Seriosuly, THE best comic book movie, EVER! Ok, that takes care of my review. Short, sweet and pretty much echoes every other review out there in the world. I planned on doing a longer review for the Avengers, but really, what more is there to be said that hasn’t already been praised in the press and the blogosphere. I can’t even take an opposing viewpoint or find a nit to pick.
That being said though, the movie is amazing … but WHY is it amazing?
I think the concentrated amount of pure awesomeness can be attributed to a few key elements that the filmmakers got right.
It’s A “Comic Book” Movie
“Well, duh!” I hear you say. “It’s about comic book characters.” Yes, but it’s a comic book movie in the old school sense of the term “comic book”. Before books like Dark Knight and The Watchmen came to the forefront of the capes and cowl crowd, comic books were relatively gentle: naive almost. Sure, there were groundbreaking stories about alcoholism (Iron Man) and drug abuse (Green Lantern/Green Arrow), but they were “special” storylines, akin to afterschool specials. Heroes never lost (for long), team rosters rarely changed (although Wolverine seemed to be in every issue of every book somehow), and the hero always captured the bad guy: they never killed him. Besides, no one ever stays dead in comic books anyway. It was the way comic books were when I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s.
After a while though, comics went through a growth spurt. Titles like Frank Millar’s Dark Knight and Alan Moore’s The Watchmen gave us flawed heroes. Heroes who would cross the line (sometimes gladly and with aplomb). Heroes who had sex. Heroes with dark secrets and truly haunted pasts. In general, heroes with lives just as screwed up as ours. Gone were the days of the hero being tied to the front of a ship set to ram New York City (Seriously, it was in Captain America #251/252) and in came comics that had become the home to the misguided, the misunderstood and the downright broken. Over time, balance was found in the comics world but the ripples of those initial splashes are still felt…for better and worse.
The 2012 Avengers movie harkens back to the classic tales told in the comics, from the golden age (when the Avengers were actually first formed) up through to the 80’s. You have heroes brought together to fight a madman bent on world domination. You have good guys who duke it out over a misunderstanding. Alien invasions, Helicarriers, a city under siege and inter-team banter that lets you know that even though the heroes have different backgrounds and abilities, they have a growing respect for each other. It is, essentially, a “best of” album of 80’s comics.
Hulk SMASH…ing Success
I would have to say though, that the stand out character in this already dynamic mix is the Hulk, as portrayed by Mark Ruffalo (and his CGI counterpart). Of all the franchises brought together for this project, the Hulk is undoubtedly the black sheep of the box office. With a mish-mash of directors, actors and overall story lines the Hulk movies didn’t really add much to the Hulk mythos beyond what is generally known. Guy gets dosed with radiation. Guy gets big and green when angry. And perhaps that’s all there’s been to the Hulk.
But now, with Mark Ruffalo’s wary, twitchy take as well as the personality infused into the big green behemoth, the Hulk is a tour de force and future movies should be much better received. More than just a two legged force of nature, the Hulk on display in the Avengers is a team player and far more aware of his actions and consequences, be they good, bad or funny (whether or not he cares though is still up for debate).
It Captured The Elusive “Insanely Great Ending”
I once had the pleasure of hearing Michael Arndt (Little Miss Sunshine, Toy Story 3) give a seminar on storytelling and he is of the opinion if a writer can resolve the story arcs (internal, external, philosophical) in the climax then you get the “Insanely Great Ending” that delivers maximum audience satisfaction and a near euphoric state (he cited Star Wars as resolving all three in 22 seconds).
In the final battle, soon after the Moment of Despair, you have the victory of Man vs. Nature (defeating the veritable force of nature of the alien invasion), the defeat of Man vs. Man (the defeat of Loki) and the positive outcome of Man Vs. Self (can this group of mismatched personality types form a cohesive team? Yes they can!). All culminating in just the final few minutes of the movie. You leave feeling exuberant and fulfilled.
The Avengers is a movie that satisfies the grognard and neophyte alike. The movie brings us heroes who are household names as well as introduces a wider public to some of the lesser-known, but no less cooler, heroes of the Marvel universe.
It is the comic book movie we’ve all been waiting for.
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