I hate going to the movies, because no matter how crowded or empty the theater, there's always some inconsiderate douche nozzle who feels absolutely compelled to hold lengthy conversations while the rest of us are trying to watch the film. So as much as I wanted to see The Avengers in the theater, I didn't get around to it until last night.
Holy CRAP that movie is awesome. If it weren't for Christopher Nolan's recent Batman reinventions, The Avengers would easily be the best superhero movie of all time. It was fast and exciting and hilarious and just plain fun. It was the first time in years that I saw a movie and said, 'Damn! I need to own this movie!'
If you've seen the movies leading up to this huge special-effects monstrosity, you know the characters. Heck, if you read comic books, you know Captain America and Thor, Hulk and Iron Man, Hawkeye and Black Widow. You probably also know they're not the actual founding members of The Avengers, but if you see this movie, you'll be willing to let that ride. I'm not sure what Ant-Man could have added to this one, aside from being a really stupid hero that would only have been marketable in the late 60's.
When you go to a superhero movie, you expect a certain level of action. And that certain level would be 'a lot.' The Avengers knows this, which is why it has lots and lots of high-flying, hard-hitting, laser-blasting fights. Hell, the first throw-down happens in the first five minutes, and blows a crater into New Mexico the size of Poughkeepsie. And that's just the appetizer that comes before the salad that you get before the steak. The fights just get better and better, until the battlefield is all of Manhattan and explosions are causing more property damage than Godzilla with explosive diarrhea.
A recent development that I've seen in so-called action movies recently is the shaky-cam fight. This is where two heroes mix it up with brutal punches and lightning kicks, and the camera flies all over the place like it was taped to a gadfly with ADD and a caffeine buzz. The result is that you know you saw a fight, but you don't actually know what happened. This is as satisfying as having someone describe a cheeseburger. It might make you hungry, but it's not going to make you jump out of your chair and say, 'Oh, HELL YES!!!' Of course, if a cheeseburger is making you jump out of your chair and yell, you may want to let it cool off first.
The Avengers does not use the shaky cam. In fact, the fight scenes are exciting because you see every blow, every blast, every flying body and demolished tree. When Hulk pounds the stuffing out of Thor, you see the giant green fist hit that pretty-boy face and then you see the sanctimoniously arrogant tool go flying through a stack of metal crates. It's visceral and powerful and fun, and you can almost feel the blows landing. Happily, they're not landing on you, because these guys would seriously kill you if they hit you.
If you saw Captain America or Thor or Iron Man 2, you might have been skeptical about The Avengers. I actually kind of liked Iron Man 2, but Thor and Captain America left me wondering why anybody would want to watch these yahoos doing anything at all. Those two movies were dry and flat and uninspired, but it turns out that all you need to do to make Thor and Captain America interesting is to put them in the same room with Bruce Banner and Tony Stark. Mark Ruffalo and Robert Downey Jr were not just spectacular on their own, they provided the raw material that made it fun to watch two otherwise dull heroes really come into their own.
In fact, while the action sequences in The Avengers were enough to make me hoot and holler (especially the ones with Hulk), the reason the movie was so fantastic was the dialog. There were witty jokes delivered with spot-on precision. There were lightning-fast exchanges that left you a little dizzy and lightheaded, and grinning like an idiot when Tony Stark makes someone else look like a neanderthal moron. Even the one gut-wrenching scene was punctuated by lines so well-written and well-delivered that you wanted to laugh as you wanted to cry.
The recent Batman trilogy raised the bar for comic-book movies, but it raised to a dark, serious level with disturbing acts of violence and too many shades of gray (but not 50. Definitely not 50). The Avengers is like the slap-in-the-face answer to those moody epics, because while it has its serious moments, it's a fun romp and a thrilling tale that leaves you wondering if Joss Whedon is going to pull a Joss Whedon and kill one of the heroes. I won't spoil it and tell you whether they all live - it is, after all, Joss Whedon.
I am absolutely delighted to see comic-book movies pulling in the audiences they're seeing these days. It's like vindication for my misspent youth (which I misspent by being scared of girls and reading WAY too many comic books). I am also glad to see them being made by awesome writers and outstanding directors, full of big-name actors who bring power and poise to the screen. I remember when superhero movies were crap, and it's great to see them really kicking ass. And if you want to see the best that super-movies have to offer, you should see The Avengers.