It probably comes as no great shock to anyone taking the time to read this that I was raised on comic books. Some of my earliest childhood memories are wrapped up in theses stories of good versus evil. And I’ve been reading stories involving the Avengers for quite some time. Consider that the Avengers were created in 1963, and the stories about them have continued in one capacity or another on a roughly monthly basis (sometimes less, some times a lot more) since then. This means that roughly 50 years later all that rich story material has to somehow feed back into the movie Marvel’s The Avengers.
The Avengers were created as Marvel’s answer to the Justice League by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. And elements in this movie trace back to that very first issue of the comic book. You have a group of heroes who aren’t quite ready to work together as a team, but learn that they can to bring about a greater good. That’s really the entire point, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. If you look at each character in the other Marvel Cinematic Universe movies you’d think there’s no way that they can work together, but when they are brought together in this movie… magic happens. If I was to decide why it works, it’s because of the ties that bind.
The movie doesn’t just spend time with superheroes up on the screen bashing each other and their enemies (though I promise there is plenty of that), but rather it takes the time to develop character interactions that seem genuine and real. This is very important, because for a team to work there has to be a mutual respect among its participants, and when that isn’t there the team will fail. Much of the movie is spent driving this point home, showing that personal agendas, pettiness, and secrets are getting in the way of making this team work.
In fact, just as the movie is bringing these characters together you start to see the problems inherent in the group. Iron Man is too tied up in his “greatness”. Bruce Banner (Hulk) is to introverted. Thor is too lofty. Captain America is too righteous. Hawkeye… well okay his issues are part of the plot. Black Widow has red in her ledger. Nick Fury is too controlling. It is these issues that Loki uses against them in the movie, and as a result he is able to bring them to their lowest moment in the movie.
From there everything changes. We see each character transform in very interesting ways because from their lows they all get up, dust themselves off and start to shine. In fact, it is said that Tony Stark’s heart grew three sizes that day. Banner learns that he has people who do understand him and his “condition” and that he can call friends. Thor learns (again?) that it is better to stand with others than to stand above them. Captain America learns that things aren’t always as simple as black and white. Hawkeye comes clean… literally. Black Window sets a higher standard for herself. Nick Fury stops trying to control all the “children” and lets them go.
What happens next is amazing. You get what is without a doubt the greatest most cinematic battle scene that has appeared on screen ever. But in this scene you realize that these characters have come together and truly overcome their differences and have bonded into a team. As Hulk, Banner doesn’t smash his friends… save one. Hawkeye shines in a way that he’s never done in comic books – his abilities and insight come through and really make the team successful. Iron Man becomes a true hero. Thor stops just acting on impulse and starts playing well with others. Black Widow steps up… literally. Captain America takes his rightful place as their leader.
At this point you realize why the Avengers work as a team, and why Marvel’s The Avengers works as a movie. It’s easy to write a movie about a single hero and tell his origin as 2 to 3 hours is plenty of time for that. However to take so many big budget movie stars, stick them in a movie together, and tell the origin story of a team of heroes? And not have these actors walk all over each other? And to be successful at it? While it had been considered before, and even attempted with movies like the Fantastic Four or Watchmen – it had never worked so well or been so successful.
So go now, see Marvel’s The Avengers, and remember while doing so:
DO NOT BLINK!
And get ready for the upcoming May 14, 2012 release of the Disney Film Project Podcast’s Episode 71 where you can listen to Todd, Ryan, Briana, and Cheryl geek out majorly on The Avengers.