title quote attribution: Wired Magazine
Watch your back Christopher Nolan, Joss Whedon's coming up your six. The Avengers, the latest live-action offering from Marvel shows us it's possible to make a decent ensemble movie — we just need to STFU and work as a team.
I was looking forward to the Avengers movie as I was reading through the reviews on Letterboxd.com. Most of these reviews were from the rest of the world and I hoped I would not be disappointed — it just premiered in the US today.
It should be noted that no other studio, outside of Marvel, could have pulled off this feat. I'm talking less about the Avengers movie itself and more about Marvel starting their own studio and taking control of their intellectual property. Who better than a comics publishing giant could understand the needs of their own fans?
With premiere properties like Spiderman licensed to Sony, X-men and the Fantastic Four to Fox (and a host of other characters licensed to Lionsgate, New Line and Columbia) it seemed like the right time to venture out on their own. Marvel wanted to do this before making a movie, like The Avengers, would be hampered by lawyers and licensing deals. So Avi Arad and company bet the farm, staking their survival on the success or failure of the first Iron Man movie and the reboot of the Hulk. The latter being the version with Edward Norton. Lucky for us, that bet payed off.
Which brings us to Joss Whedon, the man entrusted with the mythos of The Avengers. I'm sure the Hollywood suits had their doubts but, found Whedon uniquely qualified to do the one thing that has plagued many failed super-hero movies - tell a good narrative without giving in to excessive exposition, back-story or cramming in too many heroes and villains. It doesn't hurt that Whedon's street cred includes a stint writing the Eisner Award winning X-Men series for Marvel.
We assume with millions to be made in licensing, the studio execs would insist Whedon to do things their way - the better to sell the myriad of merchandise that accompanies such spandex-wearing spectacle. Yet what we see on screen is quite the contrary. Joss Whedon has pulled off a masterpiece of summertime goodness that will appeal to the kid in all of us. For someone who grew up on the comic book rations Marvel, it is immensely satisfying to see what used to exist as drawings by Jack Kirby, John Buscema and George Perez (among others) come to life in a live-action movie that is respectful of the source material.
Whedon does more than make these characters come alive, he embodies them in the Walt Kelly (Pogo) catch phrase, "We have met the enemy and he is us."
Because what is the Avengers but, a story about a dysfunctional family? This is how we are able to relate to the characters. We all have dysfunctional families with different members playing the roles of (Avengers roll call!) the father figure (Samuel Jackson as Nick Fury), the self-righteous hero (Chris Evans as Captain America), the egotistical brother (Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/ Iron Man), the mediator/peacekeeper (Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner/Hulk), the outgoing and responsible sister (Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow), the entitled 'holier than thou' brother (Chris Hemsworth as Thor) and the enforcer (Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye).
So off we go on a cross-country road trip, dysfunctions and all, crammed into the family station wagon (the S.H.E.I.L.D flying fortress) bickering about who has to sit in the middle. Only when we are united against a single and common enemy (Tom Hiddelston as Loki) do we get our act together, repress our respective egos and begin to act like a family.
Don't worry if some of the arcane fan-boy musings in this review have you scratching your head - all will be explained in the movie. Just sit back in the cool darkness, feed yourself that delicious 'movie' popcorn and let this blockbuster wash over you. You'll not only have a good time, you'll leave the theater thinking, "I must own this on DVD when it comes out."
Because surely there will be a directors cut as well as loads of extras...
Be sure to sit through the end credits to see not one but two media stingers (extra scenes).