The Avengers Made in: USA Language: English Director: Joss Whedon Starring: Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Tom Hiddleston, Mark Ruffalo, Jeremy Renner, Clark Gregg, Stellan Skarsgård, Cobie Smulders, Gwyneth Paltrow, Paul Bettany, Jenny Agutter, Powers Boothe, Lou Ferrigno (voice) Year: 2012
Synopsis: The sixth and most eagerly anticipated of the live-action Marvel comic book films begins (more or less) where the Thor movie left off. The mysterious Tesseract, an artifact containing unlimited energy, is being researched at an ultra secret facility run by the organization S.H.I.E.L.D.
Shortly after S.H.I.E.L.D director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) arrives, the facility is attacked by the diabolical Loki (Hiddleston). Loki is a demi-god from another dimensional realm known as Asgard, and the adopted brother of Asgardian hero Thor (Chris Hemsworth).
Loki steals the Tesseract, kidnaps (and brainwashes) head researcher Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård), and plots to create an interdimensional gateway allowing a bunch of evil beings to invade Earth. His plan is to subjugate all humans, rule the universe, blah blah blah.
Deciding he's had enough of muthaf*ckin' supervillains breaking into his secret muthaf*ckin' lab, Nick Fury (he unfortunately doesn't say that in the movie) scrambles to assemble a group of superheroes that he's been in contact with over the years.
They consist of genius billionaire inventor Tony Stark (aka Iron Man, played by Robert Downey Jr), Steve Rogers (aka Captain America, played by Chris Evans), Natasha Romanoff (aka Black Widow, played by Scarlett Johansson), and Dr. Bruce Banner (aka The Incredible Hulk, played by Mark Ruffalo). They are quickly joined by Thor, who has returned to Earth to deal with Loki.
However, the motley crew must first contend with their massive personality differences, which results in just as much hilarious mayhem inflicted upon themselves as their enemies.
As Loki's scheme approaches completion, the team must find a way to work together before Earth (starting with New York City), is destroyed and conquered.
The Good: The Avengers is a highly entertaining, action-packed movie. The ensemble cast has great chemistry, and every character is well defined and contrasted without making the story feel rushed.
Robert Downey Jr's Iron Man supplies plenty of great lines as he deliberately provokes and pokes wicked fun at Thor, the straight-laced Captain America, and even the unstable Bruce Banner.
Being the villain in this movie is a tall order, and Tom Hiddleston does a fine job. Although not a physically imposing presence, he is believably dangerous and cunning.
The action scenes are really well done, and the story is structured so that we eagerly anticipate them as opposed to simply predict when they'll happen. It really appears as though director Joss Whedon and the writers actually understand (and respect) the comic book source material, and hopefully big-budget studios will continue to give filmmakers the kind of leeway they need to make fun movies like this.
The special effects are great, and for the most part, realistic-looking. But the story progression and structure is well defined and is the main element keeping the movie together.
The Bad: Some details are utterly implausible (bizarre superhero powers notwithstanding), such as a flying aircraft carrier that stays perfectly level all the time. And the idea that a massive government agency such as S.H.I.E.L.D could function efficiently and be staffed with highly competent people is laughable at best.
Who would like this movie: The Avengers is, first and foremost, for those who are big comic book fans. If you're like me and never got into comics as a kid, you'll probably miss a few references (but at least I spotted Stan Lee's cameo).
At its core, the story formula is pretty straightforward:
1) There's a big crisis 2) A mentor character assembles the heroes 3) The heroes don't get a long and fight amongst themselves 4) The heroes team up and save the day
It's similar to what we've seen in movies such as X-Men and the 2009 reboot of Star Trek.
In The Avengers, the simple structure is very competently managed, and the result is a fun, satisfying action movie with a smart sense of humor. Fun for both kids and adults, The Avengers is a comic book adventure that sets a high bar for the 2012 summer movie season.