Friday, May 4, 2012


Eleven years ago, in the pivotal, fifth season of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, series-creator Joss Whedon wrote and directed the all-important episode, The Body. In that episode, one of the main characters rallies his friends together in the face of tragedy with an off-remark of “Avengers assemble”. As fate would have it, Whedon would later be chosen to pen and shoot the big-screen adaptation of THE AVENGERS; the biggest, riskiest, boldest, and greatest superhero film ever made.
Loki (Tom Hiddleson) has returned to our world to steal the Tesseract, a powerful energy cube, and plans to use it to open a portal so his alien army can invade. With S.H.I.E.L.D unable to stop him, Nick Fury (Sam Jackson) initiates the (ahem) Avengers Initiative to save the Earth; a collection of superheroes in the form of Iron Man/Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), The Hulk/Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), Captain America/Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), and Thor (Chris Hemsworth), who are then teamed with S.H.I.E.L.D super-agents Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner).

On the surface, AVENGERS looks formulaic; bring all the heroes together, let them argue, find a bond, then save the world. What separates AVENGERS from anything else that’s ever been done is the smart, and downright genius writing from Joss Whedon. Every character is fleshed out so well the simplicity of the plot is never an issue. The characters rule here, and Whedon knows exactly what to do with them. By taking many lessons from THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, our heroes are put through some hard times and trials to the point of brutality. There is boldness at work here; Whedon is not afraid to put our heroes through the meatgrinder and taking the audience right along with them.
AVENGERS then shifts to a new gear around the halfway point when the genius of the film finally shows its cards. The tragedy that is looming through the film finally hits a breaking point, and it is a bittersweet heartbreaker; the one thing that brought them all together over the course of five films manages to do so again in a tragic manner, and it happens at just the right time.

Having been immersed in comic books and superheroes his entire life, Whedon seems to know exactly what the world wants to see out of their favorite heroes. What they get to do, who they get to fight and how they do it is the type of thing an eight year-old would imagine with his action figures on his playroom floor, and it is done on a magnificent and grand scale. And through it all, no character is shortchanged. Every hero, agent, and Director gets an arc and many great moments; an astounding feat considering how much is packed into the movie.
The acting and casting is absolutely perfect. The largest question marks going into the film was Hiddleson’s Loki (who is a leftover villain from THOR), and Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner (Ruffalo is the third Banner in three films). Fear not, mortals. Hiddleson takes Loki to a new level,and Ruffalo owns Banner. It’s nearly a shame Ruffalo hasn’t been on board since the first film.

A great superhero film should obviously be entertaining, thrilling, and engaging. Outside of that it also needs to humanize these extraordinary beings so we can relate to them. The specialty of AVENGERS is that it pulls off the humanizing of seven characters. We get to walk and fight (and fly) in their shoes (and heels), and we care about what they are after. With that in place, the thrill ride has substance beyond loud noises, which makes it likeable to everybody; not just the comic-geeks. THE AVENGERS will have everyone’s asses out of the theatre seats with arms up in the air in celebration; it is an awesome feat, and Earth’s mightiest superhero film.

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