Marvel teams its top superheroes in 'The Avengers'
By Carl Kozlowski 05/03/2012
In the pantheon of movie styles, superhero movies tent to offer up some of the biggest highs (“Spider-Man,” “Superman,” “The Dark Knight”) and lowest lows (“Batman and Robin,” “Superman IV” and the Nick Nolte version of “The Hulk”) that cinema has to offer. But in the last four years, Marvel Comics has refocused its cinematic efforts in an attempt to literally change the way the game is played.
The key element has been that, despite delivering a series of rousing good times at the box office with “Iron Man,” “The Incredible Hulk,” “Thor” and “Captain America,” each of these smash hits was created to be a piece of a much bigger creative puzzle: the all-star superhero action fiesta known as “The Avengers.” It was a tremendous risk that has paid off with even more astounding rewards, as each of the mega-budget films became solid successes while setting up a brilliant payoff with this weekend’s grand finale.
With Steven Spielberg hopelessly mired in been-there, done-that sap and historic epics, the only person who could possibly handle the job is fanboy-favorite extraordinaire Joss Whedon. Whedon created the classic TV version of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and its fellow cult favorites, “Angel” and “Firefly.” And as writer-director of the new extravaganza, he delivers enough whizzes and bangs to propel another dozen normal superhero films.
In this adventure, secret agent Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) of the international peacekeeping agency S.H.I.E.L.D. picks up from the series of standout end-credit cameos he did in each of the prior films to round up the Avengers from their individual global escapades and team them up against the forces of Loki, Thor’s evil, godlike brother. Loki has reached earth and started bringing in his evil minions and their armies because earth’s human scientists have been studying the Tesseract, a small, blue jewel-like object that turns out to be a much larger portal window between this dimension of the universe and the alternate realities that take place in Asgard, where Thor and Loki hail from.
As Loki manages to defy earthly interrogations, he attempts to divide, distract and destroy the Avengers by turning them against each other through mind control. Clever thinking by the team, however, manages to set things right and eventually saves the day with some of the most wildly entertaining and spectacularly visual special effects battles ever committed to film.
Whedon maintains the outrageously fun spirit of the Marvel films’ best efforts, such as the first “Iron Man,” while vastly improving on their weaknesses. For instance, Loki was an annoying pest in the mediocre “Thor,” but here proves to be total fun as he veers between truly wicked glee and genuine menace. And after two other tries, this is the first time the Marvel team has managed to make The Hulk fully work as a hero, and they allow him wreak havoc in the best way he knows how — smashing things.
“The Avengers” is not only great spectacle, but is laden with positive messages throughout about good versus evil, teamwork over division and immense patriotism to boot. The intensity of the action may be overwhelming for young children, but teenagers and perhaps mature-minded children ages 10 and up will certainly find it fantastic entertainment that can be enjoyed with family or friends of any age.