Here’s some news: The Avengers opens in US theaters this Friday, May 4. (Wait, what? You’d already heard? And I thought they were keeping it all so low-key.)
I am not here to tell you why you, a romance fan, should immediately cancel all other plans in order to go and see some much-hyped comic book movie on its long-awaited opening day. I’m not here to espouse Marvel’s base-broadening agenda, going on and on about the romance inherent in many a superhero story (like I’ve, ahem, done before — in the Superheroes as Romantic Heroes post), and try to convince you that there is somehow something noble, something remotely cool, about even my abject geekery. Nor am I in any way encouraging you to go the full Comic-Con here, to dress up like Black Widow, or get a Hawkeye tattoo, or go online to bid on a rare Tales of Suspense #39, featuring the first appearance of Iron Man. (Though if you do any of those things, we should totally be best friends.)
But I am here to tell you that The Avengers is that elusive, exciting, utterly entrancing mélange of action, suspense, humor, charm, emotion, CGI and HEA that every chick flick-inclined woman who has ever had to pick a guy-friendly date movie is always hoping will come along—a blockbuster that even the arthouse crowd can’t help but enjoy, because this film is in many ways as thought-provoking as it is adrenaline-fuelled, and if you are unable to appreciate such elegant allegory just because it is wrapped up in green skin, iron or lycra, then clearly you are dead inside.
Now, obviously many a romance reader is already pretty au fait with the merits of the Marvel Universe, whether on page or on screen or both. It would be disingenuous to suggest that, among tales of lovelorn vampires, werewolves, angels and demons, the exploits of variously powered humans (and the odd alien or demi-god) hold no interest among our ranks. Movies like Iron Man and its sequel, The Incredible Hulk, Thor and Captain America have gladdened hearts, both geek and non-, over the past few years (personally, Thor can bite me, but I know this isn’t the majority opinion), and so The Avengers, as a kind of sequel to all five, is bound to at least be a source of curiosity, if not outright anticipatory glee.
And no doubt many of you are devotees, either past or present, of Joss Whedon’s previous writing and directorial work—Buffy, Angel, Firefly, Serenity, Dollhouse—which may mean that even if comic book superheroes simply aren’t your thing, you’ll be willing to give his latest foray into deconstructed metaphor a go, just due to his presence alone. And you would be very right to do so. Very right indeed.
But if I had to give you one reason to see this film—and I mean, like, immediately—even above all of the funny and the spectacle and the Joss, it would have to be the delectable cast of deliciousness with which it abounds. Seriously, this movie’s cup runneth over—and it’s one of those massive cups you get as part of a combo at the concession stand, and then regret half way through the film when you realize it’s going to be at least an hour until you can get to a bathroom.
Leading the way is Robert Downey Jr. as billionaire industrialist and part-time defender of humanity Tony Stark, who dons his signature Iron Man outfit and soars above an alternate New York, but comes home to his girlfriend/corporate helpmeet Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), here given a sparky personality makeover under the aegis of Whedon and co-writer Zak Penn. Their scenes together are brief but electric, and really give us a sense of a couple happy and in love— though, this being Joss, and Joss being the undisputed King of Angst, we can only assume Pepper’s due to lose her soul or something in the inevitable Avengers 2.
Next, there’s Chris Evans as Captain America, whose ridiculous buffness and earnest patriotic fervor make for a captivating combination, especially when ranged against Stark’s self-obsessive snark. Chris Hemsworth as Thor is burly and far more believable here than in his titular outing—and even in that disappointing farrago of nonsense, I was still prepared to concede that the man possesses a magnificent pair of arms. Jeremy Renner is utterly relaxed in his role of Hawkeye, perennial Avengers B-player with unerring aim (which is a big part of what makes him so damn watchable; he’s basically this movie’s Legolas), and Mark Ruffalo as Hulk, about whom I’d had grave concerns, considering his rom-com pedigree and my adoration of Edward Norton in the role, is actually perfectly cast—his Bruce Banner is far more squirrelly than Norton’s, but I like it, and his Hulk positively steals the film. Rounding out the team is, of course, Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow; far more than being merely the token chick here, the ever-luminous Johansson brings a compelling complexity to her complicated spy/assassin/seductress that cannot help but draw one in. More than an ethereally beautiful face, that one. Much more.
There’s also much more, star-wise, about which I could wax rhapsodic—Tom Hiddleston as villain Loki, Clark Gregg as true believer Agent Coulson, Samuel L. Jackson as the force of nature that is Nick Fury, but when it comes right down to it, between the aforementioned funny and spectacle and Joss, alongside all that lovingly-detailed pretty, if I haven’t convinced you yet, I just don’t know what might.
So, please, I beg of you. For your own good. Go see this movie, and marvel at the marvelous Marvel Universe, Joss Whedon-style. This is two solid hours of pretty much unalloyed awesome, and while, sure, the romance quotient is at an all-time Jossian low, there is bromance aplenty, and more than one hint at future entanglements—other forthcoming Marvel movies include Iron Man 3, Thor 2 and Captain America 2, and if you don’t spot a potential love interest for Cap in this movie then I will have to seriously question your ship-o-meter – to keep even the least superheroically-inclined among us happy.
And if you were going to go and see this movie anyway? Well, let me assure you that all the hype, all the anticipation: totally justified. I went into this thing with unreasonably high expectations, and every one of them was not only met but surpassed.
So much so that I’m now actually considering that Hawkeye tattoo.
Editor’s note: For more on Rachel’s thoughts on The Avengers, read her Geek Speak film review.
Rachel Hyland is Editor in Chief of Geek Speak Magazine.