Some assembly required.
Sometimes it is true that good things happen to good people. Joss Whedon may have had a few misses behind him, but Hollywood knows deep inside that this is the guy who made Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Dollhouse work so well. He’s also a huge fan of “The Avengers” as a comic-book series, which made him the perfect choice in the eyes of executive producer Avi Arad and “Avengers” creator Stan Lee to helm the biggest adaptation yet (apart from Spider-Man (2002)) of a Marvel comic book. The final results broke the opening weekend box-office record. Apparently, there’s no end to our love for Marvel heroes… and Whedon’s future potential.
The Other, a mysterious leader of a an aggressive alien race enlists Loki (Tom Hiddleston) as an ally; if the Asgardian can retrieve the Tesseract for them, a powerful energy source currently under the control of S.H.I.E.L.D. on Earth, he can expect to rule the planet. Loki quickly snatches the cubic Tesseract from S.H.I.E.L.D. and enslaves a few of its collaborators, including Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner), an agent also known as Hawkeye. The attack on his agency has Director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) activating the “Avengers Initiative”, a potentially very destructive plan uniting some of the world’s strongest superheroes. They include a close friend of Barton’s, Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Loki’s adoptive brother Thor (Chris Hemsworth), the sarcastic billionaire Tony Stark a.k.a. Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.) and the recently thawed WWII hero Captain America (Chris Evans). However, the most dangerous member of the group is doctor Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo)… whom few people like when he’s angry.
Great thrills and laughs from the big guy
Assembling a cast like this, that not only consists of huge stars but also has them playing some of the greatest creatures in the comic-book universe, and make it work rather seamlessly is something one should marvel at. The whole project, where characters have been built, clues been dropped and actors remained faithful (at least most of them) ever since Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk in 2008, has been superbly planned and executed, leading up to this payoff where they all just deliver so much fun (in 3D). The cast is wonderful, with Downey, Jr. standing out as the wickedly ironic Stark, but beautifully aided by a sexy Johansson, a stable Jackson, Clark Gregg as the ever faithful Agent Coulson… and Ruffalo who’s an excellent new Bruce Banner (and the first actor to also portray the green guy thanks to the magic of motion-capture, although Lou Ferrigno (who else?) does his voice). The Hulk undeniably leaves a mark on this film; his scenes are both incredibly entertaining and somewhat problematic. The big guy gives us great thrills and laughs, but there’s also no logic in why this non-thinking creature suddenly knows how to separate friend from foe so clearly in the second half.
The dialogue is clever and amusing, but if Thor threatened to beat me with his hammer I would have to admit that the story is not very satisfying. Most plot points can be easily predicted and the final battle in New York City goes on forever. Still, this is a blockbuster that has one hoping for more intergalactic threats coming our way.
The Avengers 2012-U.S. 143 min. Color. Produced by Kevin Feige. Written and directed by Joss Whedon. Music: Alan Silvestri. Cast: Robert Downey, Jr. (Tony Stark/Iron Man), Chris Evans (Steve Rogers/Captain America), Mark Ruffalo (Bruce Banner/The Hulk), Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner… Tom Hiddleston, Stellan Skarsgård, Samuel L. Jackson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Harry Dean Stanton. Voices of Paul Bettany, Lou Ferrigno. Cameo: Stan Lee.
Trivia: Edward Norton, who starred in The Incredible Hulk, was considered for the part of Banner, but the talks broke down.
Last word: “The idea of the soldier – the person who is willing to lay down their life – is very different than the idea of the superhero. I wanted to make, from the start, a war movie – I wanted to put these guys through more than they would be put through in a normal superhero movie. It was very important for me to build that concept and to have Tony [Stark] reject that concept, on every level, so that, in the end, when he’s willing to make the sacrifice and lay himself down, you get where he’s come and how Steve [Rogers] affected him.” (Whedon, Movie Fanatic)