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The Avengers—The Gang’s All Here

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The Avengers. It’s what we call ourselves, sort of like a team. “Earth’s Mighiest Heroes” type thing. Tony Stark aka Iron Man

A few years back, Marvel went a bold new route, creating its own studio not only to have better creative control over movie adaptions of its work but also to cross-reference characters from different franchises into its films. This was all done in anticipation of one day being able to do an Avengers movie starring superheroes from all the previous films into one blockbuster out of the dreams of fanboys. When you think about the logistics, this undertaking was very ambitious and risky. A movie with six superheroes all played by A-list stars, plus a major villain, plus a bunch of SHIELD agents, and maybe appearances by a few other beloved recurring characters or two, makes up for an Altman style list of characters in a $200 million action-packed spectacular. Could this possibly work?

YouTube Preview ImageWell, yes, thanks to geekdom god Joss Whedon it does work. Through his direction and a wonderful script that Whedon co-wrote with Zak Penn. He turns what could have been the biggest source of epic failure for the film—the spectacle of half a dozen of Hollywood’s finest all jockeying for our attention in their respective roles—into an asset. None of the Avengers get along terribly well with each other and they fight each other as much as they do the enemy. The real tension of the film has nothing to do with the rather ludicrous plot concerning a Cosmic Tesseract and alien invaders, but rather the question of whether such a disparate group of troubled individuals can manage to work together.

The dialogue carries Whedon’s trademark wit, producing more laugh out loud moments than many comedies, but balanced with moments of true old-fashioned sentimental drama. Whedon also has a hand for the smaller touches, like dressing Tony Stark in a Black Sabbath shirt, having Dr. Banner always refer to the Hulk as “the other guy,” or Steve’s simple joy at hearing a cultural reference he does understand.

Everyone in The Avengers has a page; everyone in the movie serves a purpose. Scarlett Johanssen’s Natasha Romanoff, the Black Widow is not only a badass and fetching in a cat suit but enigmatic and haunted by a dark past. Chris Evan’s Captain America is the team’s moral center. Robert Downy Jr. continues to wow us with his perfect portrayal of the brilliant narcisstic Tony Stark. Jeremy Renner is charismatic and intensely physical as Hawkeye.

Chris Hemsworth continues to be a thoroughly regal fish out water. Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner, (aka the Hulk) is the first completely new face to the movies and he is a revelation. As Banner he’s world-weary and somehow infinitely sad; when he’s “the other guy” he’s the most fun with “Hulk Smash!” since the 70’s show. Marvel’s past two attempts to put the Hulk on screen were perhaps well-intentioned failures but they were failures nonetheless. This version of everybody’s favorite rage monster is so satisfying there’s already talk of giving Ruffalo’s Big Guy a movie of his own.

And it’s not just the super-heroes who get to shine. Clark Gregg adds poignancy and heart as he reprises his longtime recurring role as Agent Coulson. Cobie Smulders gets to show off some serious stunt moves as Agent Maria Hill. Samuel L. Jackson has a high old time playing Nick Fury.

But the movie’s biggest scene stealer is Tom Hiddleston as villain Loki. He ran away with the whole show in Thor and he does it again. His Loki is grandiose, smug, sadistic, self-loathing, a diva, a fascist, hilarious, and crazier than a roomful of monkeys and it’s impossible to look away from him. Or to cheer when he gets the final beat down he so richly deserves.

Joss Whedon is a relative newcomer to movie directing and he’s never done anything with such a large scale budget before. He’s not necessarily the most innovative action choreographer, (character development is where his talent truly lies), but he gets the job done with the big scale battles on screen, and there’s a true thrill to be had when you can see the full team assembled together. The execution of the Heli-carrier is truly awe inspiring. The Avengers is good, silly, over the top fun for fanboys and newcomers alike that whets the appetite for more adventures to come with this merry band of mighty misfits.

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