io9 commented that the first hour dragged, but I didn’t feel any impatience to get to the main event—I was having too much fun watching the would-be Avengers constantly undermine one another. The rivalry between Cap and Tony Stark is peppered with delightful Whedonesque verbal exchanges, and the inevitable match-up of Thor and the Hulk is every bit as epic as you’d imagine. Let’s not forget the members of the team who are just really awesome humans: Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), who despite their enhanced skills and discipline are still uneasy around their superpowered counterparts.
Loki’s goal is clear: To break up the Avengers Initiative before its members even have a chance to gel. In other movies the group of new super buddies would band together Red-Rover-style and make their friendship strong enough so that nothing can penetrate it. But even though the Avengers are clearly aware of what Loki’s going for, they play right into his hands over and over again. They’ve been rounded up by the government on a need-to-know basis and don’t agree with each other’s fighting styles. There’s a reason that the original Avengers Initiative was a failed experiment.
You know who this unstable team reminded me of? The crew of Serenity, from Whedon’s sci-fi western Firefly. (Interestingly, Serenity was the last movie that Whedon wrote and directed, back in 2005.) Even though Mal Reynolds and his crew had their moments of bonding, those were made sweeter by the fact that power/class struggles and the desperation of living on the fringes constantly set them at odds from one another.
And despite what I said above about these guys pushing each other’s buttons, there are genuine relationships that foster here: Hawkeye and Black Widow’s formal affection for one another, and the bromance between Bruce Banner and Tony Stark. Seeing as the latter two have become the heart of the movie — Bruce’s reveal of how he keeps the Hulk at bay is one of the movie’s best moments, and Tony has a breathtaking moment that illustrates the scope of his emotional damage — it makes sense that their shared affinity would come through that much stronger.
Go see The Avengers: It’s filled with whip-smart banter and incredible sight gags, pulls off pulse-pounding action sequences that are epic in scale and yet still touch upon each individual superhero, and doesn’t insult you by pretending that creating an elite superhero team is easy. It’s also an incredible piece of work from Joss Whedon. I can’t remember the last movie that I clapped and cheered at with such excitement.
Photos: io9, ShockYa, Wired