Crossovers can be tough. The writers have to stay aware of the individual storylines of the characters that cross over so that there is some semblance of continuity between what happens in the character’s usual universe and what happens when the characters come together—usually in a storm of testosterone and dueling personality traits. But that is in the comic books.
In the movies, where real live movie stars have to play nice alongside other stars, the potential for disaster is great. Not for nothing is that saying about great power and great responsibilities slung around whenever the opportunity presents itself. So it was always going to be a challenge to bring Iron Man, Captain America, Thor and Hulk together in a movie with Black Widow and Hawkeye, and make it work. Does Joss Whedon succeed?
I am aware that this is the motion picture event that has fanboys (and girls) frothing at the mouth in a unique way. But think about it for a moment. The angry green giant, the monosyllabic Norse God, the alcohol-fuelled egotistical billionaire and the super soldier out of time? Together? What would they say to each other? How would they overcome their difficulties to truly work together? Exciting possibilities, no? Yeah, there is none of that in the movie.
Not to mention that there is an overlap of powers/origin stories that just somehow feels like needless duplication. Thor and Captain America throw things that return to them (hammer and shield respectively). Thor and Hawkeye use weapons that just seem so old-fashioned and out-of-touch with present reality (that hammer again, and a bow and hi-tech—whatever—arrows). Hulk and Captain America owe their ‘powers’ to experimental drugs. I’m sure I could come up with more but I think you get the point.
Y’know what a movie like this does not need? Bloat. Remember what I said about many characters vying for screen time? Way too much of it is spent on Agent Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders), whose entire performance consists of paraphrasing the goings-on for the benefit of all moviegoers who do not speak Marvel Comics lore. And guys, I get the appeal of Scarlett Johansson but hair tossing and walking purposefully are not superpowers (maybe on the right girl in the right light in the right high school, but Not. In. A. Major. Motion. Picture… come on!)
So yeah, in the here and now everybody is going to praise The Avengers for how cool it was to see all these superheroes together, or how much money this movie made, or how many teenage (middle age?) dreams came true when those end credits rolled. But when all that hype and hoopla dies down, and the moratorium on speaking ill of the ambitious is lifted, someone is going to write about how the first hour is too talky, too focused on the tweeners (Maria Hill, Nick Fury, Black Widow, hell even Agent Coulson) rather than the main men, and just too slow to be allowed to mark the first half of the first major summer blockbuster of this, or any, year.
Is the movie without plus points? No, of course not! Mark Ruffalo is the best Bruce Banner we’ve had. That little scene between Loki and Hulk is totally worth sixty percent of the price of admission.
And that is that.