Saturday, May 04, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—The Avengers (2012) ***½

PG-13, 143 min.
Director: Joss Whedon
Writers: Joss Whedon, Zak Penn
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston, Clark Gregg, Cobie Smulders, Stellan Skarsgård, Samuel L. Jackson, Gwyneth Paltrow
Voice: Paul Bettany

“The Avengers” effectively closed Phase One of the Disney/Marvel movie initiative, which was a grand success. It consisted of 6 movies: “Iron Man”, “The Incredible Hulk”, “Iron Man 2”, “Thor”, “Captain America: The First Avenger” and “The Avengers”. Each film was incredibly received and effectively built to the most successful of the bunch with its concluding film. Wisely, each film featured its own separate story, but with little elements that tied them all together. All the leading actors had to sign contracts that said they could (but not necessarily would) appear in five films. So, many of the characters made cameo appearances in some of the other characters’ films, and then they all starred in the finale.

Many people have called “The Avengers” the greatest superhero movie ever made. I can’t say as I agree whole-heartedly with that. It is most certainly the greatest superhero team movie ever made, but then not many of those have been made. Still, it beats any of the “Fantastic Four” or “X-Men” movies. It lacks some of the dramatic elements necessary to make a truly great superhero movie, like “The Dark Knight” or “Superman”. It lacks origins and true character development. I would imagine that even the plot of the film would be a little difficult for some of the uninitiated to follow.

What it gets right though, are the relationships of the Marvel characters. It ain’t easy being super powerful. It’s even harder to deal with the fact that you might not be alone in your unique gifts. And so, writer-director Joss Whedon gives us all the in fighting and bickering that is present in just about any group dynamic, but here its elevated to essentially the platform of gods. Yet, Whedon also realizes that what makes these heroes work is their humanity, so he sets their quibbles against the back drop of an alien invasion that proves even these godlike beings are little specks in the grand scheme of things. Despite the lack of depth that you’d find in other great comic book adaptations, Whedon pulls off the truly amazing feat of converting all the appeal of the superhero team comic book format into a two and a half hour movie experience.

“Iron Man 3” opens this weekend, effectively kicking off Phase Two of the Disney/Marvel partnership. It will be followed by “Thor: The Dark World” in November, “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” next Spring, “The Guardians of the Galaxy” next summer, “The Avengers 2” for summer of 2015, “Ant-Man” for fall of 2015, and the television series “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” is expected to debut on ABC some time during the 2013-2014 television season. With “Iron Man 3” already sporting a creative team change, we can only hope this next phase in the Marvel superhero series will be approached with the same respect for the material as Phase One was.

Read my original review of “The Avengers” here.

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