I’m not "a Marvel" but I am a she-geek from way back, so I took off work early on Friday to see The Avengers on its opening day and I must say it’s the most expensive comic book I have ever perused. What I mean is that people saying it’s the "ultimate comic book movie" are more on the nose than they may realize – and it’s less of a compliment than they think.
Briefly, this is a movie for people who have actually had that "Who would win in a fight between Hulk and Thor" argument. It has a typical Marvel plot: a thin, generic one that serves as a rudimentary framework for a series of fights. The fate of the world hangs in the balance, and the bigness and badness of the big, bad threat is impressed upon as if… Well, I’m not saying Mr. Whedon thinks we’re stupid, but let’s put it this way…(switching comic universes for a moment for reasons that will soon become clear) The old school Batman has a silhouette of a bat on the center of his chest, set off by a bright yellow oval. 'Cause he’s Batman. Got that? Bat-Man. So there’s a bat and he's a man… Okay, I’m going to assume you were all able to follow the logic there without belaboring the point with the Power Point slides and sock puppets. The Avengers is a movie written by and for people whose idea of “subtle” is to remove the yellow oval.
It is also a typical comic-reading experience in that you may well read 18 issues of colorful but empty "stuff" (that may or may not bore you to tears, depending on your mood that day) to get to a scene/few panels of absolute and unrivaled awesome. The Avengers does have those moments. They’re exclusively when Robert Downey Jr. is on screen, and it’s ironic--as only disappointing comic books can be unintentionally ironic--that Tony Stark brings the only moments when The Avengers has a warm beating heart under all the synthetic sturm und drang. His exchanges with Pepper, with Bruce Banner and with Loki are, quite simply, the only times the story has the ability to make the ordinary non-comic fans care.