When researching the cosmic cube's infinite energy source attracts the attention of a potential threat outside our galaxy, Nick Fury goes forward with The Avengers Initiative, calling forth Earth's mightiest Superheroes in hopes of creating a team strong enough to save mankind from domination.
The Avengers. Marvel really wanted to break the mold and took some major risks here, and with a (record breaking) opening weekend of 200 million dollars, it's obvious that everyone around the Marvel camp is happy. The road to success however, wasn't an easy one. Robert Downey Jr. was the first wildcard in IRON MAN, he nailed it. Then came Chris Hemsworth in THOR, he also nailed it. I'm a huge fan of Chris Evans and knew for a fact he'd rock in CAPTAIN AMERICA, but I was worried about the film itself as Cap was the harder piece of the puzzle to introduce. Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury also helped, along with S.H.E.I.L.D. agent Coulson. These guys being present and planting seeds in all the Marvel films definitely provided a strong base for things to come, and we were all silently hoping this buildup would not be in vain. To say that it wasn't would be the ultimate understatement.
It would be easy to start "fan boy gushing" right now with all the things they got right, but to properly appreciate what Marvel's accomplished here, we need to first discuss some of the bumps in the road. There's always been a demand for this sort of thing, but studios were never sure the audience was there, or rather a bankable audience to sustain such a ridiculously expensive endeavor. One of the reasons SONY dropped Tobey Mcguire (and the idea of a SPIDER-MAN 4) was because he wanted too much damn money. Really, Seabiscuit!? Because you're in such high demand these days aren't you? There's also a reason sequels to Anne Rice's INTERVIEW WITH A VAMPIRE lost steam, we got QUEEN OF THE DAMNED, but as fans of the novels and movies know, the same cast of characters were all played by different actors, even Lestat (no offence to Stuart Townsend, but seriously guys, did you think he could even touch Tom Cruise's take on the character?). Money is at the heart of it all, and this is why everyone was skeptical as to whether or not we'd ever see this happen.
Marvel was smart and ended up with a well rounded cast who all proved themselves and earned gold as far as I'm concerned. The other key element was bringing on Joss Whedon to direct and help write the script. Known primarily for his work on BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, Whedon knows how to carry an ensemble cast of characters with a balance that sees them all get the screen time they need and deserve. This has always been a major problem with collaborative films that quite frankly just try to cram too many characters, stories, arcs and events into too small a timeframe. This past decade has shown us this problem is being addressed and in most cases worked well, though not always. Whedon also has a flare for dialogue, something this film delivers in spades (which is also one of the best reasons to check out Whedon's other recent film, THE CABIN IN THE WOODS). The dialogue and character interactions here are stellar and in some cases will have you in stitches, all the while never compromising its action/adventure tone.
The cast worked marvellously off one another. Obviously, Tony Stark (my personal favourite) is hilarious in a team oriented environment. Nearly every line that comes out of his mouth is pure gold. RDJ knows this character in and out and I just can't see anyone else taking on the role and doing a better job. On the opposite end of the spectrum is Mark Ruffalo who replaced Edward Norton as Bruce Banner/The Hulk. Everyone was worried about him. Now sure, I said Cap's movie was the hardest to pull off as an origin story, but make no mistake, the hardest character to portray in this scenario is and will always be The Hulk. I didn't care for Ang Lee's version of The Hulk, but I loved Marvel's second go around with Edward Norton. That said, Ruffalo's Hulk was damn near perfection. What a difference! This Hulk looked awesome, acted out like he would in the comics (he easily steals the show with some of the best and most entertaining scenes in the movie) and I have to say I really loved the back and forth between Stark and Banner when it came to tapping into each other's brainpan. Well done Mark, well done.
Now one of the issues THE X-MEN faced in their exploits on film was the fact there are really only a couple cool X-MEN while the rest are sub-par at best (some downright laughable even). The same can be said of THE AVENGERS. Do we really need or care about Hawkeye and Black Widow? Not really, but being spies does make them the most realistic and valid entries to a team backed by S.H.E.I.L.D. who are pretty much a wing of the government. I think Jeremy Renner is an awesome up and coming action star, and I won't take anything away from how Hawkeye was portrayed here (loved the switching of arrowheads and cool gadgets), and I don't have anything against ScarJo per say, but Black Widow is certainly the least favourite of the group (and I found the reasoning behind her not having a Russian accent odd). Now this is me putting the film under a magnifying glass for sure, but I'm also trying to be objective here.THE AVENGERS has been labelled the "end all, be all" of comic book films and I'm here to tell you that's not completely accurate, nor would we want it to be. It's by far the best Marvel (maybe even comic book movie) venture to date, but we've only scratched the surface, shouting to the world "YES FOLKS, IT CAN BE DONE, AND DONE RIGHT!" The ambition put into this movie is vast, something that hit home for me when the first round of credits rolled and I saw the villain behind Loki. I can't and won't give it away, but as a fan boy I'm not ashamed to admit I had tears of excitement in my eyes. I was a little worried about Loki being the main villain simply because Thor kicks his ass all over the place in THOR, so why wouldn't he be able to do the same here, right? Now the army was hit and miss for me, they were unique enough to feel distinctly different, but their execution was painfully reminiscent of TRANSFORMERS DARK SIDE OF THE MOON--a portal is set up on a tall building which opens an intergalactic gateway in the sky, followed by baddies seeping through. Again, this is me putting it all in perspective as a whole, but make no mistake, this movie is epic on every level and worth the money (even in 3D) two or even three times over. I loved it and will see it again in theatres. There's no better way to kick off a summer movie marathon than going to see THE AVENGERS.