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The Avengers (A Movie Review)

The Avengers

The Avengers


Starring Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Clark Gregg, Cobie Smulders, Stellan Skarsgård, Gwyneth Paltrow, Paul Bettany, Alexis Denisof, Tina Benkos, Powers Boothe, Jenny Agutter, Harry Dean Stanton, Stan Lee and the voices of Paul Bettany and Lou Ferrigno.

Screenplay by Joss Whedon.

Directed by Joss Whedon.

Distributed by Walt Disney Pictures.  142 minutes.  Rated PG-13.

Yes, technically The Avengers is sort of the equivalent of a superhero all-star game, but it is also one of the most enjoyable superhero pictures in years.

The Avengers takes some of the biggest names in the Marvel comics universe – including The Hulk, Iron Man, Captain America and Thor and gives them each not quite enough to do.  But together, they make for quite a kick-ass crime-stopping force.

Occasionally the climax treads a little too far into Michael Bay territory, but otherwise The Avengers is the state of the art of modern blockbusters – tons of action mixed in with just enough human interaction to keep the story somewhat grounded.

As helmed by Buffy the Vampire Slayer creator Joss Whedon (the Buffy TV series, not the movie), The Avengers is a fast-paced action adventure programmed to stoke every fanboy that crosses its path.

The story doesn’t really matter that much, some clap-trap about an attempted world domination and the fight for an all-powerful supernatural trinket called Tesseract (some sort of vaguely omniscient source of limitless energy that essentially plays the same McGuffin role as the briefcase in Pulp Fiction).

The story is derived directly from the Marvel film universe – the main villain is recycled from last year’s Thor movie and the Tesseract originally surfaced in Captain America: The First Avenger.  Characters like Nick Fury and Black Widow, who have been on the outskirts of such films like Iron Man 2 and Thor, get more fleshed-out roles in the group.

All of the superheroes are played by the stars of the other movies – Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man, Chris Evans as Captain America, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow, Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury.  The only new actor is Mark Ruffalo, who gets a chance at playing Bruce Banner (aka The Hulk) after Eric Bana and Edward Norton fumbled the role in previous movie versions.  And, pleasantly, Ruffalo’s indie film affability makes the character more likable that his predecessors.

These very different superheroes are brought together after Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Thor’s evil brother, escapes from the authorities with the Tesseract and several brainwashed good guys in tow – including second-tier superhero Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and brilliant scientist Dr. Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård).  They are brought together from all over the world to figure out what Loki’s evil plan is and to stop him from importing an evil intergalactic army from the planet (or is it an alternate universe?) Chitauri.

That’s pretty much it story-wise.  Whedon wisely just mixes up this volatile cocktail and sits back and watches the sparks.  The superheroes fight amongst themselves and fight together, eventually putting aside their egos, dueling personalities and differing agendas for the greater good of the world.

If you’re looking for subtlety and characterization, it’s kind of here – mostly in the form of supporting characters like Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) and Agent Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders).  But feelings are not what we’re looking for here, we’re looking for the Hulk to slam Loki around a bit.

Cities and super-starships are destroyed by firefights and superhero might, aliens are blown from the sky and New York City is nearly brought to ruins.  It’s not really deep, but it is surprisingly rousing.  And hugely entertaining.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2012 All rights reserved. Posted: May 4, 2012.

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