Movie Review: The Avengers

Action movies only work when you care whether the protagonists live or die. If you don’t care, all the pretty explosions in the world won’t be enough to be entertaining. (See: Transformers.)

The superhero flick “The Avengers” works.

It might work especially well because Joss Whedon, beloved of nerds everywhere for creating Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly, knows ensembles, as a friend of mine said.

He avoided so many pitfalls in “The Avengers” it was pretty amazing, actually.

  • Perfunctory Love Interest. You know how when there’s an ensemble, there’s always one chick, and she’s always pretty much there to be in love with somebody?

That doesn’t happen here. The Black Widow may not have superpowers, but she also does a lot of buttkicking, serves critical, spoilery plot functions more than once and she is a lot more than eye candy. She has a deep, personal connection with one of the men on the team, but it is never portrayed as love.

  • Overshadowing. You remember “League of Extraordinary Gentlemen”? I try not to, honestly, but one of its admittedly many issues was that its plot was more or less constructed around Sean Connery’s character. Yes, he’s Sean Connery, but that’s not a reason to take what is meant to be an ensemble of strong characters and make one person “the hero.” Not cool, movie.

This didn’t happen in “The Avengers.” Yeah, Tony Stark got a lot of lines, but given his personality is all style (concealing substance), that makes sense. Captain America said as much with his frowns. Bruce Banner said as much with a diffident shrug and a self-deprecating smile, and when he was the Hulk, his punches were eloquent too. (It makes more sense if you see the movie.)

  • Relentless action. Yeah, this can be a problem. If there’s too much unrelieved action it loses its impact. “The Avengers” could just as easily be called a comedy as an action flick, really–there are many great lines and great moments that keep the action from being dull. Don’t forget, there was a reason that “Macbeth” had comedic bits in it.
  • Indulgent filming. I’m sorry, Harry Potter fans. That epilogue in the final book was a total waste. It was indulgent, as if its author was trying to stomp down fanfiction about what happened after the book was over. The action was already over, the book should have been done.

The Avengers doesn’t do that. It doesn’t linger for stupidly long periods of time on backstory either, even if fans want to see it. (Yes, I’m looking at you, Half-Blood Prince.) If you want a bit of hilarity, wait until the credits are completely over. That’s a parody of what Rowling did, and it was funny as all get-out.