Friday, May 04, 2012

The Fast & the Fury: “The Avengers” is Comic Book Fun at Its (Almost) Best


If you want a dark and brooding serious superhero film, you’ll have to wait a couple more months for that new Batman movie. Until then, we have to settle for a bright, colorful and totally awesome and fun superhero movie that is a terrific start to the summer Blockbuster season. “The Avengers” (maybe you’ve heard of it) brings together a handful of popular Marvel superheroes who have appeared in previous films. Those films always had a link: one Samuel L. Jackson as the eye-patched Nick Fury who was assembling a team of super humans to fight the forces of darkness. Sure we had to sit through nearly a half dozen other films to get here, but here we are with Thor, Captain America, Iron Man, Black Widow, and Hawkeye who join forces against Thor’s evil (adopted) brother Loki.

The weakest element of “The Avengers”, and let’s just get this out of the way, is it’s basic comic book plot. To put it simply, Loki (Tim Hiddleston) wants to get his hands on a powerful CGI cube that has the power to wipe out humanity. (Wasn’t this the plot of Transformers or something?) But you know what? It’s just a MacGuffin. Cause I didn’t care and neither will you or the other millions of nerdy comic fans. What you will care about is these wonderful characters finally getting to interact with each other as they attempt to save humanity from annihilation.

The film actually does a lot of things right. The main thing is giving each character enough screen time and showing how these characters even have conflicts within their own team. It obviously takes a little while before this “team” is assembled, but the journey to get there is worth it. Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) remains as funny and sarcastic as ever and he really plays off the others as well. Chris Evans is Captain America, and we last recall that he’s been unfrozen in the present day (his film took place during World War II). He’s still reeling from losing the woman he loved, which gives him just enough emotional depth without being overly dramatic. The equally buff Chris Hemsworth makes a great  Thor, and fits in with the rest of the group even if he sounds like him and his evil brother are performing Shakespeare in the park (according to Mr. Stark).  Mark Ruffalo makes a great new addition to the cast as Bruce Banner who turns into the gigantic green Hulk when he gets angry. The Hulk definitely steals scenes and provides some of the biggest laughs. Scarlet Johannson kicks some serious butt as Black Widow and Jeremey Renner is great as the arrow-slinging Hawkeye, who actually spends a majority of the film under the spell of Loki.

Let’s face it if you’re a diehard comic fan there’s no way you’re not going to enjoy this movie. Even non-nerds like myself will find something to really like here. I loved Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts,  I loved the great single take scene during the film’s finale as it followed each character kicking bad guy ass, and I loved how the film found a way to incorporate so many characters into a 140 minute movie without it ever feeling either rushed or overlong. The final battle was a rather impressive spectacle. It felt and looked expensive and was all handled very well by director Joss Whedon – who fans are used to seeing work with much lower budgets on television. The effects were rather impressive and I never felt my senses were being over bombarded – even in impressive 3D.

I can’t really recommend “The Avengers” enough. It’s going to be an awesome summer for big budget Hollywood movies. If you think Hollywood doesn’t make ‘em like they used to, they obviously haven’t seen this movie yet. It’s action-packed fun nearly at its best (I’m still holding out for The Amazing Spider-Man).  GRADE: A-

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