‘The Avengers’ Review: Well That Was Awesome

Photo Credit: http://www.buzzfocus.com/2012/02/29/the-avengers-kneel-before-zod-er-loki-extended-trailer-a-bit-more-interesting/

Here we are! Not only is it summer movie season but the first outing of May is one of the biggest blockbusters in recent years. Since 2008, Marvel has carefully built a universe all culminating in the first unification of what we would come to know as The Avengers, and it is nearly perfect.

The Avengers follows Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, the Hulk, Black Widow, and newcomer Hawkeye as they battle Loki, Thor’s brother, and his army as they try to destroy the world. Naturally, the team doesn’t quite get along all at once, but Joss Whedon inserts enough of his trademark dialogue to make sure these disagreements are as much fun as they should be.

The first act plays catch up with all of the already established heroes. Captain America, along with another magnificently earnest turn by Chris Evans, is getting used to life in the present while with S.H.I.E.L.D. Tony Stark and his girlfriend Pepper are preparing to open a new Stark Industries building in Manhattan. Bruce Banner is hiding the monster inside him as much as possible while hiding as a doctor in a third world country. With so many characters this catch up was really appreciated before everyone gets thrown together.

S.H.I.E.L.D. brings the team together quickly with a variety of hero on hero battles to whet our appetites for the action to come. But what truly makes The Avengers work as well as it does is the performances that bring these larger than life superheroes down to our level. Perhaps most notably this is done to the Hulk, who has gone through two other actors before this film. But Marvel may have found their man with Mark Ruffalo who gives Bruce Banner an amazing amount of depth but also doesn’t forget to have fun. By now you know how perfect Robert Downey Jr. is as Iron Man. For Avengers he brings back all the whit that made the character so great to watch to begin with, but he also brings something else, determination. You haven’t seen Downey Jr. play Stark like this before, and it is a major factor in elevating the scope of it all.

A major improvement here is Tom Hiddleston as Loki who makes for a compelling villain unlike he did in Thor. Another improvement is Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow who, despite not having any powers, feels as powerful as the rest of the team. The only character who really gets the short end of the stick is Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye who spends much of the first half not as himself. He isn’t bad, the character is just a bit underdeveloped when compared to a lot of the others.

Once the action gets rolling in the third act, however, it’s balls to the walls. Every hero rightfully gets their moment to shine (especially the Hulk). The final battle in New York City is one of the finest action sequences ever created for the screen. The special effects team clearly didn’t waste a dime.

One minor complaint (sorry) that I must address is that this film largely feels like set up. The army that Loki brought to Earth feels more like a means to an end to get the team together rather than a personal threat. It feels a lot like every other superhero origin story just with more superheroes. Luckily Joss Whedon manages to do the things we have seen beaten to death in other superhero films better than anyone else. Between the humor and huge set pieces, Avengers is the most fun Marvel movie to date, just not the most compelling (that still goes to Spider-man 2). But hopefully Whedon will stay on and direct the inevitable sequel. As for now, this will more than do. Grade: A-

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