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The Avengers Is Good, Crowd-Pleasing Fun

The Avengers
Directed by Joss Whedon
Written by Whedon from a story by Zak Penn and Whedon from the comic book by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby
Disney and Marvel, in association with Paramount, 2012

Well, we’ve been seeing the movies leading up to this for nearly 10 years now, beginning back in 2003 with Ang Lee’s Hulk, although the true effort towards assembling The Avengers came with 2007’s Iron Man and the Nick Fury appearance at the end.  It was then that we got The Incredible Hulk, Thor, Captain America, and Iron Man 2, and unfortunately, while many of those movies were decent, they played like previews for The Avengers.

But there was reasons to be excited: Joss Whedon was directing.  Every fanboy in the world knew that one of the most important comic book franchises would be safe in his hands.  Still, after seeing actual previews of this, I started to wonder: isn’t this just like when a movie has too many villains to keep track of, or too many anything to keep track of?  Why would all of these superheroes need to band together?  What evil lurked that was that horrible that required that many elite superheroes?  I guess it worked for X-Men, but that always made sense–powers uniquely suited to combat multiple problems, and none of them really all-powerful like many solo superheroes.  The Avengers team is comprised of heroes that have combated huge villains on their own.  In that regard, The Avengers isn’t a total success because the villains here don’t seem like a worthy threat…but, well, read on.

As we saw past the end credits of Thor, there’s a power source called The Tesseract, the Cosmic Cube that can generate unlimited energy and is of major interest to the US government.  Thor’s main baddie, Loki (Tom Hiddleston), wants the cube so he can buy a galactic army, the Chitauri, to help him become Master of the Universe, or whatever.   After Loki possesses Professor Stelvig (Stellan Skarsgård) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and makes off with the cube, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Agent Phil Coulson call on various heroes like Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr), while Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) find Bruce Banner/The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) to help study the cube and track down Loki.  Of course, since Loki is involved, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) enters the fray as well.  And as we saw in Captain America, Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) has been recently thawed out from his slumber in a block of ice and is needed for his juiced-up leadership as well.

The goal: stop Loki, retrieve the Tesseract, fight hordes of evil.

I feel like the movie could have started pretty much when all the heroes are finally assembled, because hell, we’ve been seeing origin stories for awhile now for this story.  To see more build-up is a bit of a drag.  But the scene where Romanoff finds Banner is amusing, and of course, what straight guy isn’t going to want to see Scarlett Johansson in a skimpy outfit kicking lots of ass?  Still, the movie starts taking off when the heroes are together.  There is a bunch of funny in-fighting and disagreements, and the story starts getting really interesting.  Joss Whedon’s screenplay work shines in these interactions, and is a great return to funny form for Robert Downey, Jr.  I also feel like Mark Ruffalo is here to stay in this Bruce Banner/Hulk incarnation, where Eric Bana and Edward Norton were not.  The Hulk steals this movie towards the end.

The finale is fantastic, filled with a slew of scenes that people will be talking about all summer, and Whedon touches the credits with the groundwork for a sequel that will drive comic book nerds nuts, along with a really funny joke at the very end of the credits.

But if there was one thing I didn’t like, it’s the bad guys.  Loki is a god but alternately looks vulnerable and unbeatable.  The army he brings to Earth are a bunch of faceless automatons with almost no worth other than fodder for cool superhero ass-kicking.  And the heroes’ unique skills don’t entirely make sense for an invasion like this.  Movies have a hard time figuring out what power is.  This movie could have been written with any one of the superheroes on their own and they would have figured out a way for them to win.

Still, you won’t be complaining much during the finale, where truly some of the funnest, and funniest action in years comes in.  I took a peek into a couple of midnight shows and the crowd was buzzing.  This movie for the most part delivers, and the sequel will likely be even better…because now we shouldn’t have to “get to know” these characters anymore.  Great job from Whedon and this will pay off big this summer.

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