The task of bringing an Avengers movie to the screen is the filmmaking equivalent of rolling across a tightrope on a unicycle while simultaneously juggling 7 balls in the air. Not only does a movie like this contain several major super-heroes but they In that respect, it's remarkable that The Avengers is as focused and cohesive as it is. I think a lot of the credit goes to writer/director Joss Whedon, who, while working from a previous script by Zak Penn (who gets a story credit), is the sole screenwriter of the final product. I think having too many writers on the final screenplay could have resulted in something too convoluted and messy. While I wouldn't call this a visionary film, with just Whedon, his vision comes through
The plot is pretty straight forward, with S.H.I.E.L.D losing the Tesseract, a powerful energy source, to Loki (Tom Hiddleston), adopted brother of demigod Thor (Chris Hemsworth) brother. The director of S.H.E.I.L.D, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) brings together Tony Stark, Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), who has kept his Dr. Jekyll, the Hulk under control, Steve Rogers, the recently unfrozen super soldier known as Captain America (Chris Evans) and Thor together to find it. That's pretty much it but what really makes this movie work is how well written it is.Whedon understands its humour that can save the day in movies like this. It's not just the one liners, a lot of them courtesy of Robert Downey Jr.'s Tony Stark, but the great sight gags, the unexpected blasts of humour.
There's also Whedon's ability to balance all the characters on screen. He does this by making the personalities of the Avengers come through rather than trying to give them all characters arcs. Essentially they all share the same character arc, which is they have to learn to work together as a team. Ten years ago, if these characters had their own movies they probably would only have to worry about saving the day by themselves- and in their seperate movies, that what happened. But now these characters are facing something none of them can face alone. It's no longer just about one man but about people from different worlds and eras fighting for one thing. It's a simple idea but also a poignant one considering how one-hero centric many superhero films have been.
The film also doesn't fall in to the trap of being one character's sequel. This never feels like Iron Man 3 or Captain America 2 and as a result the whole movie feels bigger, it feels like an Avengers movie. I would have like to have learned a little more about Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and also his relationship with Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson). Romanoff was more of a cipher in Iron Man 2 but here we learn a little more about her as a person. I wished they had gone a little further with revealing her backstory. I also would have liked to have seen the public's reaction to the return of a legendary figure like Captain America. There's a scene between the police and Captain America which I thought would lead in a moment like this but it didn't happen.
Tom Hiddleston is convincingly sinister but sometimes the movie treated like a pushover. Though to be fair, I think that may have been part of the joke. Performance wise, the all the actors do an awesome job. Evans gives a cynical edge to Steve Rogers this time and in some respects much more assertiveness. Downey Jr., as always makes Tony Stark charming and funny despite his arrogance. Ruffalo does a really good job of suggesting kindness and darkness at the same time. In many ways, he seems the most haunted of the three actors who have played Bruce Banner in a film (Eric Bana and Edward Norton being the other two). And Hemsworth continues to make his Thor a more mature character. I also liked seeing Gwyneth Paltrow back briefly as Pepper Potts. Clark Gregg also gives his most enjoyable performance yet as Agent Phil Coulsen.
The action in the film is incredible. You'd expect a movie like to this feel epic and man does it ever. I have to say, all the previous films leading up to this look a little small scale compared to this film. There's also quite a bit of humour in the action scenes, especially a moment between Hulk and Thor, which had my audience clapping and cheering. Definitely see this with a crowd.
So, if you like comic books, if you've ever liked a comic book movie, if you've like any of the lead up films and if you want to remember how exciting it can be to see characters like this up on screen, then I think The Avengers will satisfy you. Don't believe the hype, believe the movie.