STARRING: Robert Downey Jr., Chris
Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Jeremy Renner, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Clark
Gregg, Samuel L. Jackson, Cobie Smulders, Tom Hiddleston, Stellan Skarsgård
2012, 142 Minutes, Directed by:
are two groups who are absolutely going to love The Avengers.
First are the Marvel fanboys
(and fangirls) who have sat through both Iron Man
movies, The Hulk, Thor and
Captain America salivating at the prospect of
their favorite comic superheroes finally being together on the big screen. (No
disrespect. This reviewer was a DC Comics fan and will undoubtedly feel the same
way if the rumored
Justice League of America movie ever gets made.)
Second are those who live to
see massive destructive and CGI special effects in their movie blockbusters, and
pay no attention to trivia like character or plot. This movie has robot suits,
monsters, creatures from another dimension, Norse gods, and much fighting and
crashing and exploding. What’s not to like?
For the rest of us, though,
The Avengers is an entertaining enough ride that lacks any real narrative
weight. It’s Transformers with better – much
better – dialogue. Credit for that goes to writer-director Joss Whedon who has
to be wondering if it’s worth the effort.
Cabin in the Woods, which he co-wrote, sat on the shelf for a couple of
years before finally being released, and will make only a fraction of what
will do at the box office. Yet Cabin is a much better film.
Whedon seems to have taken his
cue from the Star Trek reboot. If the audience
is coming for the heroes, who cares about the villain or the plot?
The villain is Loki (Tom
Hiddleston) who is here, apparently, because he was the original villain the
Avengers faced in the comics. His motives are muddled and, in the end, we really
don’t care. He’s closer to the Romulan Nero in Star Trek than to the gold
standard of big screen comic villains, the Joker (whether played by Jack
Nicholson or the late Heath Ledger). He snarls and he sneers and if he had a
moustache he would undoubtedly twirl it, but he can’t hold our attention.
"Transformers with better – much better – dialogue . . ."
Whedon focuses on the heroes
and gives us some funny moments between Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.)
and Bruce Banner/the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo replacing Edward Norton who replaced
There’s a good throwaway bit
early on with Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) as well as an amusing
confrontation between the Hulk and Loki. Yet Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Captain
America (Chris Evans) are as bland as ever, although Whedon gets a laugh or two
out of the 1940’s Captain’s disconnect from 2012.
There are few moments that are
more than a snappy line or an amusement park thrill. One is the death of a
character – not to be spoiled here – that manages to be both witty and poignant,
a Whedon specialty. Another is Loki forcing a crowd to kneel before him in
Berlin and one elderly man refusing to do so. The implication is that he is a
Holocaust survivor, but there’s no follow through.
So if you love CGI effects or
are so immersed in the Marvel universe that you’re wondering when Spider-man and
Wolverine will be joining the Avengers, you’ll have a great time. And when you
stay through the closing credits for BOTH extra scenes, you’ll be able to
explain who that guy is who grins at the audience and who means nothing to us
On the other hand, if the first
Iron Man was the only one in this series you thought
worth seeing, one viewing of The Avengers should be plenty.