After setting it up with multiple films about how the individual characters gained their super powers, The Avengers finally brings together all of the heroes in one story to either work together as team to defend Earth or fight amongst each other aided by their massive egos and verbal bravado. Perhaps never before in cinema history have there been so many movies released as prequels to set up the eventual crown jewel. Batman and Superman only met in the comics, not on the big screen. The Avengers appears to be sort of a test case to see if so many leading superheroes can all share the same screen.
While all six characters each receive a certain amount of on screen time and side story, some are pushed more into the foreground than others. As Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) is a fan favorite and is always handy with a funny quip, he is front and center along with Captain America (Chris Evans) who even though does not have much of a super power, places himself in a sort of leadership role within the group. Thor (Chris Hemsworth), the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), and the two characters that did not get their own films, Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) all fight for the leftover screen time in the background. The puppet master is Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) who spends most of his effort in sheep dog mode herding these guys from their billion dollar towers or their self-imposed exile.
So what possible threat is great enough to require the efforts of six superheroes? Eh, it’s just Loki (Tom HIddleston); Thor’s adopted brother who has a chip on his shoulder. He zooms down to Earth with greasy hair, a ridiculous hat, and the backing of a large and formidable alien Army known as The Chitauri. Countering Loki would seem like a job for just Thor or just Iron Man, not the catalyst for The Avengers to finally come together as a team. Ah, but here is where the film really takes off. Most of these super beings are not team players. Iron Man’s ego is way too big to share space with somebody else, the Hulk does not trust himself to walk down the street, and Captain America can’t believe these prima donnas represent the future America which remains quite strange to him.
Entrusted with helming this new and star-studded film is Joss Whedon, the brains behind Firefly, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Angel. He has only directed one movie before this, the wonderful Serenity. I would have guessed the studio would go with a more experienced director; however, Whedon has proven before he is more than capable with this type of material. I’m not talking about action movies, but the verbal sparring, witty conversational scenes, and complicated story which must make a lot of room for almost too many characters. Whedon brings his trademark strengths with him including humor. When you think of The Hulk, the words humor and ironic laughter do not pop up in the first 20 adjectives to describe him, but in The Avengers, The Hulk becomes the most amusing character to watch which is all due to Whedon’s skill.
There are a few details which do not work as well as others which hurt the film’s appeal a little bit. To bring The Avengers together and mold them as a team requires a tremendous villain; however, Loki is not that guy. He is more of a villain’s sidekick or henchman rather than the main baddie. Then there is Nick Fury’s helicarrier which can also cloak itself and appears to be an upgrade, but direct rip-off of Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. Oh, and Cobie Smulders as Agent Maria Hill was the absolute wrong casting choice for her role. An unknown actress is always better for a supporting role because every time she was on screen, all I could see was Robin from How I Met Your Mother.
Those are just details though. Whedon shows he was able to weave together a complex sextet of superheroes and take them through the difficult process of becoming a team. For simplicity’s sake, some heroes are featured much more than others, but any other script and director would have made the same choices. The Avengers is very good during its climactic fight scene where all of the plot threads come together, but Loki as the villain is just not up to the challenge. Hopefully, whatever sequels come down the line are able to up the ante a little bit.