I missed the Avengers while it was playing in theatres, but given the good reviews it received, I had decided to order the Blue-ray at the first occasion. In the end, pre-ordering the thing on amazon ended up not being the fastest way to get it, but I had a lot of other stuff to do, so I completely forgot about the whole thing until the day I received the package.
The Avengers is the latest in the set of movies based on the Marvel comics franchise, many of which I have seen: Iron Man I & II, directed by Jon Favreau (2008. 2010), Thor (2011) directed by Kenneth Branagh and Captain America: The First Avenger (2011), directed by Joe Johnston. The Avenger is the movie where the various parts of the puzzle are assembled under the direction of Joss Whedon, of Buffy and Serenity fame, so the expectations were pretty high.
Building a movie, or even a story around a group is always something tricky, while this is the standard type of narration in roleplaying games, movies and books tend to center or one or two characters. Gluing together characters that have been introduced in movies by other directors is also not simple, the choice of Joss Whedon whose previous stories where pretty good at telling the story of a group was in my opinion a good one.
I would say the movies work reasonably well, I was engaged, I laughed, and the movie is certainly one notch above the previous ones in the franchise. The movie is basically one plot with multiple overlaid groups and relationships, some work, others not so well.
- The relationship between Iron Man / Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and Bruce Banner / The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) works very well, and ends up being the centre of the movie. They are also the most ambiguous characters of the group, neither heroes nor agents.
- The relationship between Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Loki (Tom Hiddleston) works much less and I think there are multiple problems with this part of the movie: first Loki’s plan makes no sense whatsoever, second compared to the Kenneth Branagh movie, Thor lost most of his grandeur: Stark is more megalomaniac than he is, Hulk is stronger. Also he is competing with Captain America (Chris Evans) in the I don’t understand this world departement. Finally the relation between Thor and his brother gets stale, Loki tricks Thor in boring ways, and Thor does not even react.
- The relationship between Black Widow / Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) and Clint Barton / Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), the assassin and the spy basically, is OK, but a bit to cliché, so it ends up overshadowed by everything else, in a sense I found the small role Black Widow had in Iron Man II more interesting. The fact that Gwyneth Paltrow playing Pepper Potts, Tony Stark’s assistant, manages to be more sexy in this movie than black window also seems strange.
- Nick Fury ( Samuel L. Jackson) and Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg), form the backbone of Shield and are recurring characters in the whole set of movies. I had the feeling that their part was missing some dynamic element, maybe this is why agent Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) was introduced, but in the end, she does mostly action scenes.
This approach of having a lot of plots thrown into the mix, with the general expectation that some of them will work is again, for me, very reminiscent of role-playing games. What I found interesting is that here it works, I found the movie good despite its weaknesses, and it was a box-office hit.
In summary, a fun super-hero movie, probably the best in the Marvel franchise. I doubt my recommendation will encourage any geek to see that movie, mostly because said geeks probably saw that movie a long time ago.