The Avengers is the culmination of what began in Iron Man; and continued through The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor and Captain America. It was only a few years ago that my son and I had just finished watching Iron Man and as the credits were ending, Samuel L. Jackson appeared on screen as Nick Fury and spoke to Tony Stark about joining Avengers Initiative…in that short scene, the framework for potentially the greatest comic book movie of all-time had begun!
Director Joss Whedon, most known for the T.V. series Buffy The Vampire Slayer, takes the foundation that was built in the prior films and brings together the greatest team of superheroes in film history, The Avengers: Iron Man/Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America/Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Hulk/Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) as “assembled” by Nick Fury. Whedon’s scripts usually include clever banter, gripping action sequences and an air of mystery and The Avengers is no different. Whedon has an utter love for comic books, and it is proudly put on display in The Avengers.
The cast does a great job of bringing these iconic characters to life, beginning with Robert Downey Jr. Unlike Iron Man 2, in which Downey seemed to skate through scene after scene, Downey plays Stark almost effortlessly, delivering his lines with relative ease allowing his charisma, charm and smugness to shine through; Robert Downey Jr. IS Tony Stark! Chris Evans’ solidifies himself in the role of Captain America. He was very good in his solo film, but truly owns the role standing alongside Iron Man and Thor. Chris Hemsworth’s Asgardian god Thor has some incredible battle scenes and indirectly provides one of the film’s most funny moments. After being seriously underutilized in Iron Man 2, Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow is provided a back-story, which helps in developing the character and provides an opportunity to prove she is much more than just a pretty face; she’s as dangerous psychologically as she is physically. I could envision myself enjoying a beat-down at the hands (and feet) of Black Widow. The character I was most concerned about being given little story and the least amount of screen time was Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye; happily, he’s not left by the wayside and does a more than admirable job of developing the character. Hawkeye stands alongside Robin Hood and Katniss Everdene (The Hunger Games) as the best archers to grace the silver screen. I’d like to see more of him in a film of his own. Mark Ruffalo, the most recent choice to play Hulk, is far better suited to the role than Eric Bana (The Hulk) and Ed Norton Jr (The Incredible Hulk). Ruffalo looks more the part of the nerdy scientist Banner and plays the part without looking angry in every scene. In The Avengers, the Hulk is at his most impressive, both in his on-screen transformation and the violence he displays when the opportunity calls for him to “hulk out”. If any character appeared to stand out a little bit more than the others, for me it was the Hulk. Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury is finally more than just the guy making surprise appearances. Fury is finally able to stretch his legs some, and Jackson slides quite easily into the role. Clark Gregg’s Agent Caulson returns, and Cobie Smulders makes her Marvel films debut as Agent Maria Hill, and she is a welcome addition. The film’s main villain is Thor’s adopted-brother Loki, played by Tom Hiddleston. You would think the part would be a difficult one to play being opposite such powerful personalities and strong characters, but Hiddleston does a fantastic job; the performance should not go unnoticed, because it’s one of the strong points of the film. Loki is not a villain without purpose and Hiddleston comes across as a devious mastermind without being cartoonish.
At a running-time of 2+ hours, The Avengers is well paced and time flies by. The effects are top-notch, the acting is very good, and the script drives the movie elevating its strengths. For viewers that may not have seen any of the other films (and if so, why not!?!?), we’re provided just enough information to bring everyone up to speed without feeling overdone. Whedon provides more than just a standard comic book film, but a story with reason that’s backed up with incredible action and humor.
Although the film is filled with larger than life characters, none are short changed; each character is given at least one great scene to work with, and the opportunities don’t go to waste. The film’s finale provides a deafening crescendo of action that is breathtaking. As usual with Marvel films, be sure to stay around for the post credit sequence, which provides a surprising reveal.