Only a threat serious enough to put the entire earth at the risk of collapse could persuade a collection of the most powerful heroes in the universe to put egos aside to join forces to prevent it. Similarly, only a script penned and directed by the creative mind of Joss Whedon could bring such an incredible film to fruition. Hence after years of speculation and amid some skepticism that such a concept would ever be made, on Friday, May 4th, Marvel’s “The Avengers” (PG-13) finally gets its wildly anticipated wide release. And with an unheralded collection of superstar actors and heroes, we are left with a movie-going experience that fails to underwhelm even our highest expectations.
When Norse God, Lodi (Tom Hiddleston), half brother of Thor, captures the vaunted Tesseract, a cube of fused energy with the potential to destroy the entire planet, S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) is forced to resort to any means necessary to protect earth’s inhabitants. As Lodi turns two of Fury’s closest confidants (Jeremy Renner’s ‘Hawkeye’ and Stellan Skarsgard’s ‘Dr. Erik Selvig’) against him using the Tesseract’s power, Fury is left with little choice but to re-engage the previously stalled Avengers Initiative and taps the mighty Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johannson), and The Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo)to combat Lodi’s newly found eternal power collectively.
What we are left with is the ultimate collaboration of Superhero films all wrapped up into one movie. If you’ve seen any of the previous Marvel movies featuring any of the aforementioned characters, “The Avengers” remains true to form, and then some. With the return of ancillary characters like Iron Man’s Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) and Thor & Iron Man alum Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg), each of the heroes’ stories are exceptionally interwoven here with their motives and actions made to be believable and engaging. With such an array of different characters the script managed to make each stand out in the spotlight equally, without any overcrowding or overshadowing on screen. And the action scenes, especially in 3D, were just as exciting and mind blowing as we’d hoped they’d be. With a rumored budget of $220 million, it’s refreshing to see that all of the money went toward the final product on screen, with some of the most eye-popping, edge of your seat thrills of any film ever created. Frankly, it really is that good.
Aside from what you’d expect in any Marvel film, the interaction between characters is one of “The Avengers”’ true highlights. Stealing every scene in which he appears, the surprising choice of Mark Ruffalo was a perfect replacement for Ed Norton as The Hulk. The actor more than holds his own in scenes with the irascibly brash Downey Jr., and his transformation into the gigantic uncontrollable green beast yields some of the film’s finest scenes, highlighting some of the more memorable moments combining fight scenes and comedy. Downey Jr. as expected, continues his excellent turn as the grating Tony Stark/Iron Man, so indestructible and fearless that his unbelievable abilities just manage to cover up his unlikable cockiness. Evans and Jackson, unfortunately are among the group’s more lackluster- Evans performs capably with the stoic character piece he’s given, but Jackson seems to coast through the entire film. Their roles are covered up by enough greatness around them however that their performances don’t deter from the movie’s brilliance. Meanwhile Hemsworth and Johannson are both solid additions to the film, playing off of the other characters well, and participating in some ass kicking scenes in their own right, as well as performing as the requisite eye candy for both genders to enjoy.
Perhaps the most important takeaway from “The Avengers” is that the final product is so gratifying. The film has a ‘big movie’ type feel to it and manages to actually hit on all cylinders- meshing humor with violence, and plays just like you’d anticipate a live action comic book to appear. The plot, albeit grandiose, is believable and the effects are so real at times that suspending your disbelief as these larger than life heroes are fighting outside of Grand Central Station, is not necessary. It’s actually happening in front of your eyes. With so many different egos both on screen and off, it takes a ringleader like Whedon to bring out the best in everyone, a not so easy task, that is pulled off here with absolute brilliance. We can only hope that the surefire biggest film to hit screens in the next few months can tame all of these talents once again so that we can enjoy a similarly exceptional sequel. With seemingly little trouble at all, Marvel’s “The Avengers” is one of, if not the finest superhero films created to date and should be at the top of your must see lists in theaters, even as the New York City weather continues to get warmer.
“The Avengers” is rated PG-13, starring Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johannson, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, and Samuel L. Jackson has a runtime of 142 minutes, and is released in theaters everywhere Friday, May 4th.
- Jane Van Arsdale