Director: Joss Whedon
I’m not sure I get the fanaticism about this franchise. Of course, I haven’t followed the comic books, but the whole idea of having a group of superheros doesn’t seem very interesting or unique to me (though I did love the Superfriends cartoon Saturday mornings when I was a kid). This particular collection of heros — Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Black Widow, Captain America — seems like a real oddball assortment.
I went into this with some real apprehension. I figured there’d be good action and special effects, but I didn’t expect much beyond flash. The story, centering around bad guy Loki opening a portal to invaders from another world, was also troubling. Though I liked Captain America and Thor overall, the aspects I didn’t — the hokey plots — are present here.
But after a rough beginning, the going gets good. The individual stories of the various characters are extremely well done. What’s especially good is that these heroes don’t get along, as fits their personalities — and the film does an amazing job of showing this in a believable fashion that’s true to their characters and in a way that isn’t too grating or annoying. It’s not quite a “we’re going to fight each other” animosity but more of an underlying friction behind the scenes that adds electricity to things. Getting that resolved is key to their success, of course, since they must work together to defeat the bad guy.
Putting together a group drama like this is incredibly difficult without giving one or more of the characters short shrift, but all of the main people here — and even a few of the key supporting characters — are each given their time in the limelight. I have no idea of the exact screen time given to each hero, but it felt amazingly balanced. I never felt that one dominated more than others: each had their heroic moments and each had moments where they battled personal demons and learned to overcome them in their quest for unification.
Another thing: though no doubt each of us viewers has a favorite character or two and a hero we don’t like as much, I never felt resentment when one of those lesser (for me) people was on screen. That’s impressive (and it bodes well for people, who, for instance, might not like Thor and bother with that movie, but love Iron Man — there’s something for everyone here).
The next thing I really liked is that the action is both small enough and big enough to work. By that I mean that the scale of the action is huge, ideal for a giant movie like this, but the grand war is broken down into smaller individual battles for each of the characters that we can relate to and actually comprehend (it’s not always a battle, either; sometimes it’s just a critical task).
The overall result is a treat. The special effects are excellent (though don’t bother with the 3D version, where the 3D is barely noticeable), there’s a perfect blend of action, wisecracks, and drama, and the ultimate story is pretty good. I’m still not wild about the plot, but it works well enough. Surprisingly, I really did like the way the previous films set up the world and the plot for this one. In some of those movies the fit was awkward — the presence of the Shield organization coming out of left field, for instance — but here everything comes together brilliantly.
In the end, though I wasn’t sure I’d like this, I left delighted. I was thoroughly entertained, and many of scenes are outright classics (my favorite was the Hulk punch on a certain someone). There’s great fun to be had and the seemingly awkward mishmash of disparate characters actually works wonderfully. Two thumbs up.