I'm a comic book geek. A big, fat, hairy, judgmental nerd of near-"Comic Book Guy"-from-the-Simpsons caliber that gets as excited about comic book films as he is also terrified of them. I know these characters and stories inside and out, so while I may be giddy like a little school girl before they are released, I often want to vomit all over my shoes before kicking myself in the face after watching them.
Nothing is more exciting and terrifying to me than the prospect of bringing something I've wanted to see since I was a toddler to the screen. It happened with Transformers, Spider-Man, and the ilk of the Marvel Studios franchise and so it was only inevitable that I was going to get The Avengers too, whether I wanted it or not. Well, of course I wanted it. I'm not an idiot, you know?
Was I going to be given the gift of cinematic, comic book gold or was I about to be more disappointed than a Mets fan during the playoffs? Either way, one of my dreams was coming to reality, my innards were all bubbly and I sat down to watch Joss Whedon take the reigns on something I never quite trusted him with. The bastard did his damnedest to make me feel like a non-believing moron and just proved me wrong.
The Avengers is a loud, funny, action-packed explosion on the senses, yet it remains heartfelt and an obvious love affair for all those involved with making it. Whedon was never a guy I could get behind all the way. Nothing he had done up to this point gave me the sure faith in him as a writer or director to handle one of my most beloved franchises. Well, he knocked it out of the goddamn park. Where he gets it right is not just the emotional tones of each character, their dialog or how they interact with each other, but even something as simple as how much time they spend on screen. They get mostly equal billing, and if one character gets shortchanged by a little screen time they make up for it by doing AMAZING things.
There were points in this film where the characters were so like their comic book counterparts that I nearly teared up from joy. One of the biggest feats of this film, for me, was that they finally gave Black Widow a chance to shine. Iron Man 2 she was little more than scene dressing and didn't really come across as an interesting character at all. With Whedon's pen and lens he managed to sculpt her into something a bit more likable, awesome and human.
The basic premise is that Loki is given an army to attack Earth by some unnamed puppet master that wants the Tesseract/Cosmic Cube. He does so and thus causes S.H.I.E.L.D. to ask for help from the documented heroes so far and have them try to stop this invasion and save the world. It's pretty basic stuff but it allows each hero to show off their goods, play with each other and also beat the hell out of one another when they disagree.
They eventually get things back on track and play nice, and when they do, boy is it glorious. You might wonder how the Hulk could possibly play nice with the others, and trust me, they cover that quite well. As a fan of Ed Norton's version of Bruce Banner I really didn't want to like Mark Ruffalo taking his place. Thankfully, he does a decent enough job with the character, and most importantly, does a great job of acting out the motion capture for the Hulk. Hell, the Hulk actually has his likeness so it makes the transformation much more believable.
The interplay between the characters could have gone into dangerous territory, with nothing but cynical and witty dialog amid pithy statements and barbs thrown at each other, but Whedon showed some restraint and allowed for those moments only when needed. The characters shine in their appropriate nature, as Tony Stark remains a genius of a dick and Steve Rogers is a stern yet intelligent idealist. Bravo.
The Avengers culminates with an explosive finale that delivers everything I wanted and more. Then there is a credits scene that sets up, not only the future of The Avengers, but possibly the future of the landscape of the next Marvel Studios films. (More about this below in my spoiler-zone). Expect to leave with joy, warm and fuzzy feelings, and most likely the urge to go back to the box office and just buy yourself another ticket to immediately return and watch it again. Thank you Joss Whedon, Marvel, Disney and Paramount. I can now die a happy man. Nothing will be able to touch this film for us geeks for years.
Movie Grade: A+
SPOILER-ZONE: Read no further if you want to remain without spoilers and questions answered, however so many people have been asking me to reveal some stuff that I can't help but include it here... just, you know, don't read if you don't want to know.
1.) Yes, Hulk and Thor do fight, indeed. So do Cap and Thor, Iron Man and Thor, and Cap and Iron Man bitch each other out.
2.) Yes, the aliens are the Chitauri, also known as the Ultimates version of the Skrulls. However, you do NOT see them change shape.
3.) Yes, Whedon kills a fan favorite character. I'm not going to spoil who, however. You can probably guess it anyhow. I do think, though, that the new, second after credits sequence they filmed recently is going to wind up explaining it and have the character survive.
4.) The after-credits sequence reveals who has been pulling the strings of Loki, and it is NOT The Red Skull. Let's just say that the little Infinity Gauntlet easter egg in Thor is going to play a very important role. I just hope they get the Fantastic Four license back from FOX soon, so we can get some Silver Surfer action going on.