The Avengers brings together some of the most celebrated Marvel Comics creations – chief amongst them Iron Man (Downey Jr), Hulk (Ruffalo), Thor (Hemsworth) and Captain America (Evans). Their unique abilities are required to defend the world against an intergalactic evil, led by Thor’s dangerously twisted brother Loki (Hiddleston).
Despite a dalliance with Spiderman cartoons as a boy, I’ve always preferred Batman and the DC Comics family of characters. Although since Marvel took control of their own properties and spawned Marvel Studios, I’ve been forced to rethink that stance. From Bryan Singer’s X-men to Jon Favreau’s Iron Man films, they’ve shown an uncanny knack for getting the right people for the right gigs. I doubt anyone thought Josh Whedon was going to be an exception to the rule, but few could have imagined he would be this snug a fit.
Whedon is most famous for Buffy The Vampire Slayer, his enormously successful TV series about several teenagers who spend their school nights fighting hordes of the undead. It’s this team dynamic that appears in much of Whedon’s work, including his award-winning (but lesser-known) writing for comic books such as The Astonishing X-Men. Credited as both the director and sole writer of The Avengers (a rare thing in American films of this scale), he has crafted a film of consistent vision: intelligent, witty, emotionally compelling and visually dynamic.
Downey Jr charms with his now familiar schtick as Iron Man/Tony Stark, but it’s Whedon’s finely honed gift for storytelling where the film really shines. It puts to shame other big budget made-by-committee movies that begin to dominate the box office at this time of year. Whedon’s masterstroke is to have meticulously mined all possible dramatic and comedic value from the juxtaposition of these characters, while remaining respectful of their separate characteristics. Crucially, his story structure grants each Avenger sufficient depth while believably justifying their presence in the narrative.
The Avengers is for Marvel what Dark Knight was for DC – Whedon has scored the crowning achievement for Marvel Studio’s interconnected universe.
Dir: John Whedon, US actionsci-fi;
2012, 142 mins;
Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston
Premiered April 26