Marvel’s The Avengers

Cast:
Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark / Iron Man
Chris Evans as Steve Rogers / Captain America
Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner / The Hulk
Chris Hemsworth as Thor
Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow
Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton / Hawkeye
Tom Hiddleston as Loki
Clark Gregg as Agent Phil Coulson
Cobie Smulders as Agent Maria Hill
Stellan Skarsgård as Selvig
Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury
Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts
Paul Bettany as Jarvis (voice)

Written and Directed by Joss Whedon

Summary:
Fun battles between superheroes, a great ensemble cast, an excellent script, and amazing 3D make “The Avengers” a movie that will please comic book fans and general audiences alike. It’s a wonderful payoff from what Marvel has been building up to with their previous films.

Story:
Having fled from Asgard, Loki allies himself with an alien race known as the Chitauri. Intent on taking over the universe, they want the Tesseract (aka the Red Skull’s ‘Cosmic Cube’) in order to aid them in their conquest and they want Loki to get it for them. In return, Loki will be granted dominion over the Earth. Loki is more than happy to oblige them.

As soon as he returns to Earth, Loki throws S.H.I.E.L.D. into disarray as he steals the Tesseract and takes over the minds of several S.H.I.E.L.D. personnel. Unable to match the demi-god villain, Nick Fury falls back on his plan to form a team of Earth’s mightiest heroes, the Avengers. Fury and Black Widow gather Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, and Bruce Banner/The Hulk in order to fight Loki, but they’re all going to have to learn to work together and overcome their weaknesses in order to save the Earth.

“The Avengers” is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action throughout, and a mild drug reference.

What Worked:
Ever since 2008′s “Iron Man,” Marvel Studios has been laying the foundation for an Avengers movie. It has been a delicate dance the entire way that could have fallen flat at any time. But thanks to the various directors and Marvel’s overall vision, it has worked so far. It’s like they’ve been stacking a bunch of blocks that could come crashing down at any moment, yet they haven’t. Now they’ve called on Joss Whedon to put the last block on the stack. And not only does he do it successfully, but he does it in spectacular fashion. Whedon compliments what all the previous films have done while bringing all of his strengths to “The Avengers.” He ended up making a movie that pleases young and old, comic fans and non-comic fans, and domestic and international audiences. For years to come, this will be the standard that all other superhero movies will be measured against.

First of all, Whedon is a fanboy at heart. He knows what comic fans want to see, and he delivers. As a Marvel fan, I always loved seeing the heroes battle each other, teaming up, and ultimately saving the day. We get that in spades with “The Avengers.” We get to see Iron Man battle Thor, Thor battle Captain America, Thor battle Hulk… you get the idea. As a Marvel Comics fan for over 30 years, every one of these battles met or exceeded my expectations. And what’s great is that even people who have never read the comics will get a kick out of these battles, too. They’re all breathtaking action sequences and fans of the movies will enjoy seeing last summer’s movie heroes going head to head this summer. It’s like seeing Frankenstein battle Dracula or King Kong vs. Godzilla. It’s just pure fun.

Joss Whedon has always been great at writing scripts for ensemble casts and that remains the case in “The Avengers.” Every single character in this film has a moment to shine… even the extras in the background. And nobody is really lost in the story. Robert Downey Jr. steals every scene he’s in, but Evans, Hemsworth, Ruffalo, and Jackson still manage to hold their own with him while remaining true to their characters in the previous films. Whedon manages to keep everyone relevant, too. For example, Black Widow is a character that could have very easily been lost among the heavy hitters of the team. But Scarlett Johansson’s character plays several key roles in the story and actually uses her strengths as a spy and assassin to help the team. The end result is yet another great female heroine from Whedon.

Whedon is also known for his skill at writing witty dialogue and that is used to its full potential here. Downey Jr. fires off one hilarious one liner after another that keeps the audience laughing. And even the straight men like Thor and Captain America get some great lines that bring the house down. But there’s one character that gets a lot of love from Whedon and that’s Tom Hiddleston as Loki. He gets one great villainous monologue after another with practically all of the characters in the film and every bit of it is engaging. Seeing him match wits with our heroes is a lot of fun.

A lot of people have been praising The Hulk as the MVP of “The Avengers” and there’s no question he steals the show in the finale. This is the first time that the Hulk has been portrayed as comic fans really want to see him – full of attitude and fully unleashed. He doesn’t even appear until late in the movie, but when he does… wow! Who would have thought that Hulk could steal the show from Robert Downey Jr.?

I saw this film in IMAX 3D and really enjoyed it. This was fantastic use of the 3D effect. When Iron Man flies between the city buildings, the camera follows him and you get a real sense of flying along with him. When the Chitauri invade New York, their flying ships really pop out of the screen at you. When Black Widow points her gun at you, you feel like it’s popping out of the screen and aimed at your head. Overall it’s just a superb use of 3D.

I took my seven-year-old and 10-year-old sons to this movie and all three of us absolutely loved it. This was truly a cross-generational geek fest. They loved seeing Hulk smash aliens. I loved seeing comics I followed for over 30 years play out on the screen. And after the movie was over and the post-credits scene rolled, my son was explaining to people the significance of the bonus scene. These were adult strangers we’d never met before raptly listening to a 10-year-old geek out over the bonus scene. Watching this movie, there was a real feeling of a communal experience that I don’t think I’ve experienced since the “Star Wars” movies. It was just a lot of fun.

What Didn’t Work:
As much as I’m a gushing fanboy, I will admit there were some things that I would nitpick about in “The Avengers.” First of all, in the bonus scene from “Thor,” we saw Loki masquerading as Dr. Selvig, but here they’re two distinctly different characters. Story-wise, it didn’t seem to fit. (But then again we saw Hulk smash ice with Captain America in it in a bonus scene from “The Incredible Hulk,” so there’s a history of the movies not meshing with the post-credit scenes.)

Another nitpick is that at the end of “Thor,” the Bifrost Bridge had been destroyed and Thor was cut off from Earth, but in “The Avengers” he kind of appears out of nowhere. Loki addresses it in a throwaway line, but it felt a tad rushed in order to bring Thor into the fray. Knowing that Joss Whedon originally had a much longer cut of the film, maybe this was addressed more in some deleted scenes.

I also felt the pacing was a tad slow at a couple of points. The movie hits the ground running with some big action scenes early on and doesn’t let up for quite some time, but as soon as Loki is captured things grind to a halt for about 20 minutes. We get a lot of dialogue heavy scenes between the characters. And as good as Whedon’s writing is and as intriguing it is for character development… it’s still a good point to go to the bathroom.

Continuing my nitpicking, I felt like the score by Alan Silvestri was utterly forgettable. When you walked out of “Superman: The Movie” or “Batman,” you were humming the theme song by John Williams or Danny Elfman. For some reason, after all of the things Marvel has done right, they can’t seem to get a memorable theme song for their characters even if they sold their souls to Mephisto. I wish they’d put as much effort into their scores as they do their scripts.

My next nitpick is really a Catch 22 for Marvel and Disney. On “John Carter of Mars”, the trailers were criticized for not showing the movie accurately enough. On “The Avengers”, I felt like a lot of the movie was spoiled by the trailers. Many of the biggest and best scenes in the film are shown in the commercials and trailers. You know what’s coming well before it happens just because you’ve seen so many commercials that you can’t avoid even if you tried. So I don’t think the happy middle ground has been hit just yet.

Finally, as fun as the big finale is, the final resolution is a tad anti-climactic. I won’t spoil it here, but I felt the big conclusion didn’t quite deliver after the buildup of the rest of the movie.

The Bottom Line:
“The Avengers” is pretty much everything you hoped it would be. Go see it in the theaters in 3D and you won’t be disappointed. Y’all need to take your kids, take your wife. Everybody’s going to love this one and it’s a great way to start the summer movie season. And it’s nice to see fan favorite Joss Whedon finally get the mainstream success that he deserves.

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