Summer blockbusters are, by definition, entertaining films that succeed in capturing our imaginations. Think back to the 70's when such films as "Jaws" and "Star Wars" helped to usher in the blockbuster era. Both film captured our attention for all the best reasons, crafting thrilling story lines around complex and detailed characters.
When "X-Men" was released in 2000, the blockbuster film genre was molded to fit comic book story lines. That original Marvel film paved the way for the resurgence of superhero films, and since then the Marvel studio has crafted a handful of films which were enjoyable and great works in their own right. While 2003's "The Hulk" was the most disappointing of the batch, 2008's "Iron Man" (one of the greatest superhero movies of all time) and 2011's "Thor" and "Captain America" helped to firmly cement those with associated with Marvel films as great storytellers.
Little did we know that all of this hard work would culminate in an action epic that would draw all of the greatest Marvel characters together in one eye-popping action epic. Perhaps even more surprising is the fact that "The Avengers"contains just as many great action scenes as it does moments of genuine drama.
In the film, Marvel's best are assembled into one large group with the sole purpose of defending earth from Loki (the Marvel villain who first appeared in "Thor"). Egos clash and motivations for joining the Avengers clash as Bruce Banner (Hulk), Tony Stark (Iron Man), Steve Rogers (Captain America), Thor, Natasha Romanoff (Black Widow), and Clint Barton (Hawkeye) all attempt to work together in order to stop Loki.
Right away in creating the film, the challenge of dealing with six main characters becomes a problem. Yet, throughout the entire movie there never seems to be a moment which suggests that any of the characters is undeveloped or under-utilized. That is due to the talents of writer/director Joss Whedon. Whedon seems to know enough about each character, and he seems to know even more about what makes each an essential the the film. Each character is given their moment to shine and performances from earlier films are never compromised. Whedon even somehow manages to make the Hulk work in the film. In two earlier films, the character of the Hulk never seemed to fit in a feature length film. Whedon acknowledges this problem and uses the character only when absolutely necessary. In the end, the character is given just enough screen time for us to root for him.
Of course the superheros in this film are just that: fictitious characters with incredible backstories. The very human connections and emotions shown in "The Avengers" is made possible by a great ensemble of actors. Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark is the clear stand out, and he is often given the best scenes and dialogue within the film. Still, each actor holds their owns and helps to craft a character of great importance. Mark Ruffalo, who makes his first appearance as Bruce Banner here, even manages to create the best screen Hulk yet.
Looking at the film there is really only one main complaint that I have and it has to do with the finale. When Loki decides to unleash his army upon Earth we expect something great, due in large part to all of the great elements in the film up until that point. What we actually get is a badly conceived, almost laughable army. The strange distraction isn't enough to affect my overall opinion of the film but I would have liked to see something more fitting.
After sitting through "The Avengers" I realized that I had just seen one of the greatest summer blockbusters in some time. The film, as previously mentioned, manages to deal with great dramatic scenes, yet at the heart of it all is a thrilling action epic of the highest quality. We go to the movies to escape and "The Avengers" provides the greatest kind of escape possible. Unlike the recent Batman films, "The Avengers" never takes itself too seriously and that proves to make all of the difference in the world. It is film-making of the highest quality and is a project that will stand the test of time.