The Avengers

© 2012 Ray Wong

The first summer blockbuster to race out of the gate, The Avengers is a long-anticipated superhero movie of all superhero movies. Happily, writer-director Joss Whedon delivers.

During one of the S.H.I.E.L.D. experiments, they unwillingly open a portal for Loki to enter Earth from another realm. Loki immediately steals the tesseract (a powerful energy source from an alien world),  claims Professor Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard) and Agent Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and wages war against the humans. Director Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) has no choice but to reinitiate a program that has been suspended: the Avengers.

Fury scouts the world to find his team, which includes super spy Natasha Romanof/Black Widow (Scarlet Johansson), super soldier Captain America (Chris Evans), demigod Thor (Chris Hemsworth), and "billionaire playboy" Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.). He also recruits the reclusive Dr. Banner/The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) because he is the only person who knows how to find the tesseract.

Loki is promptly captured, but it's all a ploy for him to infiltrate S.H.I.E.L.D., trying to destroy the Avengers from the inside. The scheme works. But what Loki can't understand is the human spirit to band together and fight for what is right and just. The Avengers, led by Iron Man, vow to protect the human race when Loki uses the tesseract to open a portal, letting in an army from another realm. An epic war ensures.

The all-star cast is impressive -- it's like the Hollywood Who-Is-Who A-List -- and they take on their respective roles with enthusiasm and skills. First let's talk about the Avengers themselves. Robert Downey Jr. (Iron Man) reprises his role as cocky Tony Stark, who has a personality conflict with altruistic Captain America, played with old-fashioned wholesomeness by Chris Evans (Captain America). Chris Hemsworth (The Cabin in the Woods) instills some heart as Loki's brother, Thor. Scarlet Johansson (Iron Man 2) is sharp and sexy as Black Widow, and Jeremy Renner (Thor) is super cool as Hawkeye. But the standout is Mark Ruffalo (Date Night), who joins the cast for the first time as Dr. Banner/The Hulk -- I think he just claimed that role for life.

Samuel L Jackson (The Samaritan) is a bit too trademarked Samuel L Jackson as Nick Fury, but we've come to love him (and the character) anyway. Tim Hiddleston (Thor) reprises his role as Loki with relish. Stellan Skarsgard (Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) is somewhat underused, but Clark Gregg (Iron Man) is marvelous as Agent Coulson.

Writer-director Joss Whedon (The Cabin in the Woods) has done a fantastic job with the screenplay. With a huge cast of beloved characters -- not one, not two, but six superheroes, a nasty super villain, and a slew of super agents and civilians running around -- Whedon has the thankless job of making sense of everything while giving all the major characters something to do and develop. And he has succeeded. Job well done, Mr. Whedon.

Now don't get me wrong. It's not perfect. Some of the one-liners are rather cheesy, for example, and the pacing seems off at times. We'd also like to see more character development of our favorite characters (but we understand we may have to wait for their own origin movies to come out). And a major plot point (and character's fate) seems a bit contrived and tearjerking (I actually heard the woman behind me sobbing -- at a popcorn movie!) Still, given the size and complexity of the project, my hat's off to Whedon.

Not to mention he also directed this behemoth. When did he ever sleep? The production is top-notch, of course. All the signs of a big budget blockbuster without the annoyance of a Michael Bay movie. Again, kudos to Mr. Whedon.

The Avengers somehow lives up to the hype and delivers a first-rate entertainment that has a heart and a brain. That's rather rare for a summer movie and Joss Whedon has now secured his seat as one of Hollywood's hottest and most powerful filmmakers. All the work has paid off.

Stars: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlet Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Tim Hiddleston, Clark Gregg, Stellan Skarsgard, Samuel L Jackson
Director: Joss Whedon
Writers: Joss Whedon, Zak Penn
Distributor: Paramount
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action throughout
Running Time: 142 minutes 

Script - 7
Performance - 8
Direction - 8
Cinematography - 8
Music/Sound - 8
Editing - 8
Production - 9
Total - 8.0 out of 10.0 

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