Friday, May 11, 2012

Movie with Abe: The Avengers

The Avengers
Directed by Joss Whedon
Released May 4, 2012

Combining six superheroes from four film franchises is no easy task. Films like this often fail to stand on their own, presuming that audiences have had the opportunity to see all of the previous films in the expanded series. The flip side to that coin is an overlong exposition, in which every character needs to be reintroduced again, for those viewers unfamiliar with their back stories. Fortunately, “The Avengers” fills in the necessary gaps with short and formidable entrances for each one of its protagonists, detailing their powers and purposes and preparing them for a monumental intergalactic fight.

Like many Marvel movies before it, “The Avengers” is highly defined by comedy. The egotistical Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), also known as Iron Man, doesn’t play well with others, but finds himself in awe of genius Dr. Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), though he’s not against prodding him to try to get him to shift into the Hulk. Most modern-day references are lost on frozen World War II hero Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), or Captain America, though he at least understands a joke about “The Wizard of Oz” that’s entirely alien to Thor (Chris Hemsworth), himself a god from another dimension. Russian assassin Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), or Black Widow, and Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner), or Hawkeye, round out the cast, each given the opportunity to demonstrate their skills, and their sarcasm, without the benefit of a previous film dedicated solely to each of them. Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury also gets a handful of signature lines.

Featuring six protagonists means that there’s always a lot going on, and the instances of infighting, most of which involve the pretentious Stark, help to define these heroes. Tom Hiddleston’s Loki returns from “Thor” to threaten the fate of humanity, and, though he has a flair for drama, he’s most efficient when he sits back and lets the Avengers tear each other apart. Choosing just one villain, and his frightening alien army, makes it more possible to flesh out the strengths and weaknesses of the good guys, and it’s all but guaranteed that a sequel will give them another chance to fight evil.

“The Avengers” is at its best when it’s in full-blown action mode, involving every one of its characters in battle and showing off just what they can do. The story presumes that Loki’s alien army would attack only midtown Manhattan, leaving the heroes to aim to save individual human lives in the midst of mass destruction reigning down upon them. Though it seems less than genuine at first, it ultimately works out, as the heroes, especially Captain America and Iron Man, are easy to root for, making their near-misses and eventual successes all the more exciting. Even if it’s not a perfect film, it’s better that it leave something to be desired, so that the sequel(s) can come back and revisit this truly cool and incomparable team.


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