Depending on the strength of your inner geek, you’ve either been waiting patiently for The Avengers since 2008’s Iron Man first hinted at the larger Marvel universe waiting in the wings or for several decades prior to that. Being a lifelong comic book fan, dreaming of seeing my favorite team assembled on-screen has been a favored pastime for nearly 33 years. With the preponderance of the comic book movies swamping movie theaters since 1998’s Blade kick-started the genre, it was inevitable that Marvel’s premier team of heroes would get their own starring vehicle. What is surprising is the sheer talent overflow that constitutes the movie’s cast.
Unlike 2000’s X-Men (the closest movie analogy here) The Avengers doesn’t feature a cast of mostly unknowns gathered for the express purposes of launching a movie franchise. While X-Men Bryan Singer chose the best possible cast he could afford and hope for, Avengers helmer Joss Whedon had most of the ground work done before even getting the gig, and the difference between the two approaches is glaring.
Having successfully brought Tony Stark to life in a pair of Iron Man movies, Robert Downey Jr. inhabits the role so effortlessly that he barely appears to be acting, his performance just flows naturally, all cocky billionaire playboy with a somewhat buried heart of gold. Chris Hemsworth only has the benefit of last year’s Thor to fuel his performance, and he’s somewhat overshadowed by Tom Hiddleston’s showier Loki, but when it comes time to fling cars around and bring down the lightning, it’s hard not to buy him as the God of Thunder brought to life. Chris Evans brings the same Gary Cooper-ish, all-American hero attitude that made him so winning in Captain America but, at times, his character arc felt a bit restrained. Understandably, Whedon might have been hampered by the need to keep Cap’s fish-out-of-water adjustment to modern times a major plot point of the upcoming Captain America sequel so Steve Rogers’ main plot arc involves him stepping up to a leadership role on the team.
These three, the proud owners of their own movie franchises, easily get the most screen time. However, the supporting players end up stealing the movie’s thunder. Quite literally, in Thor’s case. Scarlet Johansson’s Black Widow walks away with an early showstopper in which she dispatches several assailants while tied to a chair. Johansson, beautiful as a redhead, manages to make her character more than femme fatale eye candy. Faring slightly less well is Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye. While Johansson’s role in Iron Man 2 was considerable and showy, Renner only has a two minute cameo in Thor to work with. To his credit, Renner imbues Hawkeye with a sense of sadness and regret that is palpable and easily drew cheers from the crowd during his final battle antics.
To nobody’s great surprise, if you’ve been following audience reactions online, it’s the Jolly Green Giant that manages to steal everybody’s heart. After two good but in no way incredible Hulk movies, Whedon seems to have discovered where the purple-wearing behemoth works best: as a showstopper. Mark Ruffalo, the third actor to essay the role after Eric Bana and Edward Norton, finally finds the right balance between geeky scientist dude and boiling cauldron of rage. Watching the rest of the cast walk on eggshells around him, lest a wrong word or an awkward glance cause his blood pressure to rise, never ceases to be funny.
And The Avengers is funny, make no mistake. Those of you unfamiliar with Joss Whedon’s penchant for snarky one-liners might walk away surprised by how witty everybody in this movie is. Luckily, the jokes are always appropriate to their context and never come off as something any particular character wouldn’t be caught dead saying. The script does get a bit bombastic at times, with some lines coming off very comic-booky but The Avengers can be forgiven for a few knowing winks at its mother genre.
Read the verdict after the jump…
- Yell! Rating (x/5 Skulls):
- Year Released:
- 4 May 2012
- Joss Whedon
- Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston
- Official URL:
- The Avengers