Sunday, May 6, 2012

It’s six times superhero in marvel-ously mounted ‘The Avengers’

By Steve Crum

Even then, 50 years ago, it was an extra frill, providing an extra thrill, when two or three cowboy heroes combined forces to defeat evil. The Hollywood Western has been replaced by The Hollywood Comic Book long since, with superhero teams like X-Men and The Fantastic Four blasting villains to smithereens. 

The Avengers aka Marvel’s The Avengers (to offset confusion with a certain vintage British TV series) dazzlingly overwhelms with six times the hero, most of whom have successfully carried their own individual movie franchises as singular entities. Conversely, the X-Men and F-4 guys and gals have always fought super villains as a team, Wolverine being the exception. 

The trick with The Avengers is to satisfy each superhero’s fan base while simultaneously divvying out each hero’s scenes in equal portions. Director-screenwriter Joss Whedon has pulled it off with muscle flexing aplomb. The only reservation I have is to wonder how in the name of graphic novel heaven are they going to top or even equal Marvel’s The Avengers? This is a precedent setting superhero flick if ever there was one. It is exciting, loud, funny, violent, and action-jammed. Plus Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow is the proverbial butter on our movie popcorn.

For the record, we also get Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), The Incredible Hulk (played for the first time by Mark Ruffalo--who does a fine job), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain America (Chris Evans), and first timer (at least on screen ) Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner). 

Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), Director of the international peace keeping agency S.H.I.E.L.D., is forced to recruit each hero into a special task force to fight earth’s annihilation using the Tesseract, an untested energy source that will open a portal to Chitauri forces guided by Thor’s demented half-brother, the exiled Loki (Tom Hiddleston). Loki immediately invades S.H.I.E.L.D.’s headquarters and kidnaps, using mind control, several of its key scientists, including super archer Hawkeye/Agent Clint Barton. 

Immediately, Fury and compatriots travel the world to persuade Tony Stark/Iron Man, Steve Rogers/Captain America, David Banner/The Hulk, and Agent Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow to join an Avenger task force. All agree to participate. (Thor ascends from his planet to fight Loki alone, but eventually joins The Avengers.) Then the fun is to observe the bickering and one-upmanship occurring between Iron Man and Captain America. 

While all the superheroes are given their due spotlight throughout the movie, it is The Incredible Hulk who comes across the most surprisingly best. Credit what he has been screen written to do, the digital effects, and Ruffalo’s acting style as Banner. Downy’s egotistical, smart ass remarking Stark is also a big positive. Thanks also to Gwyneth Paltrow, reprising her Stark assistant/girlfriend Pepper Potts.

Even though Act 3’s spectacular invasion sequence in downtown NYC brings to the mind’s eye reminiscent images from Transformers movies, the key missing from those giant toy robot movies is The Avengers, the most bizarre, flashy, and patriotically driven heroes ever conceived. When the tardy Hulk finally joins the foray (there is good reason he is late), the hellish bashing really explodes. Sorry, bad guys.

Don’t even tell me to wait another year or so for the next Avengers escapade. I might start turning green. 

Addendum to those Marvel movie fans of us who by now know to wait through the turtle-fast credit roll to see a little extra footage...and to those who never realized such: stick around. You will witness our superheroes in a deliciously silly clip. 

GRADE on an A-F Scale: A-
The action-laden Avengers trailer: