THE AVENGERS
Author: JoAnne Hyde
May 4, 2012

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SYNOPSIS: Marvel Studios presents Marvel's The Avengers -- the Super Hero team up of a lifetime, featuring iconic Marvel Super Heroes Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Thor, Captain America, Hawkeye and Black Widow. When an unexpected enemy emerges that threatens global safety and security, Nick Fury, Director of the international peacekeeping agency known as S.H.I.E.L.D., finds himself in need of a team to pull the world back from the brink of disaster. Spanning the globe, a daring recruitment effort begins.

Joss Whedon’s The Avengers delivers plenty of bang for the buck. I saw it in IMAX 3-D, and if you’re going to spring for the extra bucks for that format, this is the time to do it. Of course, this film is full of bombastic special effects and breath-taking stunts, but it’s really the super-talented cast that makes the super heroes believable. With the exception of Edward Norton, all the characters from the “prequels” return. Mark Ruffalo takes over as Bruce Banner/The Hulk. Robert Downey Jr. returns as Tony Stark/Iron Man, Chris Evans as Steve Rogers/ Captain America, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow, and Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton/ Hawkeye. These skillful folks can say and do the most ridiculous things and make you believe them! Also returning as Nick Fury is Samuel L. Jackson, and Tom Hiddleston reprises his role as Loki from the film Thor.

The story line involves Nick Fury, director of S.H.I.E.L.D, rounding up the Avengers to save the world from destruction and domination by Loki and his allies, the alien race Chitauri. The team must retrieve the Tesseract, a self-sustaining power source of unknown possibilities, from Loki to close the portal that brings the Chitauri from outer space to Earth. However, before the super heroes can tussle with the bad guys, they have to overcome their animosities with one another. Their in-fighting provides a nice line of tension that helps distract from the story’s predictability. Although the outcome is inevitable, there are enough twists and turns to sustain the suspense. And, of course, the battle between good and evil is never-ending! In fact, if you stay through the credits, you’ll see the set up for the next Avengers film.

Mark Ruffalo affably steals the film with his portrayal of Banner/The Hulk. He underplays Banner nicely and provides an effective foil for Robert Downey Jr.’s snarky Tony Stark. Although The Hulk is voiced by Lou Ferrigno (the original TV Hulk), Ruffalo does the actual portrayal through motion capture technology. Poor Chris Evans has the unenviable task of playing Captain America with his sort of dorky costume and his stilted WWII speech patterns. Evans is capable of so much more than this character allows. Chris Hemsworth as Thor also displays the stilted speech patterns of being a demi-god from Asgard, but somehow it comes off better than Capt. America’s. Maybe it’s those bare biceps! Gwyneth Paltrow does a fine job with what basically amounts to a cameo as Pepper Potts, Tony Stark’s assistant/love interest. She and Downey have an easy chemistry, and it would have been nice to see them have a little more screen time. This film isn’t about romance, though. In fact, it’s pretty much a boy’s club, so I was glad that the girls at least had a representative, Black Widow, who kicks a** quite effectively.

For a super hero film to work, there has to be a really “good” villain. Tom Hiddleston, as Loki, Thor’s chip-on-the-shoulder adopted brother, does an excellent job. At times a petulant child, at other times an icy-hearted tyrant, he provides a formidable foe for the Avengers even without the Chitauri. He clashes physically -- and what seems catastrophically -- with each of the Avengers, but he manages to spring back each time. He’s a very resilient bad guy. Add the Chitauri with their serpentine, mechanical weapons, and you have a cataclysmic battle on your hands. Just when it seems that all is lost, one of the heroes saves the day. I won’t tell you which one, but it’s the end result of all of the Avengers working together.

My only real quarrel with the film is that if you haven’t seen the previous films about the individual super heroes, you’re going to be lost. I’ve seen them, and it was still a bit hard to figure out what was going on at times. Overall, it’s an exciting thrill ride of a movie – the preview audience broke into spontaneous applause and cheered from time to time. You’ll have a good time. - JoAnne Hyde

GRADE: A-


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