By: Greg Reifsteck
Origin stories are the lifeblood of Super Hero Films. They get us to actually care about, and relate to, a freak of nature, an experiment of science gone wrong, or a vengeance-filled oddball. Because after all they all are mistreated every-persons just like ourselves. Stan Lee and countless other comic book writers have proven, time and time again, that if any one of us is pushed hard enough by something traumatic in our lives, we could soon be roaming the earth in a flashy outfit going vigilante style on society.
Credit: Marvel Studios
Well King of All Geeks Joss Whedon was handed the task of pulling off the greatest Super Hero group origin story since X-Men, He has succeeded in not only topping that film. But, he might have just created a film that Whedon himself will be hard-pressed in surpassing in its inevitable sequel.
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Unless you have been stuck on Asgard, everyone knows the much hyped The Avengers is a comic film fan boy’s wet dream come true. The plot has Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) of S.H.I.E.L.D. assembling Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain America (Chris Evans), The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) as part of the Avengers initiative to protect the Earth from otherworldly evil. He is rushed to push the plan faster than expected when Thor’s Norse stepbrother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) comes out of exile and steals The Tesseract, a powerful energy source.
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The megalomaniacal Loki uses this to open a space portal to bring an otherworldly army of the sickest mechanized beasts since The Transformers series to destroy the Earth. The difference between The Avengers and Paramount’s other juggernaut franchise is that director Michael Bay couldn’t direct any personality into his soulless characters. He lets the special effects sit on the screen coldly without much rhyme or reason.
Whedon has the smarts and swagger to drag all of the dysfunction and depth from all of the twisted heroes he has in his arsenal, and pits them against each other in egotistical (and sometimes physical) battles. This conflict builds as Loki’s plan is carried out, giving the viewer a humanity behind The Avengers. When they finally find a common ground to fight for, the we’re all in this together no matter what our differences are sentiment pays off.
The performances are all top notch with no one trying to steal the spotlight. They all play as a team. You can tell there must have been a great camaraderie on the set, with Whedon keeping a lot of Hollywood egos in check.
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As far as the comparisons to X-Men, that film had the disadvantage of having to cram the birth of multiple characters into one film, and tell an elaborate plot. The benefit Whedon had going into this film is Marvel has so painstakingly made sure all of their characters have had their own origin films to breathe in. The casual filmgoer knows all of these twisted personalities going in, so when the personalities start to clash the mayhem beings almost immediately.
Whedon takes full advantage of having all of this character ammunition up front and has directed and written a weapon of mass satisfaction. Whedon’s has these already beloved crusaders trade witty barbs that have the audience clapping and laughing. They dance through mind-blowing CGI action scenes in which you can actually make out what is going on. (Yes it is nice to see a director that knows how to use a steadicam and tripod).
Whedon’s deft writing also allows The Avengers to have enough angst and pathos from all of its participants to ensure it will be enjoyed by even the most discerning comic book snob. Whedon gives us what he has given us in every one of his projects from Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Serenity. Characters we can relate to.
Even though these are men and women with miraculous powers, we are able to see ourselves in one of them. (I am Thor by the way; but to get into that would take another entire blog and disclosing the private content of some of my therapy session). This film gives us hope that with our own Earthly skill sets we are able to change the world, overcoming one mortal enemy at a time.
Follow Greg Reifsteck on Twitter @GregComedy