I had forgotten what it’s like to watch a true summer movie. A friend of mine got back this week from a semester abroad in Italy, and to celebrate we headed off to the American midnight premiere of “The Avengers”. By the time we were halfway through, I was grinning ear to ear. Before long, I was laughing uproariously. When the credits rolled (and that revealing final scene excited the comic book experts in the room), I was on cloud-nine.
Don’t worry if you’re not a comic-book expert. All you need to know is that there’s a powerful and shiny rock that’s been stolen. A man with an eyepatch brings together several superheroes to get the rock back. Mayhem ensues, in more ways than one.
Honestly, my favorite mayhem didn’t take place during the colossal final battle in New York. Joss Whedon’s screenplay thrives on the tensions between these superheroes. They are exactly what characters in a good action movie should be; hotheaded, opinionated, and devastatingly witty. Robert Downey Jr. is the catalyst, with his gleefully insulting and self-glorifying remarks. Thor is remarkably earnest, heroic and campy; Captain America is patriotic and even more earnest. Bruce Banner, Hawkeye, and Black Widow aren’t nearly as entertaining, but they aren’t boring either. Black Widow’s interrogation scene is one of the best parts of the film.
Of course, things need to explode eventually, and explode they do. People have muttered that toppling skyscrapers and prolonged metropolis battles reek too much of “Transformers 3”. Luckily, I have not seen “Transformers 3”. Plus, “Transformers 3” does not have the Incredible Hulk smashing aliens into skyscrapers and staring down giant floating worm things. If you don’t go to “The Avengers” for anything else, go to see the Incredible Hulk. Bruce Banner does a lot more interesting stuff when he turns green.
Should you go see it? That depends, like all films, on what you’re looking for. Is there deeper meaning to this story? Not really. Is it silly? Yes. Will The Dark Knight Rises be better? Yes.
But TDKR and The Avengers were meant to be two different movies. Christopher Nolan has made clear that he has serious themes about the human condition that he wants to pursue with Batman. Good for him. The Avengers makes incessantly clear that Joss Whedon sought to bring a comic book to life, and give everybody the roller-coaster ride of the summer. He met that goal, and then some.