The Avengers (2012)
Starring Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth
It all comes down to this. Marvel Comics’ movie plans have been building up to this moment since 2008’s Iron Man. Four years worth of intertwined super-hero movies, climaxing in The Avengers, a movie that on paper looks insane. A cast full of actors who have headed up their own movies, a plot that has been simmering over several movies, a director best known for his work in television, and the necessity for a big budget, special effects heavy plot that ups the ante of the previous movies by at least five fold. To make that work is just crazy talk. And yet, somehow they manage to pull it off. The Avengers is the super-hero movie people have been waiting for since the team made their first comic book appearance in 1963. This is super-hero action on a scale we rarely see on-screen – and I hope that this is only the beginning.
The Norse God Loki has stolen a powerful artifact and threatens the world with an alien invasion. It’s up to the combined might of Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, The Hulk, Hawkeye, and the Black Widow to become The Avengers and save the day. Sure, there’s a lot more going on than that, but really, this is what it boils down to. A threat far bigger than any one of these heroes could handle in their own solo movies. And of course, in the mighty Marvel tradition, there’s lots of bickering and hero-on-hero fighting along the way. Director Joss Whedon does a commendable job of highlighting all of his large cast, giving each character an opportunity to demonstrate why they belong in this movie, providing different motivations, personalities, and abilities. Everyone gets their moment to shine. And in a movie this jam-packed, that’s not an easy feat.
At the end of the day, this movie will succeed or fail based on the action sequences. If you have a team full of powerhouses, you better provide a threat big enough to make it worth their while getting out of bed. Many super-hero movies in the past have failed spectacularly in this regard (the anti-climax of the Fantastic Four standing in a circle and pretty much boring Doctor Doom into defeat is a prime example). The alien invasion plot does the job quite well. It’s small enough geographically that everyone can be interacting and the threat is big enough that it provides a challenge for our protagonists. There’s a big enough budget here that when the Hulk gets thrown half way across town, there’s actual damage to the surrounding buildings. The fight is big and messy and high stakes. It doesn’t feel cheap or safe or too easy. And that alone makes this movie worth the price of admission. Throw in great dialogue and some fine performances, and you get exactly what’s promised on the box – a fun super-hero big budget block buster. If that’s what you’re looking for, The Avengers provides.
Loki’s ambition in The Avengers is pretty standard super-villain fare – he wants to be the boss. He wants everyone to kneel down before him. And being a “god” from Asgard, he feels he is uniquely suited for the job. As Captain America is about to jump out of a plane to chase down an escaped Loki, he is warned that he’s about to go after a god. His reply? “There’s only one God, ma’am. And he doesn’t dress like that.” In a movie full of super-powered beings, some proclaiming to be gods, it’s good to contrast the acts of these “gods” with the one true God. Loki wants the whole world to serve him. He wants to use the great power he has obtained to force everyone to their knees. But when we look at the Bible, we see something completely different. We see the God of creation, the most powerful being in existence, humbling himself. “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” (Phil 2:6-7) Jesus Christ, God himself, made himself human. He died on the cross to rescue us from sin. He wanted people to follow him, but he allowed them the freedom to refuse. This is a real God at work. If this God was to go against the false god Loki, there would be no contest. Jesus would win hands down.
Chances are you’ve already made up your mind about The Avengers before you even read this review. It’s possible you made your mind up the first time you saw Robert Downey Jr. in the Iron Man armor. Is this movie worth the hype? I reckon, for a change, that it is.