I saw The Avengers this afternoon. While I knew I wouldn’t like it as much as the comics, I figured I’d like it. I just didn’t realize how much I’d like it. The Avengers is…really, really fucking great. Every actor does a terrific job, it’s got fantastic special effects out the wazoo, but what I really loved about it is the writing.
No, I’m not talking about the trademark Joss Whedon dialogue, although there’s a lot of it in the movie and it’s great. Zak Penn and Joss Whedon have written a movie that combines the best of Silver Age Marvel Comics with contemporary big-budget action movies and Whedon’s best existentialist thoughts on heroism.
The Avengers have always been a team of quarrelsome, peevish heroes who step on each other’s toes as much as they beat on the bad guys. They argue and brawl amongst themselves, they get moody and question if what they’re doing is right, but in the end, they come together and back each other up. That’s exactly what we get in the movie, and for old school comics fans, it’s wonderful to see. There’s a lot of big budget, special effects explodey, but there’s also a lot of well-written, character-driven emotey stuff. There’s great interplay between Tony Stark and Steve Rogers, Natasha Romanoff and Clint Barton, Thor and Loki, Tony Stark and Bruce Banner, and Nick Fury and Maria Hill.
Natasha “Black Widow” Romanoff stood out to me in particular. She gets the kind of treatment that, sadly, few people besides Joss Whedon would give her. She gets a lot to do in the movie, including a number of scenes that set her up to look like a typical Hollywood female character, only to have it turned on its ear. She’s strong, smart, caring, and not prioritized with attracting men. She plays a major role in ways that I wasn’t expecting. I was happily surprised.
Similar to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly and Serenity, and Dollhouse, The Avengers features protagonists who take on the role of hero because somebody has to do it and they want to make a difference. There’s no higher power, no moral absolute to appeal to. In a chaotic, uncaring universe, full of people who don’t give a damn, the protagonists choose to help and protect people, to fight against tyranny and destruction, to sacrifice themselves to save others. These are the kinds of heroes I like to see.
The Avengers is a hell of a lot of fun. It’s also stirring and inspiring. From start to finish, it’s a fantastic ride. I kind of love it a lot.