The Avengers Review
by Daniel Rester
Ever since 2008’s Iron Man, there has been teasing for a film that would unite multiple Marvel heroes under one roof. That promise finally arrives with The Avengers, bringing together Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Captain America, and others in one massive superhero film. This gathering of characters has been surrounded by a large amount of hype, but I’m glad to report that The Avengers lives up to that hype—and surpasses it.
Though it is recommended to have seen the previous films—Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor, and Captain America—before seeing The Avengers in order to have a better understanding of the overall plot, it is not fully a requirement. The plot kicks into motion after Loki (Tom Hiddleston), the power-hungry adopted brother of the demigod Thor (Chris Hemsworth), steals the Tesseract from S.H.I.E.L.D. (Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division). The Tesseract is a small glowing cube that can open gateways in the universe. Loki plans to use its powers to launch an attack on Earth (with an army of lizard-machine-like creatures) and control its people.
In order to put a stop to Loki’s plans, S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) turns to an old plan called the Avengers Initiative, which would bring together the universe’s mightiest heroes. On this list of heroes is Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), whose super-suit turns him from a regular man into Iron Man. Then there is Steve Rogers a.k.a. Captain America (Chris Evans), a WWII hero (he was frozen for many years and then thawed out in modern times) with superior strength and a fanciful shield. Also on the roster is Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), who turns into the formidable Hulk when he gets angry, and Thor, a demigod with a big hammer and a strong swing. Rounding out the team are Natasha Romanoff a.k.a. Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), a spy with a wide range of fighting techniques, and Clint Barton a.k.a. Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), a master archer/marksman.
The Avengers, with its pile of superhero ingredients, could have easily fallen apart into a chaotic mess of poor writing/direction and special effects. However, co-writer/director Joss Whedon keeps the film structured throughout. Whedon and Zak Penn’s script doesn’t take the easy way out and just drop the characters into battle without any screenplay strength to back them up. Instead, their screenplay explores how egos like these can easily clash before they come to work as a team. Every character has singular shining moments of skill and personality, and the exchanging pieces between each of the members are even more remarkable. The writers also manage to make the film have equal parts heroism, humanity, and humor. In fact, the script’s sense of humor provides more laugh-out-loud moments than many comedies of recent times.
Whedon backs up this fantastic screenplay by setting a brisk pace and establishing a grand spectacle. Both the action scenes and dialogue-driven scenes are well-executed. The action scenes provide a lot to the viewer at once, but Whedon’s terrific directing style and the editing and visual effects teams make these clear and comprehensible–without sparing an ounce of energy. The smaller scenes are often just as entertaining as the action scenes, allowing the talented cast to play off of each other and have great dialogue exchanges.
There is not a weak performance in The Avengers. Every actor brings their A-game and improve on what they did with the roles in their past films. Downey, Jr. is still exceptional as the witty and narcissistic Stark. Evans is very likable as the old-fashioned but relatable Rogers. Hemsworth is charming and has a strong presence as Thor. And even Johansson and Renner, who played smaller roles in some of the other films and do the same thing here, are ones to root for.
In the end, though, I have to give the biggest recognition to Ruffalo and Hiddleston. The filmmakers finally hit just the right note with Banner/Hulk (though Edward Norton was good too). Ruffalo is perfect as the calm and acute Banner, and the combination of Ruffalo’s performance and the special effects make for a knockout when it comes to Hulk. And boy is Hiddleston great as Loki. The actor delivered in Thor, but in this he is even more sly and vicious, making for one of the best villains in film since Heath Ledger as The Joker in The Dark Knight.
It goes without saying that the special effects in The Avengers are breathtaking. The balance of all the different types of visuals (such as the character designs) is both seamless and dazzling. What is even more impressive is that the 3D conversion is actually pretty good, allowing the characters and settings to “pop” without being obnoxious or too dim.
With all of the love I have for The Avengers, there are a few aspects about it that slightly bothered me. First, the opening of the film comes across as partially dull compared to what follows in the rest of it. Second, the character of Hawkeye is underdeveloped compared to all of the other characters (though Renner still gives a solid performance). And lastly, a key dramatic scene towards the midsection of the film is stretched on for too long. These are all just minor complaints, though, for an otherwise excellent movie.
With The Avengers, Joss Whedon and the cast and crew have made a fanboy experience for the ages. This is a smart, spectacular film with well fleshed-out characters, amazing action (the climax of the film is unforgettable), and a sharp sense of humor. The movie surpasses all of the individual superhero films that built up to it and provides an exhilarating ride at the movies. The Avengers is easily the best film I’ve seen of 2012 so far and one of the best comic book films ever made.
Rating: 3 ½ out of 4 stars.