Review: The Avengers

I hated Marvel’s The Avengers.

Wait. I think I’m mixed up. “Hate” is the combined feelings of fondness, predilection, warmth, and adoration, right? No? You’re saying that’s called “love”? Are you sure? Positive? Okay, if you say so…

So what I guess I meant to say was I F***ING LOVED THE MOTHER F***ING AVENGERS! (While I sincerely apologize from the mix up, you have to understand that this flick is such an earth-shatteringly outstanding piece of action and comic book filmmaking that my brain is still pulling itself together after last night’s midnight screening.)

This is, of course, the long-awaited culmination of Marvel’s line of feature films that began with 2008’s Iron Man, and continued to build across The Incredible Hulk (2008), Iron Man 2 (2010), Thor (2011), and Captain America: The First Avenger (2011). At a whopping 143 minutes, a film of this genre and audience would be in danger of collapsing under it’s own visual and commercial weight (which I believe unequivocally is what happened to the Transformers franchise). However, in the capable hands of writer/director/nerd-Jesus Joss Whedon, The Avengers is a plucky and vibrant comic masterwork that will satisfy the franchise loyal (among whom I count myself) and the uninitiated thrill-seeking moviegoer (of which there are few given the success of the franchises).

The film begins with the demigod Loki (Tom Hiddleston), who was last seen at the end of Thor drifting through the universe, coming to Earth via an interstellar wormhole courtesy of an all-powerful blue energy cube called the Tesseract (last seen in Captain America). With it, he plans to set the human race “free from freedom”, utilizing a vast army of vaguely humanoid/vaguely reptilian alien machines. Loki is quick to steal the Tesseract from SHIELD director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), who, after the destruction of his headquarters, is now manning a giant “helicarrier” (it’s an aircraft carrier and a hovercraft). With a world to save, he uses the interminably determined Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) to round up the many superheroes we’ve gotten to know over the last few years.

And so the Avengers assemble (which is a line curiously absent from the film). Tony Stark AKA Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), the billionaire industrialist with a fancy super suit; Steve Rogers AKA Captain America (Chris Evans), the super-soldier with a powerful shield, remarkable skills, and a heart of gold; Bruce Banner AKA The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), the mild-mannered scientist who turns into the jolly green behemoth; Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Loki’s brother and the demigod of thunder; Natasha Romanov AKA Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson AKA phenomenally hot chick), the deadly super-spy and SHIELD agent; and (eventually) Clint Barton AKA Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), another SHIELD agent and sharp-shootist who wields self-made arrows that can take out any enemy or their rather massive flying spacecraft. What are all these mortal men doing fighting with a demigod against a demigod? In some cases, diving into the mouth of monsters; in other cases, protecting the population; and even more cases, sufficiently smashing.

Of course such a team is fraught with inherent pissing matches due to its individuals being self-perceived bad asses. Fans who know these characters from their source will revel in the opportunity to see Steve Rogers and Tony Stark compare cod pieces at 24 frames per second. Many of the films finest moments come from merely watching these characters crack-wise at one another, but I found that Evans and Ruffalo stole the show with mere presence alone.

Behind the camera, Whedon and Co. provide all the goods, proving the writer/director has the meticulous attention required to democratically handle a massive cast of sorted characters with a script that is as dense with plots as it is deft with pace and pop sensibility. The guy has been telling the stories I’ve wanted to hear going all the way back to TV’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and showcases yet again with The Avengers why he deserves such sheer hearting from his fan base.

Final thoughts: I don’t think one can help but bring up the Transformers films when considering The Avengers. Indeed, they are similarly structured (and all have a final hour of nothing but whiz-bang special effects), yet the characterization that comes with great performers pulling from Marvel’s pantheon and the sharp nuance of Whedon’s pen will arrest viewers in a way robots smashing into other robots never could or will. Also, the breathtaking cinematography from Seamus McGarvey ensures an appreciated stability among the well-choreographed chaos and an inviting color palette that even compensates for the dimness factor of 3D glasses (should that be your chosen format).

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