"The Avengers" Is A Real Marvel
By Dan Gvozden
At 5 years old, I was in kindergarten and encountered my first experience with bullies - a problem that would plague my life for quite some time. Some of my earliest childhood memories involve me hiding under a desk while the teacher did roll call so I could avoid the attention of our classroom bully. Whether by coincidence or by fantastic parenting, it was around this time my father introduced me to Spider-Man. I was instantly hooked.
In Peter Parker I discovered a character going through very similar situations as to what I was experiencing. Here was a ridiculed and bullied science nerd who held a deep, dark secret he couldn't share with anyone. I've always believed my intellect, personality and good nature were my superpowers, and through the valuable lessons I learned from Spider-Mans adventures I was able to shape much of the person I am today.
In short, the Marvel characters are ones I hold very close to my heart because they aren't just a passing interest or fad, but a core part of who I am and how I was raised. These characters live inside of me in a place that is almost pre-intellectual, right alongside my childhood feelings, and so I wonder if I can approach this review of The Avengers objectively at all. I hope I can, but please understand that Dan Gvozden isnt reviewing this film; 5-year-old Dan Gvozden is.
That being said, I found The Avengers to be one of the most entertaining theater-going experiences I've ever had. Is it a deep character study? Nope. Does it push boundaries in terms of visual aesthetic and design? Double nope. Is the story intricate and emotionally compelling? Triple nope.
However, there was not a single moment I wasn't entertained by this movie. Not a single second. I was cheering. I was clapping. I was laughing. Best of all, I was invested in all of the actions of the characters and each of their unique plights. This is blockbuster escapist entertainment at its best and should be the benchmark for films of this type going forward.
Much of the success of The Avengers can be directly attributed to the work done in each character's previous movies. While I didn't find all of those films to be terribly amazing (Iron Man 2, Thor), they all work together as strong character pieces. Much of this has to do with stellar casting.
The Avengers wastes none of this and allows each and every character to not only have their own unique storyline, but possibly their best moments ever on screen. Personally, I cannot think of another movie that has managed to take so many characters and combine them in a way as successfully as this movie does. The way these characters trade not only physical blows but also verbal spars is electrifying and constantly adapting. This is Director Joss Whedon at his finest, proving once and for all he is the master of team dynamics.
Once again Tom Hiddleston as Loki makes for a compelling and threatening villain, playing strongly off his fantastic development in last year's Thor. His army of space aliens isn't quite as interesting, however, and really only serves as a punching bag for the team. However, the real conflict of the film isn't whether or not these heroes can defeat this invading force but whether or not they can work together to do so.
Joss Whedon's script and direction chose to focus on this idea, and in doing so they create what is almost an origin story for the Avengers team. Oftentimes in comics, characters feel thrown together just so the publisher can sell a few more copies, and the same could have been said about this movie. However, that just isn't the case. Whedon crafts a story that feels deserving, and once the team is assembled, after many trials and tribulations, it feels completely earned.
This understanding of team dynamics also works its way into the action as well. With Captain America fulfilling his militaristic role of dealing out orders, the team of heroes utilizes each of their abilities in a realistic and efficient way on the battlefield. When aliens are destroying New York City, the sniper takes to the roofs, the non-flying combat heroes take to the streets, and those with flight take to the skies. The way the camera moves between each of these characters is fluid and never obstructive, allowing the audience to fully observe every action made. Watching the heroes mix their power sets is more than half the fun of this movie.
Not everything in The Avengers works as well as it should though. The idea of Samuel L. Jackson playing the ultimate super-spy Nick Fury is a great idea in concept, but in practice he has never been able to pull off the character. Jackson adds nothing to the role and is wholly unconvincing when spouting his over-the-top action hero lines. This is unfortunate because the beginning of The Avengers chooses to focus on his character for an extended period of time. This starts the film off on the wrong note, but is quickly corrected once the main heroes are introduced in a particularly strong series of vignettes.
The film is also a bit unevenly paced with a bloated action sequence in the second act which, while stunning, deflates a bit of the momentum of the film and distracts from the heroes' goal at hand - to reacquire the Tesseract. There is never a moment like the one in Raiders Of The Lost Ark, with its great reveal of the Ark of the Covenant, where the power of the macguffin is explained in all its horror and power.
Despite its flaws and the inherent nature of its existence as a giant Hollywood blockbuster, The Avengers is a miracle. Nothing in this film should work as well as it does or be nearly as fun as it is. The Avengers isn't a film that asks any tough questions or pushes the superhero genre into new territory narratively. Instead it is the purest distillation of what makes comic books fun and why I fell in love with them in the first place. Now all I could wish for is a time machine, so I could invite my 5-year-old self out to re-watch this film. It would certainly blow his young mind.
To read more of Dan Gvozden's reviews, check out his website, Grind My Reels.