The Avengers Assemble and I like it

So I suppose Joss Whedon’s The Avengers is probably the most anticipated movie of the summer. Here, it already feels like summer outside (94 degrees today), and the blockbuster season is off to a solid start. As I previously mentioned, I wasn’t sure I’d catch this one thanks to a childhood fear of The Hulk, but how could I miss what might be THE movie event of the year? So I faced my fear and got myself to the local theater this weekend.

I arrived at the theater 15 minutes early, just in time to run to the bathroom and score soda and a popcorn. However, there was a line going out to the theater parking lot when I arrived. Why? Because the 12:30 p.m. showing of The Avengers is the only 2D showing of the film of the day. I would like to point that out to the jerks in Hollywood who keep forcing 3D on us. I talked to a lot of people, mostly families, who just can’t afford paying for a 3D movie for a family of 4, especially when the matinee price is the same as the evening price. Especially not in this economy.

I’m also of the opinion that if a film can’t hold it’s own in 2D, 3D is not going to make it any better. Fortunately, The Avengers holds up well. VERY well.

The film begins at the SHIELD headquarters. We learn that the tesseract from the previous Captain America film is there and that SHIELD has plans for it. If you recall, the tesseract was the thing that the Red Skull desired – it is a massive and dangerous energy source. Of course, we also know that Loki, the baddie from Thor (and Thor’s adopted brother) is on the loose and decides to turn up at SHIELD HQ to take the tesseract for himself. And obviously, that means war.

So who does Nick Fury and Agent Coulson call in? They track down heroes from the Marvel Universe, some of who have already had their own films. So it was with fan girl glory that I got to witness Iron Man, Captain America (my personal favorite), The Hulk, Black Widow, Hawkeye and Thor all on the same movie screen. It’s enough to make a girl squeal with delight. And together, they make the Avengers, who assemble (like what I did there?) and join forces to fight off Loki and some alien invaders.

Obviously, this is an action movie. We’re talking no-holds barred non-stop action. And I don’t usually like that sort of thing and get bored easily. But the scenes in this film were so deftly crafted that I could not literally take my eyes off of the screen. There are explosions and smashing (thanks, Hulk) and heroes fighting each other and bad guys and aliens and it’s just all so in your face and kick-butt.

Yet somehow, even with such a large star-powered cast, we also get a look at each of these characters (save for one – I’ll get into that later). When Steve Rogers is recruited, I still felt for him from the previous movie, a man out of time (which was always a theme of that character in the comics). Again, I have to credit that to the talent of Chris Evans, who can make this huge bulky guy seem so vulnerable, kind and sweet.

And then there’s The Hulk, aka Bruce Banner. Mark Ruffalo is a newcomer to the role and yet I found his version to be spot on where others have failed. Why hasn’t he been cast as this before? Hollywood is a little slow, I guess. Ruffalo has found the heart of the sensitive scientist who does not want to get angry and put others in danger.

Chris Hemsworth is good as Thor, who really isn’t a man of words so much as a man of action, but in his dialogue, I still found that hint of the Shakespearean that I got from his solo outing. He’s even more powerful and god-like in this film, having come into his role as his father’s successor.

Robert Downey, Jr. isn’t portraying Tony Stark. He IS Tony Stark. I’ve always felt that way, though. That character was just waiting for Downey to play it. He gets the best funny lines in the movie, too. And I am SO ready for Iron Man 3.

For the record, I initially hated Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow in Iron Man 2. And yet, she has won me over in The Avengers. Whedon has made her more Buffy-esque (especially with her stunts) and it’s definitely an improvement. There’s a scene between Black Widow and Loki that really gives you an idea of the layers that lie underneath her skin that goes beyond her skills as a kick-butt spy.

My one complaint with the team is Hawkeye, portrayed by Jeremy Renner. Now I like Renner a lot, but I honestly feel like he wasn’t given much to work with here. Those people who went into the movie unfamiliar with the character also left the movie not knowing anything about him. Sure, he hasn’t been given his own film (yet), but neither has Black Widow and we’re given a good background on her in The Avengers. Not so with Hawkeye. Renner was great and worked with what he was given, but I feel like that character should have been expanded upon more.

Finally, the leader of The Avengers, Nick Fury, is potrayed by Samuel L. Jackson. I hear people are complaining about him playing Fury. Well, GET OVER YOURSELVES. He was awesome, as Samuel L. Jackson can only be. Maybe he’s not what people had in mind when they read the comics (and again, I haven’t), but he fits those shoes in a m***** f******* way that no other m***** f***** can.

The supporting cast is equally as great. Gwyneth Paltrow comes back as Pepper Potts, Stark’s love interest, and she is still great as the girlfriend that keeps him in line. Clark Gregg as Agent Coulson makes that character endearing, and his adoration and fan boy-ism for Captain America made me smile. Stellan Skarsgard returns as Professor Selvig, but we honestly don’t see much of him here. I think he’s more plot device than anything. And that’s a shame.

Then of course, there’s the villain. There has to be a villain, right? Tom Hiddleston as Loki chews scenery and spits it out, his lips curling into a maniacal sort of grin anytime things are going his way. He is both brilliant and crazy and makes the baddie very bad indeed. He was so good at being bad that there was applause in the theater when his character got its come-uppance.

The effects? Well, what do you expect me to say? Of course, they’re top-notch. This is a big budget movie, after all. And unfortunately, this means that The Hulk seemed all too real to me. So much so that when he was chasing down Black Widow. who was hiding from him in abject fear, I felt that fear. And literally closed my eyes because I could not watch. The Hulk is SCARY. Mostly because he’s not just a good guy – he can turn on anyone! And I’ll probably have nightmares about him tonight just like I did when I was a kid. Needless to say, the movie did him justice.

So what do we have? Great actors, a gripping story, nothing but action that you can’t NOT watch and a scary green monster that will give the kiddies nightmares? I’d say that all sums up to make one heck of a movie, wouldn’t you?

Oh, one final thing: don’t miss the last scene that follows the credits (not the scene in the middle of the credits, by the way – the VERY last scene). It’s probably the most epic final ending scene of a film ever. Trust me. It’s the most mind boggling thing you’ll ever see on the silver screen.

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