There were a lot of things wrong with the 2004 movie “Catwoman.” But its most fundamental flaw, the one that led to all the others, is that it was clearly made by people who didn’t care about the character: didn’t care about her history, didn’t care about her personality, didn’t care about making a movie that would actually be about Catwoman.
One can only hope that everyone involved in that movie sees “The Avengers.” Because then they might see why having a comic book movie made by someone who actually cares about the original characters, and the comic books they appear in, is how you make a really good comic book movie.
Based on the Marvel Comics supergroup — their answer to DC’s Justice League — “The Avengers” finds Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Hawkeye, Black Widow, Nick Fury, and The Hulk teaming up to fight an alien invasion led by Thor’s adopted brother Loki.
Needless to say, this is like a superhero version of “Super Smash Brothers.” But the movie works because of the superheroes behind the scenes: writer, director, and admitted comic book fan Joss Whedon (“Serenity”) and his equally knowledgeable co-writer Zak Penn (“X-Men 2”). Any studio with enough money can get the best special effects; any studio with enough money and foresight can make sure that the people who previously played these parts would not only return for this get-together but will bring their A-game with them. But it takes true comic books fans to write a pithy and action-packed script that not only figures out how to bring these disparate characters together, while also culling elements from the earlier films into a coherent story, and to do so while keeping all these individual personalities intact.
What’s interesting is how those personalities play out here. While it’ll surprise no one that Robert Downy, Jr. has some of the smartest jokes in the film (and the best t-shirt), it might surprise some — well, unless they’re big Whed-heads — that Black Widow (played perfectly by Scarlett Johansson) almost steals the movie out from under him. Not only does she consistently kick ass like she did at the end of “Iron Man 2,” but she also remains the calm voice when the boys get into one of their many pissing contests.
Black Widow isn’t the only character to really come into her own here, though. Tom Hiddleston, who was Loki in “Thor,” reprises his role with real glee. Free to be the bad guy, as opposed to the bad guy sometimes pretending to be a good guy, Hiddleston really comes alive in the villain role. But then, the whole cast is uniformly solid. Mark Ruffalo exudes a calm intelligence as The Hulk’s human half, Bruce Banner, while Chris Evans (Captain America), Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye), and Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury) are as good here as they were in their respective movies. Even The Hulk, played by a bunch of Macs, is better here than he was in previous films.
All together, the combination of a great script, solid acting, some real whiz bang action, and, most importantly, a real love and respect for the source material, add up to one of the best superhero movies since the first “Iron Man.” Along with that film and some of the animated “Batman” movies, “The Avengers” should be required viewing for anyone hoping to translate a comic book to the silver screen. Especially if it involves a certain cat burglar.