Screenwriter: Joss Whedon
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Cobie Smulders, Clark Gregg, Stellan Skarsgård, Gwyneth Paltrow
Release Date: May 4, 2012
"You think you're the only superhero in the world? Mr. Stark, you've become part of a bigger universe. You just don't know it yet… I'm here to talk to you about the Avenger Initiative." This is what started it all. One little after credits scene at the end of Iron Man that involved Sammy J as Nick Fury. A bigger universe? Indeed. One that expands from the realms of Asgard, to the brink of World War. Now, four movies later and after years of preparation, it has all culminated with The Avengers.
I had a lot of concerns with this movie, with one being that there were too many characters to focus on. Luckily, director and writer Joss Whedon does a fantastic job in balancing everyone out. Also, there was no need to do too much backstory on any of the major heroes, thanks to the previous films leading up to this. With that, The Avengers is able to jump straight into the action, and that's just what it does. After a short scene with Loki in this spatial-like dimension, he arrives into S.H.I.E.L.D. Headquarters, only to cause havoc, destruction and the end of the world. I mean, the story isn't complicated: Loki arrives on Earth, tries to take it over, and the Avengers have to stop him.
Sure, the premise is simple, but that doesn't mean there's no depth to the script. While the action and special effects were amazing (which I'll get to in a bit), the film's true strength is the relationships and chemistry between all of the characters. There's a lot of friction between Tony Stark and Steve Rogers, as well as Thor towards Hulk and so forth (there's a lot of love/hate stuff that go on). But seeing them slowly mesh together, looking past their egos and differences to unite to achieve a common goal, well, I thought that build up was perfect, and it definitely paid off at the end.
I applaud Whedon in skillfully dissecting each role so that everyone has meaning to the plot. So, it's safe to say that Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Bruce Banner/The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), the villain Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and even Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) have an equal amount of screen time and fan service. Sure, some do out stage the rest of the cast, but they all play a fair share. I guess it's only Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) who gets the short end of the stick. We don't see him much, but he does play a pretty important role.
Samuel L. Jackson does a good job in playing Nick Fury, the super spy and head director of S.H.I.E.L.D.. Newcomer Cobie Smulders does a decent job as S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Maria Hill, but unlike her comic book counterpart, doesn't come off as tough and resilient. It's a small part, so it didn't bother me too much. Clark Gregg, who returns as Agent Coulson, ends up being more a comic relief this time around. We also get to finally see him in some action too.
As usual, Downey's comedic timing and brilliant delivery truly makes him standout from the rest, being both funny and heroic when need be. And while I thought Tom Hiddleston was great in playing the evil god of mischief in Thor, his Loki here is just so much scarier and menacing. But surprisingly, the one who really stole the show was Mark Ruffalo and his Hulk. He was excellent as both Dr. Banner and the big guy, and whenever he was mean, green and on screen, I couldn't help but cheer for him. I don't want to spoil anything, but trust me when I say, by the time the movie reaches its climax, you'll agree that the Hulk was the best out of the Avengers group. Again, I credit Whedon. Most of that success though was through his writing, which made everyone charming and enjoyable to watch. There were also a couple of one liners thrown in here and there, definitely giving off very witty Whedon-esque dialogue, which was all welcome.
But you know what Whedon was able to do better than anyone else who has ever directed a comic book movie? The action. With great character build-up between the heroes' relationships, plus the time we've invested watching them fight and argue against each other, the action is given to us at a much more emotional level. And not only that, Whedon is able to deliver each action sequence in awesome doses scattered throughout the movie. Two parts of the film in particular, were just astonishing to watch, as well as all the fighting between the heroes themselves prior. Oh, and the epic 30-minute finale is, to date, is greatest action sequence I've seen in a summer blockbuster. Bravo Whedon.
Of course, no movie is without flaws. Loki's army is barely explained, and they end up being more of just a bunch of baddies the Avenger's could beat-up on. Sure, it's cool seeing our heroes take on a bunch of bad guys outnumbered, but they seem a bit random. Also, the movie does move a bit quickly. I mean, pacing issues were expected, given how much this Whedon had to include in its 142 minute run-time. But you know what? The film has so much awesome going for it, a lot of the bad stuff gets overshadowed by all the good. Believe the hype guys, The Avengers is a must watch.
8.7 out of 10
Review by: Richard Fagel
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