After leaving Brandon, we didn't keep up with watching the movies as they opened. There was the interest, but never the collective plan. Now being in Winnipeg, a variation of that group is forming, so we reserved 9 seats for the IMAX 3-D screening of The Avengers last Sunday.
In preparation, I recapped Ironman and Ironman II (having watched it earlier this year on Netflix), watched Captain America and Thor (also on Netflix) and watched key portions of The Hulk - the quick solution to not having the background the others had.
However, the minute the movie started, I knew the strength of the movie was that you didn't need to have a strong background. Sure, having seen the other movies did help, but the best way to build a successful franchise is to create a series of movies that work independently and collectively. And while I can't say all the movies were shining examples of cinematographic genius, The Avengers is certainly a strong capstone for the universe.
Among its strengths is that it follows the same set up as all the other movies within the series. These movies are essentially all bildungsroman* - loosely translated to "coming of age stories". This genre introduces a character who is different. This difference isolates them from the rest of society, being ostracized from those around them. They often take a journey - figurative, or literal - to learn how they can best use their differences as a strength. Having received this time for personal growth, they can re-integrate into the world, and provide a valuable service. The genesis of The Avengers as a group follows much the same pattern - only they are both the individuals being ostracized and the community ostracizing them.
Building off of this formula holds two benefits. One, it creates a link between the movies, some familiarity if you will. Two, it allows the audience to learn a bit about each of the characters individually before seeing how they all are designed to work together.
One deviation is made. While the romance sub-plot is heavy in the individual hero movies, the relationships in focus on this one is certainly how the heroes interact with each other. Sure, there is some interesting tension between Hawk Eye and the Black Widow, there is the familiarity with Pepper and Tony, and a quick reference to the love interest of Thor (Jane?)
Despite this, I do think it's a great date movie - no gooey romance to bore the gents, but not enough blood and guts to disgust the ladies.
*The level of social acceptance varies in each movie at its conclusion, and is interesting to examine in terms of identities. Tony certainly is accepted to a large degree as Iron Man, as is Steve Rogers as Captain America (interesting, Tony is accepted as himself in the second, while Steve Rogers is never accepted for anything other than his alter ego). Thor returns to his home planet (and also doesn't so much have an alter), and Bruce Banner distances himself at the end of The Hulk purposely, to further develop. His development is more thoroughly continued in The Avengers than the other characters. The Black Widow and Hawk Eye do have some development in The Avengers, but I have a feeling their time has yet to come.