A Huge Comic Book Nerd Is Really Thankful Joss Whedon Got It Right With The Avengers
This is a special review from long-time X-Men Ultimates and Comic Book fan Douglas Godhino.
In the early 2000s, Marvel Comics decided to reboot all of their key intellectual properties with the best new writers of the time and dubbed it the “Ultimate Universe.” Although critics met the idea with a mild groan at first, once the comics found their stride, they became strong critical and commercial successes. In fact, many of the recent Marvel films are based on the Ultimate Universe.
I was about 12 years old and having just moved to the suburbs with nothing around but a local comic book store at the time, I read these comics with almost religious fanaticism. Needless to say, I’ve been pretty excited for every Marvel movie that has been released – with some disappointments, of course. (I am looking at you Fantastic Four).
Written by Mark Millar (of “Wanted” and “Kick-Ass” fame), “The Ultimates” is the update from the original 1963 comic “The Avengers.” The writing is undoubtedly more sophisticated with the reboot and made a whole new generation of kids love the marvel characters. 10 years later, it looks like Hollywood is finally cashing in on the series’ potential.
Lead by comic book writer and film director Joss Whedon, “The Avengers” is the comic book movie event many have been waiting for. Linking characters from the “Iron Man” films, “The Incredible Hulk”, “Captain America: The First Avenger” and “Thor”, “The Avengers” is a rare movie event that has astronomical expectations laid out for it. With recent news of the film breaking international box office records and many positive reviews, it seems that all the hype has paid off (for once!) and Marvel fans don’t have to make apologies for the film version of their beloved comic books.
This is a great action film – perhaps not as cerebral as “The Dark Knight” series but it’s definitely a cut above the “Transformers” series in many ways. The action is more compelling because the characters are more compelling and, furthermore, there is a lot escalating tension – the fight scenes are the big payoff and beg to be seen on the big screen. What’s even better is that the film doesn’t take itself too seriously (as perhaps “The Dark Knight” series does at times.) This movie has some great comedic moments mixed into the dialogue and action.
The movie even pays some fan service – for me, it was seeing Thor and The Hulk clash; the two most powerful characters in the Marvel Film Universe (so far) go toe-to-toe. In “The Avengers”, there are many tumultuous relationships between the heroes. This isn’t the Avengers from the 1960s (and thank goodness for that) – these characters are more complex and empathetic. With any group of overachievers, a clashing of egos is immanent and keeps the story interesting.
Speaking of the 1960s, Captain America isn’t the Boy Scout from that era. Although he’s new to the 21st century (having been cryogenically frozen in an iceberg for several decades), Cap seems to realize that America has become more cynical and he’s less naive. This is also true for the entire film. The original “Avengers” was originally conceived in the 1960s – a time after World War II when the newest technology that was known and feared was radiation. This served as a bottomless well for comic book writers like Stan Lee to draw from when giving character’s origin stories. For example, The Hulk was poisoned from gamma radiation and Spider-man was bitten by a radioactive spider. Surely, these things would have felt out of place in a 21st century telling of the stories.
Brilliantly adapted in “The Avengers”, genetics takes the place as a modern fear and the “Super Solider Serum” is one of the main dilemmas in this series (as well as the renewable energy problem.) Instead of Gamma rays being responsible for The Hulk, crafty scientist Bruce Banner has used himself as a test subject and that goes horribly wrong. These elements are seamlessly integrated into the story and tell of a more relevant mythology.
Of course much of this information is given in the aforementioned films but, for those that haven’t seen those films, this movie is still easy to follow and a real joy. It’s great to see that Joss Whedon got this right and that care is going into The Marvel Film Universe; if you have even a tiny bit of nerdiness in your DNA, you’ll have lots of fun watching this movie.
As long as quality is of paramount concern, there’s no reason why these films can’t flourish even more. Oh, and remember how every film had a short teaser after the credits? Well this film is no different – teasing what the next avengers movie will likely have as a villain.