November 4, 2012

Review: The Avengers

For the most part, DC and Marvel have had two drastically different approaches towards the most recent movies that they've released featuring their superheroes. Whereas DC post Dark Knight has been focused on making distinct individual franchises that are critically and financially successful and independent of each other, Marvel has used all of its most recent superhero movies as a means to an end. Rather than build up any particular individual franchise, Marvel has had a long term goal of uniting all of their heroes into one long continuous universe, much as they have done in their comics. Thus, while DC can claim the single most critically acclaimed superhero movie of all time, Marvel can claim the best universe, which in some ways can be seen in the new Avengers movie.

The Avengers is perhaps most notable for being best able to seamlessly incorporate all of its heroes without any of them seeming like side acts. This is not an easy task to do: each of these characters, by their design, is able to carry a story on their own. It would have been understandable had the filmmakers gone that route, either by design or accident. Nonetheless, no character feels out of place, and as a result most of the plot moves along as expected. That is not to say the plot is flawless: indeed, the use of one character's death seems forced, primarily because he wasn't a strong enough presence and his death seemed simply like a quick way to move the plot along instead of a natural progression of the story. Nonetheless, for a superhero movie the plot is pretty good.

And that, ultimately, is the problem with The Avengers: it's really good for a superhero movie. The Dark Knight has made it such that being really good for a superhero movie simply isn't good enough. It should be better, but because The Avengers doesn't explore any deep themes (unless you count "teamwork is great" as a theme) it simply functions as enjoyable images flashing before your eyes, some of which are really well crafted.

Perhaps this is a function of the movie being more of a meta-origin story for the Avengers group as a whole. Origin stories themselves tend to have similar problems with the exploration of serious topics, mostly because the time must be spent establishing the hero (or group, in this case) rather than actually going forward with a plot. I'd expect the inevitable sequel to be much better critically speaking. As it is, it's pretty great, mindless entertainment with some clever lines, and should be watched.

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