Avengers, The (2012)
The Avengers is the long-awaited Marvel superhero film since it was announced after the credits in the first Iron Man film. The previous installments leading to the grand beast that is The Avengers were Iron Man, Iron Man 2, The Incredible Hulk, Captain America: The First Avenger, and Thor. The heroes are, in case you don't already know, are Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain America (Chris Evans), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and they're all brought together as a team by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), the head of S.H.I.E.L.D. They're mission is, basically, to stop Thor's evil brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleson), from taking over the world.
I really, really liked The Avengers. I didn't seem to love and adore it like many other people do, but I thought it was incredibly well made, very funny, thrilling as hell, beautifully written, and a lot of fun. What really makes The Avengers work so well is the characters. Director Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Serenity) did a great job establishing the characters and balancing them and their interactions without it becoming too convoluted. It was a little messy in the first 30 minutes or so getting them all together, but that's perfectly understandable because you have 6 or 7 major characters and it's not an easy job giving each of them a brief introduction then bringing them together. I mean, they were already developed as legitimate characters in their standalone films. Joss Whedon accomplished it as good as it could have been, so he gets points for that. That is to say, what carries you through the messy first 30 minutes is the script. It's so cleverly written by Joss Whedon and Zak Penn that you don't even care about it constantly going from place-to-place and character-to-character because (1) you'll be laughing your way through it and (2) it's nice to see these beloved characters on the big screen, whether the substance is good or not. Once the heroes are together as a team, it gets much better.
Robert Downey Jr. is great, as always, as Iron Man, always saying wise remarks, making fun of the heroes (at first), and trying to make Bruce Banner angry. Mark Ruffalo does a good job as Banner/Hulk, bringing something new and fresh to the character that you didn't see in The Incredible Hulk or Hulk (2003). I also have to praise Tom Hiddleson as Loki. He's great. He delivers a dark and menacing performance that's almost as good as what Heath Ledger delivered as the Joker in The Dark Knight. What can I really say? Everyone here does a great job.
It's really the script and characters that carry the movie, and I can't praise Joss Whedon enough for smoothly pacing this story with these complex characters so well. Whedon just makes them work so well together, even when they hate each other at first. The big 45-minute long action finale is thrilling. It's visually exciting, the action is phenominally awesome, and each character has their moment of badassery, as well as their big shining moment. The Hulk steals the show several times, especially when he cleans the floor with Loki, literally. This isn't mindless Michael Bay action. It's nicely shot and choreographed and there's substance. This final battle is here to connect the characters as a team where they must work together and help each other in order to succeed.
The Avengers isn't perfect, but overall it's as entertaining as it needs to be. The only problems I can think of is a flawed, but watchable, first half-hour and a couple moments that fall flat. Go in expecting rich and colorful characters, clever dialogue, lots of laughs, large spectacle, and fun action, and make sure you thank Joss Whedon on your way out. Oh, and a sequel.
3.5/4 (See It)