The Avengers (2012) Directed by Joss Whedon
Bruce Banner: I don't think we should be focusing on Loki. That guy's brain is a bag full of cats. You can smell crazy on him.
Thor: Take care how you speak! Loki is beyond reason, but he is of Asgard! And he is my brother.
Black Widow: He killed eighty people in two days.
Thor: ….He's adopted.
From the time the first Iron Man movie was greenlit, this movie has been in the works. Through The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor, and Captain America, hints and clues have been doled out, frequently in Easter Eggs after the credits. Marvel has been building a library of top flight super hero movies done with the budget and stories to make them work, and now, they are pooling that collective talent, just like Marvel Comics did in 1963 when they published the first Avengers comic. Let’s face it, individual heroes are exciting, but there is a whole new layer of drama when you collect them into a group. And that is what this movie is banking on. Did they succeed? Oh, yes, and in a big way.
Shield has had an artifact for some time now, the Cosmic Cube, or a tesseract, a source of potentially unlimited power. But when the tesseract comes to life on its own, it is time to worry. And when the tesseract opens a portal, depositing Loki, Norse god of mischief and strife in Shield’s super secret laboratory, it’s probably a good time to panic. When Loki (Tom Hiddleston) takes over Dr. Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) and agent Barton, AKA Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) knows it’s time to do something. And he does; he assembles his response team. Dr. Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) world’s leading authority on Gamma radiation will try to track the low level gamma rays the tesseract produces. Natasha Romanov AKA Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) is sent to persuade him to come in. Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) is sent to recruit Tony Stark, AKA Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and Fury himself goes to activate the Super Soldier, Captain America (Chris Evans). Now, they are going to attempt to capture a god and make him give back the weapon of mass destruction.
It really doesn’t bode that well, until the appearance of the Mighty Thor (Chris Hemsworth). Of course, when the affairs of gods and super secretive government initiatives collide, you know there are going to be a few misunderstandings. The question is, can this group of disparate and frankly dysfunctional personalities work together to save the earth?
Well, if anyone can do it, this is the group. In a discussion with Loki, Stark points out the obvious imbalance of power:
Tony Stark: When they come, and they WILL come, they'll come for you.
Loki: I have an army.
Tony Stark: We have a Hulk.
In the words of Stan “The Man” Lee, “’Nuff said.”
Okay, beyond the fact that this is an idea that has been 49 years in the making, how was the movie? Really, really good. The characters are well established, thanks to their independent titles, the characters are very well cast, with fine actors, one and all. The script is solid, mixing mayhem, drama, character development and humor to create a gripping plot, and Joss Whedon directs. Joss Whedon. The Firefly guy. It doesn’t get much better.
Shield has that sort of X-Files on steroids feel to it, very lurky menacing, and plays well against the current air of distrust of authority. Samuel Jackson puts a perfect face to Nick Fury, with the right mix of getting the job done, and of not being a tool of the puppet masters that makes the character so iconic. He is so perfect in the role, you find yourself forgetting he wasn’t always black (Nick, of course, not Sam.) And of course the special effects are wonderful, the alien menace, the Chitauri look like armoured githyanki (if you got that reference, you are a geek) though there is some debate that they are supposed to be Skrulls. If they are, the sequel is already set up and ready to go. Whatever the alien menace, the whole thing blends to create a world where you can believe gods walk among us, and mere mortals can aspire to keep pace with them. And that, I think, is one of the key factors that makes these movies so watchable. We may not have friends who are billionaire philanthropists, but most of us have a friend (or two) who are smart mouthed wisecrackers, with, or without, drinking problems. Most of us identify with that feeling Bruce Banner has that something horrible could happen if I ever lose control. And many of us have that relative that we keep cleaning up after. Their powers make them extraordinary, their humanity makes them watchable.
Considering the care and complexity that went into making this, this could be the movie of the summer. Lord knows, it sets the bar high. Call your friends, assemble, and go watch The Avengers. Oh, and sit through the credits…there is an Easter Egg.
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Movie Mood: Action Movie
Viewing Method: Sneak Preview at My Local Theater
Film Completeness: Looked complete to me.