Movie: The Avengers
Directed by: Joss Whedon
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson
With the third Nolan Batman movie, a Spiderman reboot, and Marvel’s superhero orgy The Avengers all coming out in one summer, superhero movies have become a too common summer movie staple. Unfortunately, the genre seems to be losing its gloss.
Joss Whedon’s The Avengers is the first to combine multiple films into one cinematic canon. This fact of life for many convoluted comic book continuities is now manifested on the big screen.
The Avengers has been built up through four years of superhero films. The first Iron Man movies, The Incredible Hulk, Thor, and Captain America: The First Avenger have all been focused on building up the continuities of these superhero film canons. The characters played by Robert Downey Jr., Mark Ruffalo, Chris Helmsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson, Chris Evans, Gwenyth Paltrow and Jeremy Renner all collide here.
The film’s biggest downfall is the reliance on these other works. If you haven’t seen any of the five prequel build up films, then the characters in The Avengers aren’t really going to matter or make much sense. It’s already difficult to care about the characters when massive action sequences dominate over 75 per cent of the film, but this collection of superheroes makes it worse.
A self-described “genuis billionaire playboy philanthropist,” a Norse deity, and a billboard for the idealized American system of values make up the core of this group of heroes. If Occupy Wall Street had anything to say about it, these people are the one per cent—however, the only thing the protestors were likely occupying a week ago was the line to see The Avengers.
The biggest drawback to Whedon’s superhero all-you-can-eat-buffet is that the enemy of the series is really just a faceless race of alien robots. The Chitauri are never really explained or given any kind of background. Perhaps this enemy is representative of how present-day America doesn’t really have a concrete grasp on the identity of their constantly required ‘enemy‘—a role previously filled by the Nazis or the Communists. However, that idea doesn’t have as much of a grip in the text of the film and is giving screenwriter Zak Penn too much credit.
Whedon really shows his feminist values in The Avengers with Johansson’s non-superhero and much more vulnerable spy, Black Widow, providing the sole dominant female role in the film. While male viewers may choose from a variety of characters to relate to in terms of mentality and values, female viewers may feel well-represented by the one character who represents women in The Avengers.
There are, however, a few things done right. The cinematography doesn’t use a frustrating shaky cam and there is a sense of a defined space in which the heroes are hammering, pummeling, and smashing the world around them. The comedic flares are well-timed and posses a certain charm. Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner/Hulk not only survives the recast, downplay of the 2008 film starring Edward Norton, but becomes the most interesting character in the film, and it will be fun to see how they take his characters for the inevitable sequels.
The Avengers has already made a ton of money, it will likely make a lot more in the next month, and if one wants the typical blockbuster-style entertainment, it does deliver. But by this point, everything that could be said about the superhero genre seems to have been said. Nolan’s The Dark Knight and Zack Snyder’s Watchmen seem to be about as thought-provoking as the genre will get and with New York destroyed for the third or fourth time in this series’s film canon, the only thing The Avengers can try to avenge is the fact that the superhero genre is growing stale.