Movie Monday: The Avengers

I’ve been collecting Marvel Comics since I was twelve years old. One of the things that has kept me interested is the fact that all of these characters live in the same world. The fact that Spider-Man can go to the Baxter Building, hang out with the Fantastic Four who have end up having a run in with Magneto only to get some last minute help from Wolverine is pretty cool. Shared universes rock. And pretty much the only place I got to experience a shared universe was between the pages of comic books. Until now.

The Avengers is an important movie for a lot of reasons, but the biggest one to me is that it shows how successful a shared universe can be. I’m sure that the Avengers would be successful without any other movies leading up to it. With a great cast, a giant marketing campaign, and a writer/director with a huge cult following, it would be difficult for it not to be successful. However, by putting in the time to building the universe with five previous movies, Marvel Studios created something that’s never been done in movie history. And they broke all previous box office records doing it.

Unfortunately, Marvel has licensed out many of their properties such as Spider-Man and the X-Men. So you won’t see Wolverine hanging out with Iron Man any time soon. If I were Sony or Fox, I’d be talking to Marvel/Disney and seeing if I couldn’t integrate any future movies I made just a bit more. This can only help and fan boys will love it. It’s a philosophy that most companies can’t understand and won’t agree to: play nice and we all make money.

Now as for the Avengers movie itself, it’s a well-oiled machine. It’s a smart, character-driven, super-action, comic book movie. Every character gets their moment to shine. The people who just showed up for the big explosions will be just as happy as the people who showed up for snappy dialog. This is the movie Michael Bay could never make.

For Joss Whedon fans the fact that the movie works on all levels is no surprise. They’ve followed him from Buffy the Vampire Slayer to Angel to Firefly to Serenity to Dr. Horrible to House in the Woods to the Avengers. Many fans of Joss will talk about the fact that he’s just as much fan boy as a big time writer/director. He is one of us. And that’s true in a lot of ways. Joss Whedon is more capable than just about any other writer/director working of giving us exactly what we want.

It’s amazing to me that he’s only just now getting big budget movies to play with because Joss Whedon while being tremendously talented to the point where I’m happy to read or watch whatever he’s writing also tends to be tremendously safe. He will make (and I’d argue has made) the ultimate summer popcorn movie. But he doesn’t often do anything that challenges expectations.

Don’t get me wrong. I absolutely loved Avengers. It’s the movie I’ve wanted to see since I was twelve. There’s almost nothing wrong with it. If I were grading it, I’d give it an easy four stars. I can’t give it five though because it didn’t surprise me.

– Jack Cameron