In 2008, I was sitting in a theater in Fort Payne, AL watching Iron Man and enjoying the hell out of it. The latest in a long line of comic book films, Iron Man came hot on the heels of Batman Begins, Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man franchise and countless other successful but not as well received films. In short, Iron Man didn’t seem like anything special. At least, not until the credits ended.
In that moment, comic book fans took notice. Tony Stark just met Nick Fury, on the big screen, and name dropped what could only be the single most ambitious Marvel concept for the big screen: The Avengers.
But we all kind of scoffed at that. After all, such an ambitious film would be years off, and would require an unfathomable amount of planning. We all shrugged and regarded it as a “believe it when we see it” scenario.
Then in 2009, in that same theater, I saw The Incredible Hulk. Great film, strong cast…then Tony Stark showed up. Suddenly, we all thought to ourselves, was this actually going to happen?
In 2010, we got Iron Man 2. With a teaser hinting at Thor, we got even more excited. By 2011, Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger made us realize that this was actually happening.
So now, it’s 2012. And all month long, no matter how many trailers I saw, reports I read or pictures I saw, I couldn’t believe that this was actually happening: The Avengers. I’ve been collecting comic books since I was in the sixth grade. My first exposure was in 1998, when Kurt Buseik and George Perez reinvigorated the team as part of Heroes Return. Now, after five years of set up and anticipation, the Marvel comic characters I had grown up with were not only on the big screen, but were going to be on the same screen together. As a lifelong comic book fan, I legitimately could not believe this was actually going to happen, and I kept that sensation up until the moment the theater darkened, the trailers finished, and Loki showed up on the screen.
The Avengers has finally happened, and it is glorious.
I have struggled to find the words to describe this, no lie, since opening day. I simply cannot discuss this movie without sounding like a gushing fanboy with a perma-boner from finally seeing what was once considered impossible happen in the cinema, but somehow it finally happened. In many ways, it’s because of the quality of the many cogs of the machine. We had our doubts from the get-go, but the casting has proven to be perfect, and it doesn’t show more than it does when they finally begin to interact. The build up through solo movies was definitely the way to go here, as the wildly varied egos and personalities begin to clash almost immediately and familiarly with no need for lengthy exposition as to why everybody doesn’t necessarily get along at first.
Joss Whedon, hands down, the only person who could have done this. Nobody could have made this movie work like he did. Nobody could have made this clicked the way Whedon’s unique style of action, movement and wit does.
The cast is hands on. Mark Ruffalo is definitely the surprise here, and I think I like him better than Edward Norton. Yeah, I said that. And I stand by it. I can’t picture Norton in The Avengers. I can’t picture anyone but Ruffalo playing this now, and I was probably one of his loudest naysayers.
I’m kinda rushing this because I’ve been sitting on this review for a month, and I’ve finally given up trying to find words, so let me sum it like this: this movie reminds me of why I love comic books, why I keep working on this site despite my frustratingly dwindling free time in which I’m allowed to: because they aren’t just fun as hell, but they’re damn powerful. This is the best superhero move we’ve had so far. Sorry, Nolan. The Dark Knight Trilogy is damn fine storytelling, but you could pretty much replace Batman with a detective and get the same story. The Avengers is hands down, 100% a comic book film.