Part of the fun of attending an early press screening for Marvel’s The Avengers was listening to the comments of the comic book fanboys as the crowd left the theatre after the showing. “That’s the film I’ve been waiting for all my life!” declared one enthusiastic attendee. Another stated with deliberate emphasis on each word that, “… That was the best… film… ever… made…period!” I’m guessing neither has ever seen Midnight Cowboy or The Graduate, but that’s another story.
One thing is evident; when it comes to superhero movies, particularly one that incorporates several of these characters all in one big adventure, it doesn’t really matter what a reviewer thinks. Marvel’s The Avengers is the epitome of a critic proof film. European theatres have been showing the film for more than a week and the revenue has already surpassed the profit making margin.
The good news is that it may be ridiculous – actually there’s no may about it, it is ridiculous – but it’s also lot of fun, and while it’s difficult to muster up the kind of unbridled enthusiasm shared by those two above mentioned fanboys, Marvel’s The Avengers is a crowd-pleaser that may well be the film many followers of comic book superheroes really have been waiting for all their lives.
The story doesn’t matter. There’s a villain – Loki, played Tom Hiddleston clearly having fun with the role of his career so far – who is a threat to the stability of the planet. Enter Samuel L. Jackson’s humorless one-eyed Nick Fury who has spent the last few Marvel movies rounding up his gang of super-duper heroes in anticipation of what’s about to happen. “I’ve been asleep for seventy years,” states Captain America when approached by Fury to get his act together. “I think I’ve had enough rest.”
The one thing that makes Avengers works is its good nature. Because there are so many heroes rolled together in one big production, without the added ingredient of some self-deprecating humor among theses characters, the film would have simply been comic book overkill. Sure, there are those who take these characters oh-so seriously and study every facet with the kind of unstoppable energy a college professor might study Shakespeare, but it’s the humor that makes the movie buoyant, and director and co-writer Joss Whedon should be congratulated in making a film that even a superhero Philistine like me can enjoy.
Among the surplus of caped characters, the one that’s most effective is newbie Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner who will eventually quadruple in size and burst out of his clothes to become the Incredible Hulk – though I’ve never quite understood how his pants manage to hang on. “That’s my secret,” Banner states when questioned as to how he can control his temper. “I’m always angry.” Ruffallo’s casual manner and throwaway delivery is so refreshingly good you have to wonder what he would have done with the jolly green giant had either Eric Bana or Edward Norton stepped aside during the production of the two previous Hulk disasters.
The film is twenty minutes too long and even though it’s being shown on an IMAX screen and in 3D, the film was made for neither formats and I would have preferred to have seen it on a regular, less overpoweringly numbing presentation. But of course, to the guy who stated that this was the best… film… ever, and to many like him, the issues of length, IMAX or 3D matter little; superhero fans will have the time of their lives, and the promise of another film – yes, there’s a taste of an Avengers sequel at the end – will have its target audience salivating even more.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 Length: 142 minutes Overall Rating: 7 (out of 10)