The Avengers is the ensemble super hero film we've been waiting for. With the level of talent involved, it's no surprise that the film turned out as well as it did, but I don't know if anyone expected this level of excellence.
The Avengers amazes from frame one. The overture of the film throws us directly into the villain’s plans with some light exposition, and then the action jumps right in. While Loki’s plans aren't clear from the start, they begin to roll out right on target, prompting our good guys to start building their team immediately.
A larger part of the film is spent on forming the team than I would have expected. From the previews, it looked like fighting the alien menace would be the bulk of the film. Instead, the heroes spend the first half of the film just getting together and learning about each other. Once they are pushed to action, however, it’s all the more glorious for the time spent really building the dynamic personalities.
The teamwork presented here is epic in scale. Once the heroes get going, joined up by a catalyzing event at the film’s midpoint, they are quickly able to find reliance in once another.
It’s real teamwork: not just fighting shoulder to shoulder, back to back, it’s playing into and off of one another's strengths, working together and delegating.
Cap shines as the tactical leader of the team. When he takes over and starts giving orders, it turns the tide of the battle, and makes all the characters shine. The way Whedon manages to keep track of what all of the heroes are doing in the fight, even when they are far from one another is astounding, and they come together and come apart again throughout, in a way which is clever and rousing. Through all this, he keeps the action fluidly heart-pounding, and even manages to work in a few great laughs. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed with a superhero film so much as I did with this one (I’ve certainly found plenty of superheroes films to laugh at).
How did he have room for all of this? The film was completely lacking in a romantic subplot. No one was kissing. No one was pining. No one got the girl at the end. There were cleverly emotional moments, even slightly romantic ones, but the plot was not overtaken, even in a small way with romance. The heroes were simply too busy. And, while it seemed odd - it’s out of line with the super hero film formula, afterall - I didn’t miss it. In fact, I think I’d like to see a lot more action films give over their romance in favor of deeper character development, and better primary plots.
There were a few small inconsistencies in the heroes’ depictions, as there was surely a lot to keep track of, and drew me out at a couple points. For example, the power of Cap’s shield seemed inconsistent, but these moments were fleeting and did not damage the film or draw me out too sharply. These tiny inconsistencies - only noticeable by a nitpicker, really - were the film’s only flaws.
Whedon has been a popular writer and director of genre works for some time now, and with good reason, but this is his masterpiece. Here he has taken everything he’s learned over his career, and laser-focused it into one of the most exhilarating and engaging films of the last decade.
This is not a film to miss. Skip the 3D, though. It’s post production 3D, and will give you a headache if you’re prone to that type of malady.
The Avengers is in theaters now.