Marvel’s The Avengers


I wrote on Rotten Tomatoes:

The Marvel Universe of superheroes exists on a plane of imagination populated with super powered mutants, Norse gods, aliens, impossibly competent warriors and super geniuses. It’s easy to dismiss the superhero genre as childish fantasy but the comics I grew up with and continued reading far into adulthood provided writers, artists and readers a platform for exploring even brainstorming ideas and relationships as significant as that of any other genre of fiction. The recent spate of superhero films have extended the universe from the comic books to the cinema with mixed results from the dire Green Lantern through the okay Captain America to the good X-Men First Class. Avengers however brings all the elements that distinguish good storytelling within this genre, grand spectacle, super science, iconic/archetypal heroes, relationship between characters and a very particular intensity. The hand of writer director Joss Whedon is evident in this film, not least in the smart ‘buffyesque’ humour that humanises the intensity. I enjoyed Avengers enormously. There’s more to it than meets the eye and a hell of a lot meets the eye.

Sandy and I saw the film on Monday (the 2D version, I hate 3D); she enjoyed the story and spectacle as a non-comics person while my appreciation of it was inseparable from years of being a fanboy. The genre has it’s history, conventions and high points that fans remember and that are referenced in the film. Among the high points of comics history is a sequence from a 1980’s Daredevil story by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli that features the Avengers and defines the relationship between the three central and most iconic characters:


As a fanboy I know that Whedon is referencing this relationship and iconography. The line “A soldier with a voice that could command a god … and does” is one of the coolest in comics history and defines Captain America as much more than a ‘super soldier’ but as a person who commands respect by presence, integrity and an intuitive grasp of strategy. Actor Chris Evans does not quite pull this off but it’s a big ask and he and the film make a good stab at it. Robert Downey makes the role of Tony Stark/Iron Man his own and while Chris Hemsworth’s Thor is a little light on godlike gravitas he looks great; the other actors give pretty much definitive renditions of the characters they play.