Earth’s Mighty Shield: THE AVENGERS
THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS!!!
Let’s face it, super hero movies are some of the most difficult types to pull off with completely satisfying results. It’s ALWAYS about the good guys vs. the bad guys. What filmmakers must do is find something fresh and interesting within that rigid structure. There have been a few in the genre that geeks will usually pick out as examples that stand above the rest like Superman or The Dark Knight (although he’s not a superhuman) but there’s not that many that take things to a whole new level and break completely out of the comic book film box. For the long awaited Marvel Universe epic crossover The Avengers there was no doubt the producers had to up the ante in every way and craft a super smart screenplay with a big enough threat to cause a reason for the heroes to combine their strengths. Add to that cutting edge SFX and most importantly a believable chemistry between all the actors that was natural and felt honest to the story.
The Avengers picks up after S.H.I.E.L.D. has obtained the Tesseract (aka Cosmic Cube) an extremely powerful object (originally from Asgard) which was first used by the enigmatic Nazi officer/HYDRA leader Red Skull (in Captain America: The First Avenger) during World War II but lost during a large battle. As Nick Fury, Dr. Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard) work on sustaining its power in the research facility, the Tessreract suddenly opens a portal and Loki (Tom Hiddleston) appears. We learn that after being cast out of Asgard, the God of Mischief has been journeying through the alternate universe and has seen things we’ll never know (much like Roy Batty in Blade Runner). Loki now needs the Tesseract for his own plan to take over Earth, a place he knows he can rule, and he’s got some unruly friends known as the Chitauri (an alternate version of the Skrulls) to help him if he can steal it. What S.H.I.E.L.D. didn’t plan on was that Loki would use two of their own team to help him with this task. Agent Clint Barton aka Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Dr. Erik Selvig are instantly possessed through a mind control power in Loki’s mystical staff to help him escape. In the process S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters is completely destroyed leaving Nick Fury and the survivors desperate for help.
Fury goes to the only people who can realistically come to the Earth’s rescue: Tony Stark aka Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr), Natasha Romanov aka Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) Steve Rogers aka Captain America (Chris Evans) and Dr. Bruce Banner aka The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). Banner isn’t chosen because of his mean green alter-ego, but because he’s the man who can best get a bead on The Tesseract since he is an expert on gamma radiation, which the cube emits. As calmly as possible, the group are brought together to try to track Loki down and get the Tesseract back in safe hands. Their initial meeting takes place on S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Hellicarrier, an awesome aircraft carrier that can fly. It also has a stealth mode where it can be turned invisible. The group of misfit marvels are like unstable chemical elements thrown together in a pot. While Captain America is an outsider, Stark and Banner manage to get along pretty well since both are geniuses in their respective fields. There’s some really funny moments as the guys get to know each other too.
While on his own mission to obtain Iridium (a rare element to stabilize the Tesseract) Loki tries to wield his ungodly power in Stuttgart, Germany (of all places). Loki puts on a bit of a Hitler act but he is soon confronted by none other than Captain America (who never did like evil dictators) and soon Iron Man shows up to help kick Loki’s disreputable ass. Following a brief smackdown, the two heroes capture Loki to bring him back to The Hellicarrier but still aren’t able to track the Tesseract. As if they needed more trouble, Thor arrives out of the sky looking for his half brother Loki, but when he tries to take him from Iron Man and Cap, they end up having a small disagreement. This leads to an amazingly cool vibranium-ringing face-off on a mountaintop (perfect spot for these three god-like beings). Following this, Loki is secured in a special super cell inside The Hellicarrier. The group later discover (thanks to Tony’s keen observations) that retrieving the Tesseract isn’t only to save it from Loki, but for another purpose that has been hidden from them by their superior Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D..
Without anyone to lead them, Hawkeye and several of Loki’s soldiers ambush the Hellicarrier to break him out, knocking out its huge rotating jet engines in the process (which keep it airbourne). Captain America and Iron Man are left to try to fix it while Bruce Banner transforms into The Hulk and attacks Black Widow showing her just why he likes being left alone. Loki then uses his old hologram trick to get Thor into the special containment unit he was locked in and quickly drops it out of the sky sending The God of Thunder hurtling towards his death. A raging Hulk jumps onto a jet sent to shoot him and is thrown out of the sky. During the big melee, Hawkeye is knocked unconscious but upon awaking he finds he is free of Loki’s mind control.
After getting out of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s confines, Loki reveals his impending attack will be where everyone can see it, of course he chooses the metropolis that represents international freedom: New York City. He even pays a visit to Tony Stark beforehand to let him know about the fight ahead of him and that there’s nothing he can do to stop it. Dr. Selvig (who is still under Loki’s mind control) opens the Tesseract portal on top of the new Stark Building (just to drive it in a little deeper) and the waiting Chitauri begin to fill the blue sky like intergalactic locusts. The cityscape decimating, mind blowing finale has The Avengers taking on the strange reptilian alien warriors and their gargantuan snake-like creatures that fly through the urban jungle destroying everything in their path. When it comes to epic super battles, this has got to be one of the greatest I’ve seen in a modern sci-fi/action movie. It featured moments that had me clapping, laughing and cheering.
Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner/The Hulk: I was a fan of his before, but when I saw his new take on Banner I was just rooting for him all the way. He brought such a complexity and depth to this embattled character even though he wasn’t even the main focus. Basically he was playing acting hockey and every time he was passed the puck, he scored. Also, this version of The Hulk is hands down the best on the big screen. I think having Ruffalo play the Hulk himself through the CGI FX was a very smart choice as well. Hulk is one of the most entertaining things to watch in Avengers and he truly brought the house down in more ways than one!
Robert Downey Jr as Tony Stark/Iron Man: When ol Ironsides shows up in the film, it just brings a smile to your face. It’s the cool, funny characterization Downey has created in the earlier films, mixed with a technical brilliance and Iron Man’s bombastic fighting style that’s always a thrill to watch. Stark’s own journey in Avengers from start to finish is special, he takes the term “hero” to its zenith here.
Chris Evans as Steve Rogers/Captain America: I loved the progression of his character in this movie. When we first meet him he is very uncomfortable, a real fish out of water and seems like only when he’s suited up as Cap does he know his place in this strange new world. When he’s in civilian life, it’s just awkward time. By the end of the movie Steve begins to get his bearing and he finally becomes the leader he is supposed to be within the group.
Chris Hemsworth as Thor: Another solid performance as the Asgardian asskicker. His scenes with The Hulk are some of the best in the film.
Scarlett Johanson as Black Widow and Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye: Black Widow is easily the sexiest female hero to grace the movie screen in awhile. I see her and Hawkeye as S.H.I.E.L.D.’s spy version of the Wonder Twins. They really belong together as a mini team since they can do some harsh work on enemies even though they only have human physical abilities (albeit extraordinary).
Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury: Sam plays Fury as basically Shaft meets A-Team’s Hannibal Smith but in the Marvel Universe. He’s excellent as the fierce, determined yet uncharacteristically vulnerable leader.
Clark Gregg as Agent Phil Coulson: After seeing him in the Avengers prequels, I’ve grown to really like this character a lot. He has one of the coolest moments in this movie and brought everything screeching to a stop.
Last but not least is Tom Hiddleston as Loki. He really brings so much menace, showing through his outstanding Iago like performance that Loki has now become completely and utterly evil. He’s very much another spin on Darth Vader in Star Wars. Like Vader, he is a supreme baddie, but with Hiddleston’s portrayal, you almost wish he’ll become good again the way he plays it, but when he doesn’t that’s ok too.
FINAL WORD: From the first time I heard there would be an Avengers film (and as a Marvel Comics geek since a young age) I felt like it had to be about them earning their lofty status both onscreen and in the pantheon of super hero cinema itself. Sure these characters are all cool and fun to watch do their things separately, but there had to be something much bigger at stake to bring them together even when they were at odds with each other. Joss also had to juggle all the intricate comic book details, bringing the fantastic alternate universe to reality and deliver it in one grandiose package without error. Marvelously, with equal amounts of grace and pinache, wit and humor, spectacle and daring, Joss Whedon & Co were able to achieve that…..I can’t wait to see AVENGERS 2!!
Now it’s time to go get some shawarma 😉