Movie Week #4: The Avengers

All of the earlier movies of the summer were merely the build-up to the main event – The Avengers!  It’s been touted and heralded for more than a year.  It had FIVE movies that served as prequels to the main event.  The last movie event of this magnitude was the launch of the Harry Potter series, although an argument could be made for the Lord of the Rings trilogy.  Prior to seeing The Avengers, Mike and I watched many of the earlier movies.  So, in the end, does it measure up?  CAN it measure up to the hype?

Let’s put this discussion into context.  I’m a long-time Marvel comics fan, and my main book for all of that time has been the Avengers.  I started reading the comic in the early 70s, and acquired all of the issues back to about issue #10.  So, I have a lot of history with this team.  In some respects, I’m the worst nightmare of the movie-makers – I know a lot, and I like the concept, and if they screw it up I’m going to see all the flaws.

Thankfully, they didn’t screw it up.  Sure, this isn’t quite the Avengers that show up in the comic book, but I wasn’t expecting it to be.  No movie ever gets the book totally correct and spot-on – the movie has to lose a lot of things to fit into a movie’s time limits.  I expected that, but I was delighted to find that it didn’t lose as much as I feared.  In fact, the movie took the time to develop the characters, rather than relying on the assumption that, because many of the audience would have seen the earlier films, characterization was unnecessary.  Each character came across as a person with a level of depth, rather than a cardboard cutout to be manipulated up, down and sideways in pursuit of the action.  Moreover, each character brought unique aspects and perspective to their role, and acted accordingly.  In other words, they contributed to the team effort.  When done right, that’s one of the best aspects of the Avengers comic book – an examination of teamwork in the face of adversity.  This movie caught that aspect, and made it vital to the success of the plotline.  Each member of the Avengers played an essential role in the movie.  Black Widow, Captain America, Hawkeye, Hulk, Iron Man and Thor – a multifaceted group of individuals, each with unique strengths and weaknesses.  Each had moments to shine, and Joss Whedon directed the whole show with panache and flair.

If you have any prior history with the Avengers, you’ll be on familiar ground with the movie.  If you don’t, you won’t feel the lack.  There’s a reason that it is still the top movie three weeks after its release.  It’s not only a great comic book movie, it’s a great movie, period.

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