In May 2008, movie-goers the world over were introduced to Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man; it changed things forever. Marvel had formed their own movie-making apparatus and had an ambitious plan: release movies about the origins of characters in the Marvel universe (Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Thor, and Captain America) that made up the more recent incarnation of the Avengers, known as “The Ultimates” and release them in a specific order, connecting one to another to build up to something that had never been done: an Avengers team-up film. That film released this weekend and the assembly required was worth it.

Picking up where some of the previous movies ended, Nick Fury and the Strategic Homeland Intervention Enforcement and Logistics Division (SHIELD) are in possession of the Tesserac (or Cosmic Cube) last seen at the end very of Thor and in Captain America. SHIELD is running tests on the cube, hoping to turn it into a new energy source for Earth. Unexpectedly, Loki (Thor’s brother and the villain in the Thor) materializes via the Cube, and begins wreaking havoc on SHIELD HQ to steal the Cube and use it to subjugate Earth with some extra-terrestrial assistance. Comprehending the gravity of such a threat, a rouge Asgardian allied with a an army not of Earth or Asgard, Fury assembles the Avengers to defend the Earth. Such a defense is not without difficulty, as personalities and world-views clash spectacularly. Captain America follows orders; Iron Man and Bruce Banner don’t trust Nick Fury and Banner doesn’t trust himself, Black Widow and Hawkeye have personal issues to work through, and Thor is, well, Thor; throwing around muscle and Mjolnir, his hammer, at anyone who looks at him wrong and dialogging as if William Shakespeare were possessing him. It’s not until the team suffers a sobering defeat that they coalesce and, thus inspired, become the teammates that Nick Fury (and the audience) knows they can be (and needs them to be). As always, something awaits those with patience at the end of the credits and the big reveal won’t disappoint those familiar with the Marvel-verse, but may leave the average movie-goer wondering what the big deal is; trust me, it’s huge.

There’s no question where the lines are drawn in this film: there are heroes and there are villains, human and flawed. Captain America struggles to lead the team as a man separated from all he knew, often charging shield first into battle. The Invincible Iron Man is found to be less so, but willing to make the sacrificial call others won’t. Black Widow feels compelled to rectify past sins and pay the debt she owes to another. Hawkeye learns he has others he can trust and lean on, needing not to be so distant upon wherever he is perched. Thor begins to see that he doesn’t always have to be the one out front, and that despite all that’s happened, he still cares for Loki and wants his brother to return home to their family; face justice, yes, but reunification more so, to show the past (and Loki’s origin) is the past. Bruce Banner finds someone who believes in him in Stark and a family in his fellow Avengers, fearing less the green-gamma demon within. And the gruff, yet fatherly Fury? He shoulders the burden of managing such a powerful force, knowing all to well the cost of fighting such a war and making the hard choices. The final scene at the absolute end of the credits illustrates how amazing it is to see this team unite on, and off, the field of battle. This film, as well as some of it’s predecessors, gives reason to believe in heroes in a time of great tumult and uncertainty.

Executing an endeavor such as The Avengers, making a movie not only about beloved characters, but also a dream team of fan-boy heroes AND have the story of each character moved forward, is a Herculean task to say the least and cannot be done by just anyone. Enter Joss Whedon, the mind behind Firefly, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dollhouse and Astonishing X-Men; he’s no stranger to heroes or the Marvel universe. So much of this film was classic Whedon; from snappy dialogue filled with humor, internal and external conflict, character motivations, the exploring the dynamics of family, and the heroes never emerging unscathed. At times it felt like I was watching aspects of his previous work spill over onto the greatest canvas he has ever been given and the picture he paints is, well, marvelous. Not to mention that Harry Dean Stanton’s roll in the film might be the greatest cinematic “in-joke” I’ve ever seen (and only Whedon would have done it). It’s clear that after toiling in the shadows of Hollywood for so long, working to tell the stories that he burst at the seams to tell despite difficulties and cancellations that Joss Whedon is the Prom King now; Long Live the King.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s