Here is your in-depth, S.H.E.I.L.D. file-esque guide to all you want to know about the greatest superhero movie to date, The Avengers (sorry Batman, sorry Spidey this isn’t your year). If you need something to geek-out over as the hour of the midnight release draws closer, just read on.
THE AVENGERS ASSEMBLE
Marvel hero movies always end with S.H.I.E.L.D. members Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) recruiting each respective superhero to join an ambiguous initiative just in case an end-of-the-world scenario were to present itself.
The opportunity arises when the royally pissed off god, Loki (Tom Hiddleston), decides to exact revenge on Earth while striking a deal with the Chitauri (a big, bad alien race) to do so. After stealing the Tesaract, a cosmic cube with unlimited power, Loki unleashes more than he could imagine, and it’s up to the Avengers to stop him.
With the help of Agent Romanov, aka The Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Captain America (Chris Evans) and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) are called in to assemble. But getting them to work with each other proves no easy task.
“They get pissed with each other and they argue about petty shit,” explained Jackson about the herding of the heroes. “They can be smart asses, but they eventually find a way to love each other.”
Just as assembling the fictional group was a challenge, so was bringing the movie to fruition.
“I’ve been a nerd my whole life, and wanted to see this movie made for my whole life,” said Kevin Feige, Marvel Studios’ president of production. “When [Iron Man] succeeded is when we realized [that] we actually have the opportunity to do it.”
When it finally came time to bring the Avengers to the screen, Feige selected a wild card in the eyes of the industry – but fan favorite – Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Cabin in the Woods) to direct. Whedon not only had his geek cred going for him, but according to Feige, was chosen for his unique ability to focus on character.
“Looking at Joss’s body of work and the scripts that he’s written and his TV shows, the characters never ever get lost,” said Feige. “In fact, those are the moments that shine. We [Marvel Studios] are confident in our ability to handle a production of this size; we wanted a helmsman to come in and steer it in unexpected ways, and to guide that tone, which is what Joss has done so well.”
It is a testament to Whedon’s ingenuity to be able to maintain a fantastic balance between character and action. There is not one dull moment in The Avengers: Each hero shares a common arc in a sense, but have different journeys in which they come to see why they’re perfectly fitted to work together.
Hemsworth said it best when he described the Avengers as being fish out of water. “We somehow belong in [the Avengers], amongst the fact that we don’t belong anywhere else.”
Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man is “more Han Solo than Luke Skywalker,” as the actor quipped, in the sense that he starts off not setting out to do something noble. Then there is Thor, who must face his brother, and Captain America, who is coming to terms with being a man out of time.
Audiences are no doubt eager to see Mark Ruffalo’s new interpretation of Bruce Banner/Hulk, who Whedon decidedly kept more human in this incarnation. Ruffalo’s take on Banner is a combination of the direction given to him by Whedon, as well as input from his 10-year-old son, interestingly enough.
“[Whedon] said he really liked the ‘Incredible Hulk’ TV show, so I rented it with my son,” said Ruffalo. “After the third episode, he turned to me and said, ‘Papa, he’s so misunderstood.’ I basically based my character entirely on my 10-year-old boy. [Hulk] has all of the force of nature screaming out of his body, while at the same time having everyone around him telling him to fucking control himself.”
Whedon used his expertise to find the appropriate way to present the characters for both fans of the comics, and those who were less familiar.
“You have to know how much people need to know, because some people come in knowing everything and some people will come in knowing nothing, and you don't want to tell them too much,” he said. “You want some things to be inferred. It’s fun to see a movie that has texture beyond what you know.”
While the richness of the characters was Whedon’s focus, he definitely also packed in the action – which he described as the “booze and candy” of the film – with fight sequences aplenty!
However, not all the characters got in the same amount of action, and Evans joked that he felt a little gypped as the most old school of the gang as the Cap, the mind behind the team.
“I’m like- Hulk, you do this impossible thing, Thor, you bottleneck a portal, and Iron Man, fly over here –and I’ll take the stairs.”
Not having super-human powers didn’t get Renner or Johansson down either, and in fact, both provide many of the film’s most memorable action scenes. Black Widow’s call to action scene during an interrogation is signature of kick-ass feminist Whedon!
The Avengers is an experience for the moviegoer that raises the bar as far as superhero movies go. It’s a great combination of story, action, comedy, relationships, cameos (Stan Lee’s isn’t the highlight in this one) and self-deprecation.
Whedon took a genre he loves, created a story and worked with the cast to make the characters aware of themselves in a relatable way.
“This is essentially a comic book movie, but you kind of buy into the reality of it,” explained Downey Jr.
Whedon has revived a long lost art in the film industry: the ability to guide the audience into a suspension of disbelief during a time when they have become disillusioned by the same old tricks churned out by Hollywood. He takes what they go in knowing, and turns it on its head – he’s a true director/illusionist, whose act will leave you wondering how he did it, while enjoying the magic in not quite knowing.
The Avengers releases May 4.