Though my local theater greeted me with a face full of cobwebs when I took my seat, I was excited to be there. I was also a little apprehensive. I've often found movies rarely stand up to the hype. Avatar and Inception, while entertaining, come to mind. I went into them expecting to be blown away. Instead, I left unfulfilled.
Avengers did not fail me. A vast majority of the movie centers around the Avengers' inability to work together. The heroes argue and smash each other's skulls. They spy on and undermine each other. They doubt themselves (except Tony Stark who remains a narcist) as much as they doubt Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D.
As I've come to expect from Joss Whedon, the dialogue in Avengers is clever, quirky, and laugh out loud funny, and it carries what could have easily been a campy onslaught of one-liners and cliched zingers. That's not to say there weren't one-liners, but they were delivered wonderfully. Case in point, Captain America barked detailed orders, turned to the Hulk, and said, "Hulk...smash."
In several ways, the dialogue was the shining star of Avengers. It gave us the dark and poignant backstory of Hawkeye and Black Widow, as well as recapped each hero for those that might not have seen the other films leading into Avengers. It demonstrated Thor's persistent desire to reach Loki and save his brother from himself, even when Thor quips, "He's adopted." It showed Loki's true madness when he vowed to sic Hawkeye on Black Widow and connected the colorful genius of Tony Stark and Bruce Banner as they bantered about science, Nick Fury's true intentions, and Hulk's role as a hero, not a monster.
Stark and Banner's relationship was a highpoint for me--a glimpse of remarkable humans being human. In fact, these two heroes, in street clothes or green skin, carried Avengers on their shoulders. In terms of story, action, and development, theirs was the most dynamic. I should note, Captain America's was not far off. We find him still coping with the modern world. Over the course of the movie, he slowly grows into the leader he was prior to being a, "Capsicle."
Not to imply the other action sequences were not fantastic, the Avengers in Manhattan was riveting. I mouthed, "Awesome," when Iron Man bounced his photon beam off Captain America's shield in midflight, laughed when Hulk gave Thor a swat, and chuckled with glee when Hulk interrupted a Loki rant (Whedon never allowed his villain to revel in his exploits in the presence of an Avenger) to mop the floor with him. Those are just a few of many, many pieces of eye candy offered.
Then came one of the biggest thrills of all: Thanos. His scene was tucked away in the end credits, and when that purple, wrinkled profile turned to the camera with an elongated grin, having heard, "Attacking earth is to court death," I cheered in a crowded movie theater for the first time in my life.
I can only hope this stellar cast and director return to give Thanos, the brains and malice behind Loki's scheme, his proper due in the sequel...or the finale of what is no doubtedly a trilogy, in the least. He is by far one of the most lethal, devious characters in the Marvel Universe. Since the day I picked up Infinity Gauntlet as a child and saw him lay waste to my beloved heroes, he has been a personal favorite.
As a fan of comic books, it's a great era for superheroes on film, and if anything, Avengers is a fitting tribute to Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's work at Marvel. The bar has been raised.