Viewed in the theaters in 2D.
Let’s be honest here, The Avengers was never meant to be a canonical cinematic masterpiece. Since it was first even hinted at it was always going to be one thing: spectacle. Throw some of today’s biggest actors (and one actress) into a pot, let simmer for an hour and a half and serve. This movie was all about payoff and it makes sure to pay in full.
There’s no point in going into the backstory of all the characters, or in fact how the movie got to where it started. Suffice it to say that if you had not seen a single other Marvel movie that didn’t include Downey, Evans, or Hemsworth you might not enjoy all the layers and callbacks but you will be able to get the gist, and then some. Although, disappointingly Joss Whedon decided to only include one quick flashback montage for Captain America. It would have been nice if we got one for at least the two other heroes in the movie that currently have their own franchises, especially for Thor, who is an alien and thereby shouldn’t really be identified as a superhero at all (?). Whedon actually did a pretty good job with the movie. It felt like he gave enough screen time to each of the main heroes without shoehorning them in or bogging down the storyline – which was actually present.
In fact, the storyline was a tad surprising. Many would think that the story would basically be nonexistent in a movie with so many crossover heroes and so much star power, but Whedon made sure every character had their own arc. Don’t be fooled, this movie isn’t going to be a Chris Nolan action movie with overarching themes and faux-philosophic undertones but to say The Avengers lacked anything more than a “bad guy tries to take over the world, Avengers must learn to fight together to stop him” plot arc would be wrong. With the surprisingly deep subplot between the bootylicious Black Widow (Scarlett Johannson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner, who I will always remember first as a patient on FOX’s House, M.D.) and the soul-searching Bruce Banner/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Avengers is something a little more than your typical blockbuster explosion porn.
While the first half of the movie might be a little slow for some (the second main set piece seemed to drag on) everyone who has spent any amount of money on any of the previous non-Spiderman/X-men movies will be very pleased with the climax. And oh what a climax. The recent trend of blockbusters seems to be based around the 45 minutes of explosions, badassery, and general destruction that comes at the end of the movie (otherwise known as Act 2.5). Luckily, Avengers more than makes up for some of its more tepid climax battles of the past (Captain America I’m looking at you). This particular climactic battle feels more realistic than most. Whedon made sure to keep the battle as grounded in the real world as possible. There are a ton buildings that collapse and some that are run through with employees still inside that it constantly reminds the viewer that there are real stakes here, that the Avengers are fighting to save something. When you couple the real world stakes with the deft sequencing of the battle from hero to hero you get something that is truly delightful. At no point does the battle feel stale. Each hero gets to have their moment in the sun (basically a moment of badassness) and are given their own tasks to complete in the battle; not a single hero is lingered on for too long, which helps keep the fighting fresh. The final battle is simply stunning and very well executed – it goes far beyond your typical blockbuster climax (think Transformers 3).
Now, of course, there can’t be a review of The Avengers without mentioning how awesome the Hulk was. By teasing him for half the movie, Whedon allowed suspense to grow and when the Hulk finally came out it wasn’t what the audience expected. However, every scene the Hulk was in was either breathtaking (literally jaw to the floor stuff) or ridiculously entertaining (there was definitely some humor with the not so jolly green giant). Mark Ruffalo’s performance, as both Hulk and Bruce Banner, was top notch. So far no actor had really been able to capture Banner’s pained and haunted psyche as well as Ruffalo did. If for no other reason you have to see this movie for Ruffalo as Banner/Hulk.
Not all movies can be as fun and spectacular as The Avengers is. Between the well placed and spot on humor and the fairly believable and smartly accomplished drama, The Avengers should be put on a pedestal for its ability to be a fun and exciting blockbuster that still had heart and at least some story.