Director: Joss Whedon
Cast: Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo
Have I Seen it Before: I was there opening weekend. It kind of feels like we were all required to show up for it.
Did I Like It: I also think we all tended to like it.
We now know The Avengers films are meant to be the biggest of big tenpole movies. The idea of the four-quadrant picture was created in hopes of movies like this. It’s not the place for an iconoclastic filmmaker to play with what it means to be a blockbuster. It’s more like the season finale of an extremely successful TV show. It takes a workmanlike temperament, and if you can get a large cast of main and supporting characters to mesh well together and each have their moments in the sun.
Enter Joss Whedon.
He’s a good TV writer. It’s in his blood. He has ushered in rightful classics like Buffy, and done such memorable work on short-lived shows like Firefly, that they are somehow still remembered long after their untimely death.
But this film—only his second feature as a director after Serenity (2005)—is a big budgeted TV episode. It’s shot like one, with everything functionally but artlessly lit. Visually, it may very well be the least engaging of all the Marvel films. That can be a tough competition.
And yet the film works because all of Whedon’s skills are brought to bear. Iron Man (Downey, how could anyone else play the role) has shaken off any first sequel jitters and is back in fine form. Thor (Hemsworth) and Loki (Tom Hiddleston) do their Thor and Loki thing. Hulk/Bruce Banner (Ruffalo) finally finds the right alchemy for the role and manages to be the most entertaining part of film, a feat Hulk has not measured up to until now. Even Captain America (Evans) manages to find a few wholesome quips that keep him Cap, and not some pale shadow of the funnier characters around him.
That these characters work together at all is a pleasing, giddy surprise, but it ultimately isn’t a memorable film in its own right. That’s okay. That wasn’t Whedon’s job. Thankfully, we could—at the time this film was released—still look forward to a slate of much more interesting, stranger films featuring all of these characters.