One of the biggest questions for this summer movie season was would arguably the most ambitious blockbuster project actually deliver? After all, Marvel Studios invested four years and five films into setting up “Marvel’s The Avengers.”
After seeing it twice, I was tempted to simply write stop what you’re doing and go see it right now. No, seriously. Go right now. But in case you needed more convincing, here goes.
My inner 36-year-old (whose take on this was oddly similar to my inner 6-year-old) could hardly stop smiling watching Marvel Comics’ icons join forces in unquestionably the best superhero comic book movie so far.
Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” is one of my favorite films, but it all seems like it could actually happen. “The Avengers” brings that larger than life feel of a comic book with a limitless budget, restrained only by its creator’s imagination and he’s got quite the imagination. Where should I begin to rave?
Director/Screenwriter (and part-time comic book writer) Joss Whedon’s love for comics is apparent right from the start with an opening act that would be the climax in many action films and carries through to one of the more spectacular final battle scenes you’re likely to see for years to come.
“The Avengers” marks his second full-length movie (after the charming and fun “Serenity”) but he was absolutely the best choice for such a massive project. He takes all the special elements of classic Avengers comics —the fun mix of personalities used to working alone uniting as a team — and brings that to the big screen.
Seeing World War II super soldier Captain America (Chris Evans), armor-clad Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), god of thunder Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Bruce Banner’s unstoppable alter ego, The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), super-spy Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and dead-eye marksman Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) finally come together as a team will make grown men and young children alike giddy.
Whedon and co-writer Zak Penn pick up threads from the last two lead-ins — “Thor” and “Captain America: The First Avenger.” After fleeing his home world of Asgard, Loki (the brilliant Tom Hiddleston who seems to have a ball playing the big baddie), seeks payback against his heroic brother Thor.
This time, he aligns with an alien army who pledge their aid in overthrowing Earth if he helps them seize the Terrasect, the renewable energy source Captain America originally encountered in World War II that’s currently in possession of secret spy unit SHIELD.
SHIELD head honcho Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and his agents quickly find themselves overmatched when Loki comes for the Terrasect. Clearly outmatched, Fury calls in his superhero pals, who find it hard to be super friends.
Iron Man’s brash attitude grates at the straight-laced Captain America and Thor wants to return Loki home to receive Asgardian justice. After several brawls between the would-be teammates — a staple of early Avenger comics — the group realizes the only way they can stop Loki is by coming together as a team.
Whedon deftly navigates handling screen time for the characters, giving each ample screen time and their own “highlight moments,” so Thor or Cap fans won’t have to worry about Iron Man getting all the best lines and scenes. The action scenes are “take your breath away” amazing that look ripped from the pages of a comic book.
Not so shockingly, Downey Jr. is awesome as usual, but he doesn’t overshadow his co-stars. Clark Gregg reprises his fan-favorite role as Fury’s right-hand man, Agent Coulson, and other supporting characters from the lead-ins also turn up in welcome cameos.
The biggest surprise was Whedon’s take on Hulk, who has some of the most crowd-pleasing scenes in the film, and has been handled better in this team-up outing than any of his solo movies.
“Avengers” delivers big time with everything longtime fans and newcomers alike could possibly want in a summer blockbuster that definitely surpasses the hype. And as usual, make sure to stick through the credits for two scenes that will more than whet your appetite for a sequel, which cannot possibly come soon enough for me.
RATING: 10/10 – Seriously, go see it.