By Kavi Shekhar Pandey, Daily Arts Writer
Published May 7, 2012
It’s about time the adjective “Whedon-esque” was added to the English language. You know, when a work of entertainment, in the style of Writer/Director Joss Whedon, achieves a balance of dazzling action, heartfelt drama and roll-on-the-theater-floor-and-get-covered-in-spilled-concessions laughter so perfectly, it makes the rest of the fare skulk away in their bloated, Hasbro-sponsored pants. The Marvel movies leading up to “The Avengers” all ranged from good to great, but add two tablespoons of Joss Whedon and bam — you get a movie that is amazing, astonishing, incredible, uncanny, spectacular and every other superlative ever used as a preface in a Marvel comic book title.
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Here’s where Nerd-dom collectively sighs, “Told you so.” They’ve been preaching the Gospel of Whedon for years, but “The Avengers” is Joss’s long-awaited, much-deserved coming-out party for the rest of the world — a soiree that makes the “Project X” riffraff look like a neighborhood potluck. From opening frame to post-credits sequence, “The Avengers” glistens with effervescent entertainment — it’s classic stand-up-and-cheer, holy-shit-did-The Hulk-just-do-that cinema that leaves audiences with a grin plastered on their face as they exit the hall, furiously pulling up Google Calendar to check when they can experience the movie again.
The first films of superhero franchises are always bogged down by the necessity to tell the origin story (see: how much better “The Dark Knight” and “Spider-man 2” are than their predecessors), but “The Avengers” takes advantage of its status as a quasi-sequel even further. The standalone Marvel movies gave introductions to not just Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and all his S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, but also the film’s main villain Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and the Tesseract, a blue cube that is the object of everybody’s interest (it’s powers aren’t sufficiently explained, but who gives a shit, it gets the Avengers to bring the pain).
So “The Avengers” gets to cut right to the action, with Loki’s theft of the Tesseract and the assembling of the Avengers — and it’s these opening scenes where the idea that this movie is going to be truly remarkable begins to take root.
In the briefest of vignettes, the film saves the Black Widow from irrelevant character-stasis, unveils Captain America’s 21st century loneliness, shows the heart behind Tony Stark’s caustic facade and gets Bruce Banner to actually crack a quip, exuding Whedon’s expertise in developing dynamite characters.
Like the boss he is, Whedon never loses focus that this is a team movie — every single Avenger, from Thor to Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) gets a dramatic showcase, spouts uproarious zingers and goes H.A.M. in a moment that demands a thunderous ovation. Whedon’s control of this delicate equilibrium is at center stage during the film’s sensational final battle — a flurry of hearty laughs (unrelenting, in a good way) and electrifying action set pieces that culminates in a stunning single take featuring every one of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes earning their title. Heaven is a place where you can watch the Avengers duke it out with Loki’s alien horde in midtown Manhattan for eternity.
These days, the phrase “gamechanger” is thrown around as casually as the Hulk kicks the living shit out of Loki and his minions, but that’s exactly what “The Avengers” is for blockbuster cinema. The smashing success of “The Avengers” shows that Marvel’s massive gamble was an absolute bonanza and that such elaborate, multi-layered storytelling is possible in Hollywood.
More importantly, it shows that big-budget productions can thrive outside of the hands of commercial and music video directors (no hard feelings, Michael Bay). Putting years of planning and hundreds of millions of dollars in the hands of Joss Whedon, a man with a single directorial feature to his name — that had a domestic gross totaling barely a tenth of the production budget for “The Avengers” — but a body of work worth billions in quality, proves that studios can be rewarded with leaps of faith. Filmmakers like Whedon may not be able to protect Hollywood from Bay-esque schlock, but you can be damn sure they’ll avenge it.