DIRECTOR: Joss Whedon
May Contain Spoilers!
Joss Whedon is back in the building. After making his name with TV series’ Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Angel and the short-lived Firefly, as well as his feature film Serenity (2006), to conclude Firefly, there can be no doubt that he is one of the best when it comes to screen-writing melodrama. Buffy was basically a TV comic book, in which he created a super-heroine and ran seven years of a hyper reality styled comic book, not too far apart from what Marvel and DC had been doing on the page. So, after years of hype and preparation, Marvel’s Avengers have Assembled. It all started back in 2008 with Iron Man and The (not so) Incredible Hulk.
What has now become known as “Phase 1” continued in 2010 with Iron Man 2, and then in 2011 with Thor and Captain America. Directors included Jon Favreau, Kenneth Branagh and unfortunately, Louis Leterrier, with The incredible Hulk, the worst of the franchise by far and certainly, so far! As the arguments raged on as to the extent of the inclusion of The Avengers arch in Iron Man 2, for example, it became clear that everything was hinging on the success of The Avengers, or Marvel Avengers Assemble as it is called in the U.K. Joss Whedon was an inspired choice, as what this needed was simply a well paced story and some quick-witted dialogue to explain where we are and what this is all about without taking away from the excitement.
And Whedon did just that. His sense of humour in dealing with dramatic and sometimes horrific matters has been proven with Buffy and Angel, and here we have six or seven distinct superheroes, who all normally have their own movies, having to share the limelight with others. This is point which was played with throughout, but all the heroes got their time in the limelight, though there were bound to be favourites. Iron Man still steals the show, but so did the Hulk, who finally seems to have found his superhero character, outside the Jekyll and Hyde metaphor. Thor was okay, but nothing to write home about, and Captain America was kind of low-key, though it’s not surprising considering the difficulty in embodying his character in this day and age.
But Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) seemed to be superfluous and if it wasn’t for Black Widow’s (Scarlet Johansen) relationship with him, I could have left him back at the able, to be honest. Though Renner is clearly a rising star, and made the best of an underdeveloped character whose superpower seemed to have something to do with firing arrows? This is defiantly the best of The Avengers movies to date, with Iron Man coming a close second, and it may well be the best Marvel film so far with the exception of Ang Lee’s Hulk (2003). I felt as I was watching this, that it took me back to 90’s, but not in a bad way. This was a 90’s all round action film to me, free from the angst of modern superhero films, especially The Dark Knight Trilogy, which is the artistic future of the genre, as far as I’m concerned, but this was just fun and maybe a truer interpretation of comic book adventure. The story was more about escapism but I presume, somewhat true to the source, with flying aircraft carriers and the like with the action seeming to know no limits. The threat was outright extra-terrestrial in nature and made no efforts to hide this.
In the world of The Avengers, aliens exist, superheroes fly and real world angst do not play a part in the events. It’s just enjoyable action with likeable characters which can be thoroughly enjoyed by all the family. It ain’t going to win any Oscars for the screenplay, though that’s not say that it is not an inspire adaptation and the acting is suitable but hardly powerhouse, but The Avengers has achieved something which I didn’t think possible and brought together a five film build up arch and pulled it off by improving on the lot! The Avengers is by far the best and can easily be watched and enjoyed without seeing any of the previous films. That’s thanks to Joss’s screenplay. That’s not to say that this wouldn’t encourage you go back see what you’ve missed either.
2008 saw a superhero film be almost universal dubbed a masterpiece and for me it was hard for Iron Man to compete with it. The masterpiece was The Dark Knight and Iron Man still had yo shake off the stigma of the Fantastic Four light heartiness before I could see it for the enjoyable romp that it was. The Incredible Hulk (2008) never stood a chance against Hulk (2003) in my eyes, but Leterrier made that comparison so much easier. So, in 2008, The Avengers had an uphill struggle and now, 2012 sees this and The Dark Knight Rises conclude their runs. The Avengers has gone up against Batman and I think it’s fair to say, certainly in this camp, that even though Marvel’s super mash-up is no Dark Knight, it has shown that there’s still room in the genre for old school action adventures as much as there’s room to take the genre to new and more artistic direction.
This was one of the major movie events of the year and it’s certainly lived up to hopes of its fans and massively exceed my expectations. I do think that they drafted in the right director for this one and at the right time too. Not many people could have pulled this off but it worked and it worked well.
So, Mr. Whedon, bring on The Avengers 2.