With The Avengers now in theaters, we have our first big slam-bang, star-studded, popcorn action film of the season.
And what a good time it is.
Bringing together more than a half-dozen of the brightest stars in the Marvel universe, The Avengers is kind of like Ocean’s 11 for comic book geeks. (If you prefer Marvel, that is. Personally, I’m more a DC universe / Justice League fan. But that’s not really important here. I’m just sayin’.)
The movie begins with a portal to another universe opening (how does that keep happening?), and Loki, Thor’s megalomaniacal adoptive brother, arriving to cause mischief. After Loki tells Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury, head of the peace-keeping alliance S.H.I.E.L.D., that a global war is coming, Fury assembles the Avengers to defend the planet — even though, really, it’s only the U.S. that seems to be in danger.
So Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and the Hulk (now played by Mark Ruffalo), all with their own egos and issues, are forced to work together. (Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye, too, but not until he can break free from Loki’s mind control.) Of course, it doesn’t go well at first, but eventually they get their act together and they take on the Big Bad in New York City. Because if aliens descend on Earth, where else would they go?
For the past few years now, films like Iron Man (the original and the sequel), Thor, and The Incredible Hulk have been laying the groundwork for this one, with each including a short epilogue where the characters were recruited for a secret mission. That’s a lot of buildup and anticipation, and thankfully it was not entirely for naught.
Joss Whedon, who directed and cowrote The Avengers, and has earned his geek cred over the years with TV shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, knows his material well, and not surprisingly, he’s infused the film with wit and intelligence. But just as important, he also shows he knows his way around ass-kicking action. That climactic battle in New York alone is worth the price of admission.
No offense to Joss, though, but the real stars of this film are the stars themselves. And what a kick it is to see them all jockey for supremacy, as characters and actors. It’s really no contest — Downey can take Evans and Hemsworth any day — but all these guys bow down to the Hulk, who here is finally the likable character that he wasn’t in the Ang Lee or Edward Norton versions.
Like any comic book movie, there’s a lot of high-fallutin’ exposition (mostly having to do with the Tesseract, the blue cube that allows Loki to cross over), the plot follows a reasonably predictable arc, and the dialogue is oftentimes delivered in an overly serious manner. But all that is to be expected; it’s hard to make a comic book movie that’s rooted in fantasy without that kind of stuff (as opposed to a more realistic one, like, say, The Dark Knight).
Some might say the action scenes are a bit much, but hey, it’s summer. The action is supposed to be big, loud, and over the top. And it all looks great. The film’s a slickly made one, with impressive special effects, and while it’s being shown in 3D, those effects really don’t add too much.
There will definitely be an Avengers 2 (a coda during the final credits sets up the sequel), and based on this first go-round, there’s good reason to get excited now.
I’m giving The Avengers a B+. Happy summer, y’all.
Have you seen The Avengers? Are you a Marvel universe fan, or would you have rather seen a DC universe / Justice League movie? Share your thoughts in the comments area below.