Monday, May 7, 2012

In Theaters: THE AVENGERS (2012)


Written and directed by Joss Whedon.  Cast: Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Stellan Skarsgard, Clark Gregg, Cobie Smulders, Gwyneth Paltrow, Powers Boothe, Jenny Agutter, Jerzy Skolimowski, Harry Dean Stanton, Alexis Denisof.  (PG-13, 141 mins)

The kickoff to the summer movie season is a wet dream from geek god Joss Whedon, on quite a roll with this and THE CABIN IN THE WOODS.  I should mention up front that I've never been a comic book guy, I don't know the extent of everyone's backstory and the best I can do is generally keep Marvel and DC characters in their right camp.  I have no allegiance to Stan Lee.  I have no opinion on how much Jack Kirby got screwed. Perhaps ignorance is bliss, but I'm just here to see the movie.  And it's a blast from start to finish.

Ruffalo and Downey
Though perfectly fine as a stand-alone film, THE AVENGERS ties together plot threads from various big-screen Marvel predecessors.  S.H.I.E.L.D. is in possession of the Tesseract, an energy source of unknown potential, in an underground facility raided by THOR villain Loki (Tom Hiddleston).  Loki casts a spell on master archer Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Dr. Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard, also returning from THOR) and abducts them to take part in his evil plans of universal domination.  S.H.I.E.L.D. chief Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) assemble the Avengers: Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr), Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans), Bruce Banner/The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), and Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson).  They're eventually joined by Thor (Chris Hemsworth) who comes from Asgard in search of Loki.

Tom Hiddleston as the evil Loki
THE AVENGERS is a pretty hard movie to dislike.  It gives you everything you'd want in a great big-budget summer movie:  terrific action, solid performances, and top-notch visual effects.  Even the CGI'd Hulk is a huge improvement over its past big-screen incarnations, where it essentially looked like Shrek.  The Hulk actually more or less steals the movie (especially when Captain America is giving complex directions to everyone and when he finally gets to the Hulk, simply says "Smash!").  Whedon incorporates much humor into THE AVENGERS (the Galaga bit is hilarious), but is careful to never let it get silly.  Whether it's one of many quotable one-liners ("He's adopted" or "Phil?  His first name is Agent", or Stark calling Thor "Point Break" and Hawkeye "Legolas") or the virtually non-stop action, THE AVENGERS is the kind of entertainment where even people like myself who aren't particularly into the comics just have a big stupid grin on their faces for the duration.  Once the plot is set-up and everything is in place, a good chunk of the film (over half) is basically just two really long action sequences:  the attack on S.H.I.E.L.D. by Loki's Chitauri accomplices, and later, their attack on Manhattan, which finally unites the bickering Avengers in truly spectacular fashion.  All of the Marvel vets have their parts down perfectly, but really, Ruffalo is the big surprise here with a character that's been problematic, to say the least, as no one really likes either previous big-screen HULK attempt.  Ruffalo finds just the right mannerisms and delivery to make Banner a credible, sympathetic character, and easily the best interpretation of Banner since Bill Bixby on the late '70s/early '80s TV series THE INCREDIBLE HULK.

There's not much else to say that hasn't already been said.  I've enjoyed recent Marvel films like IRON MAN (probably the best until now), CAPTAIN AMERICA, and THOR (IRON MAN 2...not so much), but have never really felt a need to revisit them.  THE AVENGERS, even more so than IRON MAN, really gets it right and for once, I can't wait to see it again.  Just terrific fun all around. (Seen in regular version, because I just don't go for post-conversion 3-D)

1 comment:

  1. Good review! Thought this was a blast to watch. Lots of fun in-jokes and great action sequences.