New Release: 'The Avengers'
The superhero movie, supersized
"The Avengers" (Disney), the Marvel comics superhero all-star team, is the most impressive example of synergy in the comic book movie industry to date.
Unlike "The X-Men," which arrived full formed in 2000, "The Avengers" is the comic book version of the supergroup, with stars in their own right coming together (not without some friction and ego-thumping) for a battle royale. So Marvel put together a long term plan, launching their stars in a series of solo films and building an entire universe of heroes and villains for the screen.
They teased audiences with brief cross-overs and then, after years of setting it all up, brought together the team: Robert Downey's cheeky, cocky Iron Man, Chris Hemsworth's warrior prince Thor, Chris Evans' earnest Captain America, and Mark Ruffalo taking over as Bruce Banner and The Hulk (the third actor in as many films), giving the character a haunted, embittered edge. To round out the team, the film expands the role of Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), a slinky superagent, from the second "Iron Man" film, and adds Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), an archer marksman briefly seen in "Thor." Samuel Jackson presides over it all as Nick Fury.
It could have been a disaster, with so many characters to juggle and personalities to respect while engaging in a big, noisy, apocalyptic battle with no less than gods and aliens. And it was a measured gamble to bring in Joss Whedon, a man with well-earned fan credentials and an affinity for this kind of genre storytelling. No question that he brings smarts and style and self-aware wit to his productions ("Buffy the Vampire Slayer" on TV, "Serenity" on film) but his audiences have been, shall we say, small and passionate.
It was the perfect marriage of subject and sensibility. You wouldn't accuse "The Avengers" of being good drama, but the sprawling, splashy spectacle and its much-much-much-larger-than-life heroes makes for a genuine comic book epic for the big screen.
Whedon loves his characters and enjoys tossing them together to watch the sparks of colliding egos fly. And he has a knack for keeping an eye on the stories and the characters in the mess of battle. But mostly, he embraces the elevated melodrama of the conceit -- these superpowered beings are our answer to the Greek gods and heroes, and they were nothing if not unpredictable, mercurial, and vindictive -- and then works his way back to the humanity under the costume.
And it doesn't hurt letting Downey off the leash to rile up the gathered egos. You get the sense that, sure, Whedon is having a blast visualizing the scope of a comic book battle with the millions of dollars of CGI at his command, but he's having even more fun setting these lone wolves loose to sniff around and bark at each other before warily settling into a pack.
More from MSN film critic Glenn Kenny: "the filmmakers behind "The Avengers"… attack their task of creating a comic book superhero epic with not just conviction, but something almost resembling panache."
On DVD and Blu-ray with commentary by Joss Whedon and the featurette "Assembling the Ultimate Team." The Blu-ray includes more featurettes and deleted scenes (I haven't received a review copy by deadline so this is all based on the press release), plus the "Second Screen Experience" (which requires an iPad, a downloadable app and a connection to the same WiFi network as the Blu-ray player) and a bonus DVD copy.
And yes, there is a Blu-ray 3D edition, a 4-Disc Combo pack that also includes all of the above (so you've got a standard Blu-ray and DVD for non-3D showings) plus a digital copy and a digital download of the "Inspired By" album.
Also available On Demand.
See the trailer after jump. Click on "More" below.