Movie Review: The Avengers (2012)

Marvel Studios
Runtime: 142 minutes
Rated: PG-13 (for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action throughout 

and a mild drug reference)
Director: Joss Whedon
Writers: Zak Penn
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, 

Samuel L. Jackson, Gwyneth paltrow
Action | Adventure | Sci-fi

Marvel’s The Avengers comes to us as a welcomed multi-continuation of The Hulk (2008), Iron Man II (2010), Thor (2011), and Captain America: The First Avenger (2011). By this time, the union of super-elite guardians of earth proposed by director of S.H.I.E.L.D “Nick Fury” (Samuel L. Jackson) called The Avengers Initiative has been put on hold. It was dismissed after Fury realized it would be panned by the government due to fears of unrest (same sort of trouble we saw brewing in the last Iron Man).

We are brought up to speed on the lives of Steve “Captain America” Rogers (Chris Evans) after he was revived from the crash and brought back into serving his country in a way he could never have imagined. It’s good to know that 70 years of sleeping in ice didn’t weaken those late-1930s-technology-enhanced super-soldier muscles. Here he is back with us, tearing holes in punching bags with his fits, the one after the other. We find his God-fearing, undying American patriotism as cool as any other hero here or anywhere.

When we catch up to a still arrogant Tony “Ironman” Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) with trusted assistant “Pepper Potts” (Gwyneth Paltrow) and a fresh-out-of-hiding “Bruce Banner” (Mark Ruffalo, who at times sounds a little like Bill Bixby), we have already been introduced to “Agent Romanoff” AKA “The Black Widow” (Scarlett Johansson). Hers is one of the most complex characters here—one that audiences will leave the theaters wishing they’d gone in knowing more about. She deserved a “primer” movie like her co-superheroes. Heads up: anyone out of the loop on the Avengers might well brush up on them before seeing the movie.

And then an unexpected visitor arrives on earth. “Loki” (Tom Hiddleston), the adopted brother to “Thor” (Chris Hemsworth), the dethroned turncoat from Asgård who comes to earth to not only claim the power of the Tesseract – the cube of otherworldly powers from the first Captain America – but to enslave the whole human race. Loki looks like he could be the DNA clone of Peewee Herman and Brent Spiner, as the slightly pale villain with little to say that isn’t ominously embellished for effect.

Soon, the team that would and should have been known to all as The Avengers has been assembled, but they appear to be less organized than their enemy who not only possesses great power from the realm of virtual gods, but has the added advantage of having subdued the minds of those who know the most about how to manipulate the object’s power—a bow-and-arrow-wielding “Clint Barton” known as “Hawkeye” (Jeremy Renner) and the brain behind the object’s handling, “Selvig” (Stellan Skarsgård).

When the plot advances – sometimes threatening to drag its feet by overly-thick prep work for more to come – we are given what we expected, and then a little. But the excitement is almost a teasing kind of thing. And when the fighting starts, things get pleasingly wild, although as with the previous Captain America movie, the fight scenes aren’t always as carefully constructed as they should have been, nor is the timing leading up to confrontations as dramatic as it could have been.

But you can almost forget about that because this changes when we get to the movie’s last half where younger viewers (or otherwise lovers of beautifully extravagant destruction) will be more than gratified with what they see. Michael Bay loves to show off destruction, but director Joss Whedon here shows us how it’s really supposed to be done.

And part of the appeal comes from the fact that we get to see these comic powerhouses go at it verbally and physically. But that is just a bonus. Our superheroes with rather easily bruised egos aren’t the only ones with extremely relevant roles to play. They make and add to an exciting but also virtue-dependent story where true heroes are made by what’s on the inside. This is what the comics have always been about.

It is an ever-so-mild setback that such great efforts are taken to develop the story, and in many ways, it is too developed. Whereas in many comic book movies were stories that so easily came together, this one has some rough edges transitioning to its conclusion, be it changes in how heavy it wants to lay down the drama or the way it incorporates some plot-points. But it is hard to level any complaint against a film that carries with it this much imaginative energy and this many heroes.

The humor is a quality that is taken seriously, but rarely does this rob us of the anxiety we get from anticipating what happens next. But what purpose do the comics serve except to help give us a fantasy platform to turn on the boyish urge to fight? Answer: how about to help us see the pitfalls of our society. Depends on how you look at it, but when clean-burning energy is sported as a running theme in a big-budget action movie, you know it will have relevance in plenty of other areas. Conclusion: The Avengers will justly prove to be the next sensation.

Coolest Lines: 

Loki: “We have an army!”
Tony Stark: “And we have a Hulk!”