With all due respect to The Dark Knight, I’m calling The Avengers the greatest comic book movie so far.
Notice how I didn’t say “Greatest Comic Book Movie OF ALL TIME”. As much as the overacting Internet hooligan in me wants to say it, and as much as I absolutely loved the perfection that is Marvel’s The Avengers, I’m not willing to believe that this is as good as it gets. I say “so far” with the hope that this is the beginning of the new age of comic book movies — an age where films based on superhero comics would not be ashamed of their source material; an age where comic book movies would embrace the absurdity and the larger-than-life events seen in superhero sequential art. I’m looking at you, Superman Returns.
The Avengers is where it starts, hopefully. This film sets the bar for all future superhero movies whether they star an individual costumed vigilante or another super team. The Avengers is not your standard superhero fare. It is, or should be, The Standard, period. I’m looking forward to the day when superhero movies stop trying too hard to satisfy what the general public wants (dark and depressing movies rooted in reality) and start showing everyone what they can really offer — flamboyant moving pictures with humanity, extraordinary circumstances, inspiring heroism, despicable villainy, amusing banter, and lots of explosions. Until then, The Avengers is the mightiest of them all.
And now, I present to you the reasons why Marvel’s The Avengers is the herald of this new age of epic, honest, and highly entertaining films based on funny books:
1. The Plan
We all know how we got here. After seeing Samuel L. Muddafuckin’ Jackson in the after-credits scene of Iron Man, we all wished for The Avengers movie to be made. And once the succeeding Marvel movies were announced and the larger plan came together, there was no doubt that this movie was on its way. Anticipation for The Avengers simmered through five movies and it reached its boiling point when a teaser trailer came after the credits of Captain America: The First Avenger.
Four different franchises, each holding its own in entertainment value, were slated to come together for the ultimate team-up. It has never been done before probably because it’s crazy, but Marvel actually did it with elegance and finesse. Having The Avengers born from previously established comic book movie franchises makes this movie so much more special than it would’ve been if it wasn’t preceded by those five movies. It may hurt DC’s ego, but they should definitely do the same with the Justice League.
2. Joss Whedon
From Buffy to his run on Astonishing X-Men, I’ve been a believer. I believe that Joss Whedon is a pop culture god and that’s why I completely lost it when it was announced that he’s directing The Avengers. After seeing what he’s done with Marvel’s premier super group on the big screen, my faith in him is stronger than ever before.
His trademark strong grasp on group dynamics and infallible skill in creating HOLY CRAP! moments are present here. For every quiet moment of humanity and vulnerability with all key players in the story, there is a breathtaking scene of heroism, action, or humor. There is a flawless balance here that we rarely see in comic book movies and it’s all thanks to the Joss. ALL HAIL THE JOSS!
One reason why I read more Marvel comics than books from other publishers is because Marvel characters rarely function well when they’re working together. There’s always bickering and endless banter between these flawed characters, even in the Avengers. Seeing this motley crew working together to save the world on the big screen is already a spectacle on its own. There’s Tony Stark getting all up in Steve Rogers’ face, Thor and Iron Man beating the crap out of each other, Hulk trying to smash the Black Widow, and the big green guy sucker punching the God of Thunder.
This movie isn’t about a group of superheroes fighting aliens. This movie is about super individuals trying to come together in a riveting and hilarious fashion to save the world on a day unlike any other. This is probably why you won’t even notice that the Chitauri aren’t really threatening at all and the plot is pretty much your basic Villain Recruits An Alien Race To Invade Earth superhero story.
While the Chitauri only serve as target practice for Hawkeye and as punching bags for the rest of the Avengers, Tom Hiddleston’s Loki provides the threat worthy of the Avengers coming together. With a cunning smile and bursts of rage, the God of Mischief plants seeds of chaos and distrust wherever he goes. He cries for revenge but not in a way that you would totally despise him. Hiddleston gives Loki a tortured soul that yearns for what he thinks should be his — vengeance and total domination of Thor’s pet planet. He actually believes that he was wronged. He’s sad and angry and heartbroken. You’d actually feel sorry for the guy when he gets beaten up by his brother’s new pals. Pay attention, future comic book filmmakers. Enough with two-dimensional villains prone to cheesy maniacal laughter. Make us root for the bad guy. Or at least feel sorry for them.
5. Mark Ruffalo
DISCLAIMER: I’ve had a man crush on Mark Ruffalo since forever.
MARK RUFFALO IS THE BEST BRUCE BANNER/HULK OF ALL TIME. Okay, the rest of the cast is awesome too, I guess. Seeing them dick around in media events and interviews gives you the feeling that they actually had a lot of fun working on the movie. There’s no drama — that we know of — and they seem genuinely happy and proud of the film. You can actually see this camaraderie in the movie itself as the different characters play off each other quite nicely. Great performances all around. But back to Mark Ruffalo. This guy is soft-spoken, bordering on extremely shy. That’s why when he starts to get angry, you really feel the tension in the air, making the emergence of the jolly green giant so much more compelling compared to previous big screen Hulks. I actually felt terror when Banner slammed his hand on that table in India. MARK RUFFALO IS THE BEST, YOU GUYS.
6. Origin Mashup
We’ve had comic book movies that stuck to the source material as closely as they possibly could. Boring. We’ve had comic book movies that went the opposite direction and strayed too far from the comics. Pointless. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to comic book movie plots, Hollywood. But you don’t have to strictly translate what’s on the printed page onto the big screen either. There needs to be a balance between taking stories from the days of old and putting a new spin on them to make them actually feel fresh and new.
In Marvel’s The Avengers, we see the origin of the team which involves Loki’s shenanigans and his Chitauri army. This is actually a mixture of the origin of the original Avengers and the origin of the Ultimates, the version of the Avengers in the Marvel’s Ultimate Universe (Google it). Whedon and Zak Penn took both origins and mashed them up into a new — yet still very familiar — origin story that is better than the sum of its parts.
7. The Big Finish
I can talk all day about the superb cast, the brilliant balance of character development and action, and how MARK RUFFALO IS THE GREATEST PERSON OF ALL TIME, but at the end of the day, a movie is not a superhero comic book movie without explosions and men in tights punching each other IN THE FACE. The big battle in Manhattan between the Avengers and Loki’s army is the stuff of legends. We’ve seen movies with spectacular battle scenes before but this one is different; there’s banter and eye candy and genuinely awesome moments worthy of cheer and applause. It’s just like reading comics! But better.
We know you can do crazy stuff with computers, Hollywood. Now it’s time to do things that would actually entertain our minds and hearts and souls instead of just satisfying our eyes and ears. The Avengers movie has taken the lead and hopefully, the rest of you clowns would follow suit.
8. Marvelous Memorable Moments
I’ve always believed that the best movies are those that you talk about long after you’ve left the cinema. The Avengers is definitely that kind of movie. Instead of slowly building up the story in the first two acts and suddenly unleashing hell in the final act, The Avengers gives us one great moment after another, from beginning to end. Including hilarious one liners, amusing sight gags, Agent Coulson’s last hurrah, Hulk throwing Loki around like a rag doll before uttering the words “PUNY GOD” (my personal favorite), Thanos making an appearance in the mid-credits scene that’s surely making fans wet their pants all over the world, and more Avengery goodness, there’s a lot here to fuel endless discussions about the greatest comic book move so far.