I saw The Avengers in a mid-afternoon show on Friday. It has a couple of weaknesses, but overall it’s one of the best superhero movies I’ve seen. In that context, I think it’s a better superhero movie than The Dark Knight, although perhaps not quite as good as a movie.
Every character in the ensemble gets moments to shine — including the ones without powers, not just Black Widow and Hawkeye but Sam Jackson’s Nick Fury, Cobie Smulders’ Maria Hill and Clark Gregg’s Agent Coulson. I won’t spoil you, even though it’s been hard to completely ignore spoilers, but there are surprises that maybe aren’t so surprising considering Joss Whedon’s involvement.
Whedon’s dialogue sparkles, but it’s not the only source of humor in the film. Robert Downey’s Tony Stark gets a lot of the best lines and more screen time than most of the rest of the cast as well, but Whedon balances him beautifully, and Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner is a revalation in retrospect, stealing scenes left and right and making a really great entrance late in the film. And, it should be said, delivering, as the Hulk, the film’s best and funniest smackdowns.
That Whedon does great dialogue shouldn’t shock anyone. What surpised me was how good his directing was. There are shots that wil become iconic sprinkled throughout the film, and the actions scenes flow wonderfully and have the kind of clarity that’s often lacking in this kind of movie, filmed by lesser directors aping Michael Bay with their cluttered compositions, murky photography and ultra-fast cuts. There are subtleties in the plot and the characters that aren’t fully spelled out for the audience in dialogue. There are bits you will still be thinking about the day after seeing the film.
In terms of fidelity to the comics characters, the film borrows a number of notes from The Ultimates in modernizing the characters but avoids that’s book’s cynical excesses. Certain scenes (the geeks will know which one’s I’m talking about after seeing the film,) just scream George Perez.
One weak link is Captain America’s costume, which really doesn’t look all that great. That’s too bad, especially considering how cool his kit looked in Captain America. There’s a couple of lines of technobabble that make about as much sense as something you’d hear on Star Trek, and they made me cringe a bit… although they do set up a great line by Downey.
There are two post-movie scenes. One, in the mid-credits, is the big reveal while the other, at the very end, is just for laughs but finalizes a character arc for the whole film, and I really suggest staying for it. Overall, it’s a gloriously good film that the summer’s other superhero offerings, The Dark Knight Rises and especially The Amazing Spider-Man are going to be very hard pressed to top.
Mrs. Ardwulf and I plan to see the film again next weekend, this time in IMAX 3D.