Picture Credit: Filmofilia

The Avengers was released in Australia on April 25 and I had to wait two agonizing days before I had a chance to see it – yes, the two days hurt. After some geeking out completely and Whedon & Co pulling this off so superbly, I had some (more) coherent thoughts about the movie. So what follows is a whole lot about the characters and Whedon storytelling. Spoilers like CRAZY to follow.

In a team-up like this, with various characters, backgrounds, movies, comics canon and all sorts of baggage, there was always going to be a chance that the movie would sag under the weight of trying to do justice to every character. The truth is, Whedon can’t. No-one can. Whedon’s solution? Ground the movie firmly in the present. There was a small concession to Steve’s past in a flashback, but it was so brief, it’s hardly worth mentioning. I think in a way, as he emerges as the leader of the Avengers, the soldier Fury needs to get things done, it’s a reminder too of who he is at heart – a soldier. But other than that, the script has been stripped of it’s fat and what’s left has been moulded into something riveting.

The movie acknowledges everyone’s baggage, and lets each share their flaws and completely irritate and antagonize each other immensely. As Banner says, they’re a ticking time bomb and its something Loki is counting on and exploits to the best of his ability.

Whedon’s skill at handling a large cast, with complicated back-stories shows and I can only hope he is back for the next one. I also firmly hope that the film execs who nixed his Wonder Woman movie are desperately regretting it right now.

The movie opens with Tony being the most settled, and rightly so – after two movies, if he was still the man of IM1 or IM2, it would be irritating and insulting to an audience who has already been through those two movies. Don’t get me wrong – he is ego-driven, brash, smart, funny, sharp-tongued, but there is a peace about him, a determination and perceptiveness (about others and himself) that isn’t in the first two movies.

It is Fury and his call to join the Avengers and find the Tesseract that unsettles him. With that we are reminded of something that is an important part of his character – his desire to be something more than a war-monger and creator of weapons of mass destruction. But in the world Marvel has created, where a God of Thunder and the Destroyer comes calling, Fury has to be by necessity. Like Thor mentions in the movie, all the worlds out there now know that the Earth is ready for a higher form of war.

Steve is the fish-out-water still, and it is what the world has lost in the years since he went to sleep that plagues him the most. He would rather spend his time in a gym rather than trying to interact more with his new world and when he enters Fury’s world and SHIELD, he visibly lightens as he sees things that are more familiar to him. He and Tony get into it – something that is from the comics, I gather – but he holds his own, and Tony doesn’t hold back either. Steve’s naievte shows when it comes to Tony, who seems to be his big blind-spot in this movie. Mercifully, the soldier mentality is at a minimum and we see a Steve who is more than just blindly following orders. It’s that rebelliousness that appeals to Tony I think. I think that watching them bicker and antagonise each other can get old quickly and I firmly hope it’s done and dusted by this movie, but Tony and Steve are bicker charmingly and besides, Tony at the end of the film? Kind of lays all Steve’s objections to rest.

Thor is back to protect earth from Loki and it’s obvious that he has grown up immensely since his movie. Loki will always be his weakness though, and his ties to his brother are still important to him in this movie. He will do what he has to for the greater good, but that doesn’t mean he still doesn’t feel for his brother, or will take any chance he can to reach his brother. He and the Hulk are incredibly funny playing off each other and I cannot tell you how surprised I am to be writing that.

Having seen Mark Ruffalo in romantic comedies before this, I wasn’t sure about his casting as a Bruce, and to be honest, despite the angst of the Norton version of the Hulk, I enjoyed him in the role. Mark Ruffalo though, plays a more confident Banner, one who understands who he is even though he tries to resist admitting that understanding until the end of the movie. Surprisingly, it is Tony and he that have an effortless chemistry, sprung in part from the movie highlighting how similar they are. I bet by the end, you’re imagining Banner getting a floor in the new Stark building to go to town with all the R&D he can handle. The CGI version of the Hulk too is incredibly funny and the audience can see he is more than a mindless beast of the previous movies. Banner is behind the Big Green Guy and for the first time, the audience can see it.

Black Widow kicks butt like nobody’s business and holds her own respectably in a movie filled with testosterone, including against Loki. He underestimates her and pays for it. Her relationship with Clint is fleshed quickly and clinically and leaves no doubt how much he means to her – and no, not like that. Clint is surprising most of all – there’s less of him than I expected, but I do understand why. Renner does tortured archer well.

Loki lives up to every bit of his trickster nature and then some in this one, and Tom Hiddelston goes to town with it. What Whdeon does though is a villian-sleight-of-hand here – the movie is so focused on what Loki’s plans – which, wanting to rule the world, is a pretty big thing to be focusing on – and reveals at the end, halfway through the credits that nothing is what you expected with Loki. Go look up Thanos and his “courting of Death”. Beautifully done play on words at the end.

Overall, this is quite simply a joy to watch. It highlights the best and the worst of these heroes and gives them each a chance to shine. The Avengers coming together is … just everything you could hope for and more.

And last but not least, did anyone else get the end of Buffy and Sunnydale vibe from the opening scene…of destruction?