Joss Whedon has done quite well for himself this year. Last month I reviewed the excellent The Cabin In The Woods, a de/reconstruction of the horror genre helmed by his protege and co-written by Whedon. Now, like Sam Raimi and Peter Jackson before him, Whedon is charged with the task of bringing a cadre of venerated icons of Nerd-dom to the big screen and keeping it from sucking.
Well, someone picked the right man for the job. Whedon’s experience with ensemble casts in TV’s Buffy and Firefly transfers perfectly to the superhero powerhouse that is The Avengers. When Thor’s brother/nemesis Loki comes to earth threatening extraterrestrial warfare, one superhero proves too few for the job. The ubiquitous nature of this movie and the four previous films leading up to this giant conglomeration of clobberin’ dictates that you probably already know who the Avengers are, but in addition to the fab four, those less familiar with the comics from whence these characters came might not recognize The Black Widow or Hawkeye, two star-crossed assassins turned spies for S.H.I.E.L.D. ably played by Scarlett Johannson and Jeremy Renner.
And then there’s Samuel L. Jackson returning as Nick Fury and… I already feel overwhelmed by the number of characters, but the key to the film’s success is that in 2 hours 20, Whedon somehow gives each one their due while keeping the story cohesive and the action exhilarating. It would seem that, despite what Spidey’s uncle would have you believe, with great power comes great egotism, and each ego is given the chance to play off the other with the typical Whedon whit and charm (did I mention he also wrote the script?).
The only real problem with the flick is one that plagues most in the genre: no real stakes. (Spoiler Alert…ish?) There’s no question that Loki’s plan will fail and that the Avengers will finally learn to work together to defeat him, but this hardly matters because all the interactions between each Avenger (especially Stark and Banner) are so enjoyable leading up to the destructive climax (the collateral damage of which, for once, is actually dealt with) that you hardly have time to nitpick.