Already the most talked about movie of the year so far, the one thing we don’t need is another review of The Avengers. Therefore I am going to try and avoid reviewing the movie other than to say I have seen it, and I loved it. So what follows are just a ramblings and thoughts on the franchise and where it is going. To begin with, lets get one thing straight, the new UK title Marvel Avengers Assemble is a bit of a mouthful and is frankly crap so from this moment on I will refer to the movie as The Avengers.
Making a movie of The Avengers must have seemed like a good idea, but how do you bring together a disparate group of characters in a coherent story? By starting with a series of movies involving the individual characters gives a strong base and also solves the problem of protracted introductions of multiple characters. The problem, it builds expectations of the fans and risks alienating the uninitiated. The greatest challenge is probably containing Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark / Iron Man who could run away with the whole movie, but there is even more to it than that. How do you use Bruce Banner and The Hulk within the team? To add to this problem Mark Ruffalo is the third Bruce Banner in less than a decade, do you introduce him again or go with an assumed back story? Then you have Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Clint Barton / Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) who have made fleeting appearances but have not had their own movies, they also seem to lack any supper abilities. Slotting the two fish out of water character, Steve Rogers / Captain America (Chris Evans) and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) into the mix also has its challenges. If you can solve all these problems you then need a suitable villain. The X-Men movies accomplish this by using multiple villains to pair off against the heroes, this works for them but The Avengers are a very different group to The X-Men. Loki (Tom Hiddleston) was a great choice, having already been introduced in Thor we already know his back story. He is also an interesting villain with a typically comic book agenda.
Where do you start a project like this? The director. It would have been easy to pick one of the successful directors of the earlier films: Jon Favreau (Iron Man), Joe Johnston (Captain America: The First Avenger), Kenneth Branagh (Thor), but the avengers needs to be its own movie not an Iron Man or Thor sequel. My interest certainly increased when Joss Whedon’s name was attached to the project. To put it simply, Whedon just gets it. Treating the group as a dysfunctional family whose personalities get in the way whenever they are put in a room together. This clash is what makes the movie funny, but it is also the basis that makes the team work as just that, a team. The key to the success is the relationships, as a group of individuals they are defined by the way they interact. Tony Stark and Steve Rogers are like bickering siblings, but Iron Man and Captain America are a proficient team. The biggest beneficiary of the Whedon effect is Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow who is promoted from little more than eye candy in Iron Man 2. She is funny and sexy and is a surprisingly deep character. There has to be some mileage in giving Black Widow an origin movie of her own or possible one shared with Hawkeye. Given his background of ass kicking female characters (Buffy/River/Echo), Joss Whedon would be the perfect director to take it on.
One of the first things I noticed about the film was the unusually narrow aspect ratio (1.85:1), the fact that I completely forgot this within a few minutes suggests it wasn’t important and the chosen format worked. I have read that Cinematographer Seamus McGarvey chose the ratio to help frame the unusually tall characters like The Hulk along side normal and short characters. It has also been mentioned that Joss Whedon favoured this ratio of the more normal wider ratios with his climatic Manhattan, sequence in mind.
Given the least back-story I wondered where Clint Barton / Hawkeye would fit in to the story. He is actually really important to the plot and along with Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow give the team and the movie a grounding. It all helps in the meteoric rise of Jeremy Renner, I had little idea who he was a few years ago, I vaguely remember him in 28 Weeks Later and S.W.A.T. and have no recollection of him in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. His breakthrough performance came in The Hurt Locker where he received a much deserved Oscar nomination. Clearly Hollywood was just as impressed as I was, he has found his way into three big franchises. As well as Hawkeye in The Avengers he also landed a part in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol that is rumoured as a future replacement for Tom Cruise as the main star of the franchise. Later this year he will appear in The Bourne Legacy, possibly the first part of a new trilogy.
With a positive response from critics and a strong box-office this will not be the only time we see the Avengers assemble, but here dose the franchise go from here? Avengers 2, Iron Man 3, Captain America 2, Thor 2, The Hulk 3 (or rebooted)? Probably all of the above. As mentioned above I would also like to see a Black Widow and/or a Hawkeye prequel/origin. There is also space for a Nick Fury stand alone movie. Not to mention all the other Marvel Characters who could appear. The most obvious would be Spider-Man, this probably isn’t possible at them moment as Sony currently own the rights (along with Ghost Rider). A similar problem exists with Fox who hold: The X-Men, Daredevil and The Fantastic Four. This isn’t a bad thing as I am happy to see the Avengers and X-Men universes kept apart.