Joss Whedon’s all-star take on the Marvel Comics universe has been one of the most heavily anticipated movie events of recent memory, and unlike so many forgettable entries in the action-adventure genre, The Avengers delivers on every level for an unparalleled experience that moves at breakneck speed and never disappoints.
In a project like this one, there is always the inherent concern about whether the personalities of the characters involved will mesh well, since this film is the movie equivalent of a superstar jam session. Our heroes’ interactions are seamless and never wander out of character for their respective franchises– from the wonderful (possibly ad-libbed?) one-liners we’ve come to expect of Robert Downey, Jr.’s Tony Stark/Iron Man, to the straight-backed pride and occasional fish-out-of-water problems faced by Chris Evans’ Captain America. The only Avenger possibly given the short shrift here is Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye, the only major player not seen before on screen, but in all fairness he spends about half the film possessed by the villain so there is little opportunity to delve into his backstory, except in light of how it relates to that of Scarlett Johannson’s Black Widow, a fellow agent/assassin with whom he shares professional history and respect. As far as previous franchise characters go, the one with the spottiest track record has been the Incredible Hulk, on his third portraying actor in as many movie appearances, and having garnered far more mixed reviews than those of the other heavy hitters. However, Dr. David Banner and his angry alter ego, as played by Marvel newbie Mark Ruffalo, are a true highlight of the film (and get arguably the best line of the movie), absolutely worthy of the qualifier “Incredible”.
Every superhero movie needs a supervillain, and ours for this outing should be familiar to Marvel fans as Thor’s power-hungry demigod brother Loki. Tom Hiddleston’s Loki is everything an uber-villain should be: menacing, creepy, self-absorbed, and still oddly cool. Samuel L. Jackson, stepping again into the role of Nick Fury, looks like he’s having a blast. Whedon’s script and direction are a note-perfect labor of love for the Marvel universe, giving each of our diverse set of heroes an ample chance to shine. Black Widow is fleshed out in greater detail than in her previous outing in Iron Man II, and Johannson nails her hard edges as well as her vulnerability– which never becomes a liability for a chick this awesome. Captain America, while not my favorite Avenger, is well-captured by Evans, and Hemsworth as Thor, who is already well aware of what his brother is capable, is a brick wall of amazing. As always, there is not even enough space for me to lavish praise on Robert Downey, Jr.’s acerbic Stark, a role that fits the actor as well as his near-impervious suit of armor.
Packed with witty dialogue, eye-popping stunt work and effects, and a gorgeous, able cast, this may well be the best film to carry the Marvel name, ever. The action is nonstop, and while this reviewer has been known to fall asleep during action movies, The Avengers held me rapt for its entire 142-minute runtime, which, punctuated with Whedon’s trademark humor, feels shorter and will leave the viewer looking forward to more. The SeriouslyFluffy Final Grade: A