Here's what is obvious about The Avengers: It is an awesome thrill ride, absolutely jam packed with action, badassery, wit, and heart. It's that truly rare thing: a movie that is both fun to watch and really, really well-crafted.
Here's what is less obvious: It's a story about superheroes that is really about humanity.
|So. Much. Awesome.|
Wait. Maybe that's obvious, too. Some part of superhero stories reflects our human condition. But a lot of times, the superhero is a larger than life Greek Tragedy figure who serves to Teach Us A Lesson. With great power comes great responsibility. The mutants in X-men represent the scary Other that must be controlled or killed. The X-men fight to save a society that hates them. Batman is… Well, Batman is just wackadoo.
(Which sort of brings me to the trend of "dark" in superheroes. There's a certain breed of "super" that is watchable/readable because it IS so removed from what we are. Deadpool, Spawn, anything by Frank Miller. I feel like Nolan's Batman, for all that I love the mind-twists that Nolan does with that, gets further away from his humanity, even as he makes sacrifices (or "sacrifices") for the good of Gotham or whatever. )
But okay, back to the Avengers. With the notable exception of Thor, everyone on the Avengers team started off as an actual human. They were transformed by science or technology. The team was assembled by a human. Contrast that with the X-men [geek warning], who exist in the same comic book universe. They are mutants, different at their genetic core. Magneto calls them homo-superior, the next wave in evolution. Whenever the Avengers and the X-men show up at the same comic book party, there's a distinct difference: The Avengers are Earth's Mightiest Heroes. The X-men are Earth's outcasts, who fight for a world that hates and fears them.
Both of those are cool stories worth exploring, but they're different. The X-men are mutants in search of humanity. The Avengers, in all of their origin movies and to some extent here, are humans who need to find their inner superhero.
And what's really cool about that is that the director (Joss Whedon, for those of you living under a rock) allows for moments when the most non-superpowered people in the film find their inner hero. Men and women on the street. People with no powers at all but the fact that they volunteered for a tough job. Dweebish SHIELD agents.
Those are just moments, light touches that flavor the movie but don't detract from the central story. This band of humans (or Asgardians) has to find their inner superhero, and then they have to find (stumble and fight, really) their way to being a super-team.
The thing that really blows my mind in this movie is how Whedon gives every single member of the team a character arc that seamlessly fits into the whole picture. Managing to give every character their moment without dragging down the story or the pace (except one or two scenes, maybe) is pretty amazing feat.
Equally amazing is that you don't notice the craftsmanship and the intricate framework of character story and overreaching theme while you're watching. You're just being blown away by the logarithmic awesome that's on the screen.
Here's something else I loved about it. Whedon holds nothing back for the sequel. He goes full out, how-could-you-ever-top-this spectacle. He shoots down EVERYTHING.
There were so many hero shots, so much something something ominous badass, so much heart-twisting sniffle, cheer out loud, laugh, snort, gasp and squee in this movie I cannot wait to go see it again for stuff I missed.
So… highly, highly recommend this movie, both for the craft, the intelligent script, and most of all for the not-holds-barred spectacle of awesome.