Earth’s mightiest heroes blow up the box office in “The Avengers”
Published: Monday, May 7, 2012
Updated: Sunday, May 6, 2012 22:05
Comic book fans are notoriously hard to please when it comes to films based on their favorite superheroes. More often than not, the success or failure of a comic book movie is determined halfway through the first teaser trailer. When Marvel began dropping hints about an eventual “Avengers” movie as far back as 2008’s “Iron Man” film, fanboys across the globe lost their minds. As each new Marvel Comics movie brought “The Avengers” closer to reality, many speculated that a film with such an unprecedented buildup could not possibly live up to the hype. And they were right.
“The Avengers” does not just live up to fan’s expectations, it beats those expectations mercilessly and then hurls them into the sun.
The movie begins at a secret research base owned by the government peacekeeping organization S.H.I.E.L.D., who has recently discovered a mysterious and incredibly powerful cosmic cube known as The Tesseract. Before they are able to unlock the cube’s secrets, it opens an inter-dimensional gateway, freeing the Asgardian god Loki (played by Tom Hiddleston) from his imprisonment. Loki manages to brainwash a few S.H.I.E.L.D. agents and escape with The Tesseract, planning to use its power to open a portal and allow an alien armada to conquer the planet. Left with no other alternative, S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) turns to the abandoned Avengers Initiative and gathers a team of Earth’s mightiest heroes to stop Loki and save the world.
The sheer scope of “The Avengers” is quite possibly the most impressive part of the film. To pluck main characters from nearly half a dozen movies and throw them into one coherent story is no small feat. Thankfully Joss Whedon, the man responsible for directing the film and also writing the screenplay, is not easily intimidated. Whedon is no stranger to the Marvel universe, having penned successful runs on both the “Astonishing X-Men” and “Runaways” comics, and his love of the source material is reflected on the big screen.
Whedon also brings two of his biggest guns to the movie: witty, believable dialogue and strong character interaction. Some of the greatest moments in the film come from watching the characters deal with each other and listening to them banter. Whether it is the man-out-of-time Captain America (Chris Evans) bickering with the privileged genius Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) or watching the sultry Black Widow (played by Scarlett Johansson) subtly manipulating everyone in sight, the characters compliment each other well and have an amazing chemistry together.
The film also fixes one of the problems plaguing superhero movies: an unbalanced story. The most frequent complaint about the “Thor” film was that the story dragged on far too long, and there was not nearly enough action. “The Avengers,” on the other hand, features a near-perfect blend of action, suspense, humor and heart.
With such a large and star-studded cast, it would be easy for certain characters to get lost in the mix. This is not the case, however, as Whedon’s script gives everyone in the cast plenty of time to shine. Each character has at least one iconic moment in the film, and it truly feels as though each hero was used to their fullest potential. Even the non-super powered Black Widow plays a vital role in the story, giving closure to those who complained she was reduced to window-dressing in “Iron Man 2.” Speaking of Iron Man, Downey’s performance is easily the highlight of the film, and he steals every scene he is in. Many of the film’s funniest lines come from Downey, and he has some genuinely stoic moments as well. He has had plenty of time to perfect the humor and charm of billionaire philanthropist Tony Stark, and shows no signs of slowing down.
Also deserving of praise is Chris Evans’ performance. In “Captain America,” Evans played a character who was confident, beloved and the definition of a living legend. He was the man who beat back the Nazis and single-handedly stopped World War II. After the events of that film, he finds himself in a world that has passed him by and continued on without him. This could have come off as cliched and forced in another actor’s hands, but Evans portrays it in an incredibly subtle yet effective way. Everything from his mannerisms to the way he talks conveys that he is out of place without beating the audience over the head. He is easily the most sympathetic and relatable character in the movie, and the fact that he does it all while wearing an outfit that looks like it was purchased at Halloween USA speaks well to his acting abilities.
The rest of the cast does an excellent job in their roles. Jackson is finally given plenty of time to stomp around in the role of Nick Fury, and it is a joy to watch. Mark Ruffalo had some big purple pants to fill when taking over the role of Bruce Banner from Edward Norton. While Norton played the role well, Ruffalo makes it his own, not only playing “the guy who turns into the Hulk” but turning in a great performance as the twitchy scientist as well. Hiddleston is excellent as the smarmy and conniving Loki, managing to be both eccentric and menacing at the same time.