Marvel Comics’ The Avengers opened this past weekend to the tune of 200 million dollars in revenue. But were moviegoers shelling out for a box office hit or a Hollywood bust?
The Avengers combines characters from four previous Marvel Comics films and begins where the last movie, Thor, left off. For those who have never seen Thor (and I don’t recommend that you do), Thor’s brother Loki rules their home world of Askgard in Thor’s absence (he’s banished to Earth). When Thor is redeemed and returns to Askgard, Loki is made to give up the throne.
The premise of The Avengers is thus, that Loki wants revenge for losing the throne and so he teams up with a colony of bloodthirsty aliens, the Chitauri, with the purpose of enslaving humanity. His plan is to bring the Chitauri army to Earth, but the portal he uses to travel between worlds won’t transport an entire army. What he needs is the object known as the Tesseract, currently in the possession of the U.S. government agency, S.H.I.E.L.D. In the opening scenes, Loki successfully steals the Tesseract from the S.H.I.E.L.D facility, prompting leader Nick Fury to recruit the Marvel superheroes, Hulk, Iron Man and Captain America. Uninvited, Thor arrives to dissuade Loki and joins up with the other superheroes to save Earth.
Action packed and peppered with biting one-liners and physical comedy, The Avengers brings together the best of the previous five Marvel superhero films. Not all the previous movies in this series were successful, but director Joss Whedon manages to take what worked best for each of the individual films and have them coalesce as a whole.
The action sequences are set up so that there are several fight scenes happening at once and the camera cuts from one to the other and back again. In this way the different plots and storylines are able to happen simultaneously without any unnecessary breaks in the action. There is very little wasted time in this film, something the other movies suffered from; spending more time on character than on plot. Whedon, however, gives enough character information so that first time Marvel superhero movie-goers will understand the action, but not so much that veterans are bored or plot time is wasted.
Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark/Iron Man gets the best one liners, as is the nature of his character, but it’s the ease in which he plays his character, demonstrating the growth Stark has gone through since first becoming Iron Man that is most impressive and he stands out as one of the more well-rounded characters. Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner/The Hulk also gets his share of laughs, playing off of Downey’s witticisms in his own smart-aleck way, while also indicating a deeply troubled inner life that draws focus to his character more than any other.
Chris Hemsworth as Thor is exactly as he was in the first movie, with his signature accent, reliance on stern facial expressions and Yoda-like lines of wisdom to convey character. Chris Evans is Captain America/Steve Rogers who is still adjusting to 21st century life, which is perhaps why he only ever seems to be half present. Secondary characters, like Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johanson) are indications of movies to come. The story continually hints of a deep dark past for both of them, which we never fully learn about but helps to qualify them, somewhat, for inclusion in The Avenger team picture.
Overall, if you’re looking to treat yourself to a night at the movies, this is the picture to shell out the money for, at least for this week.
FINAL GRADE: A-