The Avengers (2012)

Greg Says: Hulk Smash, Iron Man Fly, Thor Grimace, Humans Run!

Title: The Avengers (2012)
Rating: 7/10
Date: 4 May 2012
Helpful: 3 out of 8 found this helpful.

Loki (Tom Hiddleston), the half-brother of Thor has returned to Earth to pave the way for a wave of destruction at the hands of evil aliens. But secret agency S.H.E.I.L.D has been preparing by analyzing the mysterious Tesseract – an blue-glowing cube of unharnessed infinite power. Loki steals the Tesseract and it is up to Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), leader of S.H.I.E.L.D to pull together a team of the world’s first super heroes to defeat Loki and return the Tesseract from whence it came. The heroes are known as The Avengers and they are Captain America (Chris Evans), Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner).

The Avengers is a recipe for disaster. It is an ensemble cast of players, each of whom is a third magnitude star in his (or her) own right. Whenever you get this many egos in the room at one time, there is bound to be in-fighting. And in fact, this is what happens in the movie. The heroes can’t get along. They jockey for alpha-male status, only to find that they are equals, each with his own unique strength. And yet, both on the screen and in reality, they find a balance. Each actor brings his own ingredients to the mix. And each actor plays his (or her) character to perfection; as if it were their own film.

Another problem is backstory – there is a lot of it. Some of these characters have been brought to the collective consciousness in their own debut films of the last couple of years (Iron Man, The Hulk, Thor, and Captain America). If you’ve seen their films then you have an idea of who they are already. The other two needed a bit more introduction and it was skillfully interlaced with the action.

And then there’s the problem of interaction – 6 main players plus Fury and Loki implies 28 different relationships. And that’s a hard act to pull off in just 142 minutes.

Still, writer/director Joss Whedon (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Serenity”) pulls it all off with apparent ease. The story is relentless in its pace and still fills us in on who the characters are and what they contribute. There’s an amazing scene when the characters are at their lowest point (close friends are dead, the team is dispersed) and they expose each other’s weaknesses. The souls of our heroes are left bare. This gives us nowhere to go but up.

And indeed, up we go. To beat their combined foe, the team must pull together: each member using their special gifts to turn back an invading force.

But as amazing as the film is, there are problems. The last climactic scenes are a series of improbable battles in the heart of New York City. Mind you, these battles are carried out with much more precision than the garbage whirlwind of the Transformers films. But, due to the PG-13 nature of the film, we find little bloodshed and a lot of tumbling skyscrapers.

Which brings me to the biggest problem I have with the film: just how strong are these super heroes? Hulk, besides being hulking, is apparently impervious to direct bullet and missile fire. Captain America can apparently withstand the full force of alien hand grenades. Iron Man takes a licking and keeps on ticking. And Thor, with his mighty hammer seems to be able to stop anything, but still goes flying when monsters whip their tails. And for the other two (who remind me of the Professor and Marianne from Gilligan’s Island – “and the rest”), when there is a battle they are sent off to do reconnaissance or direct traffic lest they be trampled or crushed. They may be more of a liability than they are worth.

Finally, I want to talk about the unsung hero of the Marvel universe: Stan Lee. Lee has a cameo appearance in every Marvel action movie. He is held as sort of the progenitor of modern hero lore. As such, he is a special icon in the comic book (and now movie) realm. All legends spring from his fount. There is a name for that kind of hero – they are called gods.

So, for outstanding story, characters, special effects and an amazing “boot” (not even a reboot) of a new franchise, I recommend you see it in theaters.