Avengers

Avengers

Roughly four years and five prequel films later, we finally see the Avengers assembled. Executed onscreen with a wordsmith’s precision for writing and a big budget director’s skillful handling of incredibly epic action, it is every bit as spectacular, goofy and fun as the graphic novels and comics I grew up on. This is the real deal.

Thanks to Marvel’s shrewd marketing and self-referential movie tie-in’s, the characters in this film need no introduction, even for those who may have never picked up a comic book. For others keeping up, the studio/comic book company had been preparing us for this team’s build up, starting with 2008’s Iron Man. But while you might have known this film was coming, no one could have expected it to deliver the way that it actually does. Picking up the story strands of disparate superheroes that we’ve met and seen before, the films explosive, extended opening sets the tone for what follows – scene after scene of expertly written dialogue combined with striking action that actually moves the story along.

All of the characters in the team are given their due screen time – from bigwigs such as Hulk, Thor, Captain American and Iron Man, to even the lesser known heroes Black Widow and Hawkeye – the balanced portrayal brings a sense of intimacy and cohesion between the team. You genuinely get the feeling that this isn’t just an exercise in filling us in; every setting is carefully tuned to serve a specific purpose, from reintroductions (Mark Ruffalo, the only new actor to join the set, playing Bruce Banner with the right dose of timidity and genius) to classic comic book confrontation – Iron Man vs. Thor, Thor vs. Hulk, Hulk vs. everyone else. Like a dysfunctional, volatile family that simply can’t contain its member’s egos, every time these heroes get together the results are incendiary. To this already engaging mix is added Loki, as prime nemesis and evil intergalactic foe, who channels his Machiavellian nature to cause confusion, in-fighting and an end of the world scenario that results in an eye popping finale that keeps topping itself with every skirmish, making previous films in the series look like board games in comparison.

None of this would work the way it does if there wasn’t something or someone holding it together. That pivotal person happens to be Joss Whedon, a bona fide Marvel comic book writer, who like his fellow TV contemporary J.J. Abrams, only recently branched out into films. Whedon had first flirted with science fiction in his short lived, now cut-classic television show Firefly and its eventual filmic adaptation Serenity. We knew he could write well and direct adequately enough to be a candidate, if not the top choice, to helm a film featuring a superhero team battling it out. What he does here with his modest directorial (though not writing) experience then is nothing short of extraordinary. He completely breaks loose and puts together quite possibly the most balanced sci-fi, fantasy, super hero action drama to date.

True to the demands of tent-pole summer films, the scenes of unified attacks over New York look electrifying, even iconic (wait till the Hulk goes absolutely, truly berserk, taking on fighter jets, aliens even fellow heroes). These sequences are neither nonsensical wall-to-wall action porn ala Michael Bay’s ridiculous Transformers series, nor shallow and silly as say, Fantastic Four. Avengers manages to be just the perfect blend of action, humour and character driven quirkiness to leave you utterly engaged. It does things with scenes I never thought possible in a film made out of a comic book series. Even in the thick of battle, numerous times, something utterly out of place happens; it is sometimes funny, often times thrilling, but always in tune with how your mind thinks it should be, especially if you’re a superhero geek and have actually read or seen any of Whedon’s work.

I had forgotten that big budget summer movies could do this to you. Event films had gone from being big and entertaining to being loud, obnoxious and nauseating. Whedon brings back the joy of seeing and experiencing the big, the audacious, the truly outwardly in films again. This is a superhero film yes, but it is also the very definition of a well balanced, well executed action spectacle that remains universally enjoyable by even those who might think they are not the target audience for it. I thought I wasn’t either – Whedon just proved me wrong.

Rating: ★★★★★

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About Faizan Rashid

A veteran Dubai based film critic, Faizan has been reviewing movies for nearly a decade. His work has been published in local newspapers such as 7days and on prestigious online websites such as MSN Arabia and wearethemovies.com