Adapted by Joss Whedon from The Coming of the Avengers!, by Stan Lee.
Marvel’s the Avengers is the most important release of this decade, because of how mimicked it’s become. In its time, bringing together the protagonists of previous releases was most famous for the Universal monsters from the dawn of sound, but as cinema’s become more culturally important, trends have emerged and right now the top trend is superhero teams. The superhero genre is the most successful currently, with next year seeing the return of such teams like X-Men, and even Marvel’s the Avengers‘ sequel, Avengers: Age of Ultron. When students study cinema, it’s divided into eras of trends, and right now, we’re in the middle of the superhero trend, and we have Marvel’s the Avengers to thank for that. Because it made a point about the genre – these characters are already interesting, but we appreciate them because they’re together. Had the Avengers not formed a team, the Marvel Cinematic Universe wouldn’t be nearly as popular as it is. Each character might be loved, but without Marvel’s the Avengers, they wouldn’t be loved together.
In the same way as The Expendables is considered the most important of the action genre, Marvel’s the Avengers is the definitive example of the superhero genre. Which isn’t to say it’s the best, but the definitive. Superhero teams are underrepresented in the genre, and this particular team has enough of a wide range to make it a microcosm for the other conventions of its own genre. Every stock character type is present in the team, and that makes it the go-to for lessons in superhero writing. Because of Marvel’s the Avengers, viewing a great number of genre pieces is unnecessary, because everything in them is presented in a singular piece here. By combining each extreme of the superhero colour wheel, Joss Whedon has eliminated competition. It’s almost to say “you don’t need to see that, we already did it”. Only that statement applies multiple times over.
By bringing these characters together, we learn about the kind of storytelling that brings them to life. Whereas many superheroes could be used as examples of the best, Marvel’s the Avengers makes a very important observation: they’re better together. What’s the point in there being a superhero if they exist all alone? And the good thing about that is that some of these characters arguably aren’t superheroes. Stark created a battlesuit, Banner has a psychological condition, Romanova has gun skills, Odinson has a unique weapon, Barton is good at archery and Rogers has gymnastics skills. None of them have super powers per se, but the idea of the Avengers Initiative is to bring together “remarkable” people. At no point is “super” mentioned. The reason it succeeds so well is because it isn’t trying to be a superhero story, it’s just treating these people as unique examples of humans. And that’s the best way of doing it, because then it becomes a story about characters, not their powers.
Whedon’s greatest strength is his ability to write characters, and in writing superheroes – not his best genre – he just applies the same skills, the same approach, and the result is characters you want to succeed, that you want to do well and that you find yourself liking immensely. Where you care more about what they’d get at a drive-thru than whether they can fly a jet, or what video-games they prefer than their scientific knowledge, or what their personal interests are than who can best the other in combat.
Marvel’s the Avengers shows other people how to write not just superhero teams, but ensemble casts, and characters. It shows that we should care more about how they make us feel than what the plot was. The reason Marvel’s the Avengers is so enjoyable to watch is purely because of the way the characters are respected enough to not be treated as the superheroes they only technically are.
Marvel’s the Avengers: superheroes treated realistically with respect. 7/10