I should have hated The Avengers. By all rights it’s a film that should have sank under its own bloated, overly ambitious weight. It should have been a complete mess.
This collection of heroes don’t even seem to belong in the same film. They each operate by their own set of superhero rules. Some are merely “costumed heroes” (Iron Man, Black Widow) and others are literally gods (Thor).
Conventional wisdom would say you can have one or the other in a film, but not both. You wouldn’t have, say, Batman or Spiderman fighting Cthulhu or Jesus for instance (but maybe that’d be awesome).
Even the two Avengers given superpowers through scientific intervention, Captain America and The Hulk, are at opposite ends of the spectrum.
Assuming you can swallow the basic concept that some super rays can make a dude super strong, the way it’s done with the good Captain is at least vaguely believable. He’s still a man. An enhanced, super man, but just a man. It’s a pill, but it’s still small enough to go down without choking you (and by “you” I mean “me”).
In contrast, The Hulk is just patently absurd. And even if I can swallow this big green (why green?) pill in his own film, when he’s standing beside these other heroes he just looks silly. Though not as silly as the guy dressed up in an exotic dancer’s idea of a viking costume.
The Hulk simply raises a few questions in my mind. Why is he green? Why does anger trigger his metamorphosis? Why is he green? Why don’t the physical laws of conservation of mass apply to him and his pants? And why is he green?
All this is to say, the movie should have been too hard to swallow. But here’s the thing.
Joss Whedon is a freaking wizard.
He can take a bad idea (like giving the absolutely worst character from Buffy The Vampire Slayer his own show) and spin it into gold. With his twin superpowers of witty banter and ensemble dynamics—possibly the same superpower—it almost doesn’t matter what the subject matter is, he can suck you in and make you care about absurd characters in ridiculous situations.
His unique wizardry can make you forget:
- Loki is a completely lame villain with completely nonsensical goals. Why does he want to rule a planet that he seems to hold nothing but contempt for? Near as I can tell it’s because he can do a maniacal grin fairly well. When that’s your only salable skill, you might as well try to take over some planet or other.
- The film doesn’t really have any plot to speak of. There’s a threat. A team is assembled to neutralize the threat. They neutralize the threat in a fairly linear fashion. If there wasn’t witty banter to tie all the predictable plot points together, it would have been… well, it pretty much would have been a Michael Bay film.
- Samuel L. Jackson has completely forgotten how to act but has become very adept at phoning-in his performances. A skill he no doubt picked up on the set of Star Wars. Seriously. I’m convinced the L stands for Lethargic. If not downright Lazy.
Whedon’s trademark humanistic approach to the supernatural makes you forget that what you’re watching is essentially just another cliché summer blockbuster. Because instead of superheros battling the forces of evil, you’re watching a group of people learning how to live with each other; you’re watching a series of universal human moments everyone can relate to.
Ultimately, you could excise all the action sequences from this movie and still have something worth watching.
Try doing that with Transformers.