show – especially Ruffalo’s Banner, who just quietly, modestly smirks his way through the movie until just the right time to unchain the Other Guy. And the unsung hero of the story award would have to go to Clark Gregg as Coulson, the S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who represents the heart of the movie.

Be sure to stick around during and after the credits. Wouldn’t be a proper Marvel superhero film without a good stinger!

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