Movie Review: Marvel’s The Avengers

Well, here it is folks.  We’ve clamored for and spent hours dissecting post-movie easter egg scenes in Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Captain America and Thor.  Hooted with excitement with each tidbit, teaser trailer and footage release.  Now, we’ve got the assemblage: Marvel’s The Avengers has arrived.  Does it live up to the hype we’ve created in our own minds?  Yes and no.  If you’re a true Marvel-addict, this will be the crack that will have you flying…well, at least ‘til The Amazing Spider-Man (or more likely ‘til DC’s The Dark Knight Rises, but either way it’s a buzz that’ll last for two months y’all).  If you’re somebody that just digs an action movie but doesn’t know the backstory?  You’ll be amazed, but you may not enjoy it as much as the fanboys hugging each other next to you are enjoying it.  The moral here kiddies?  Like your teachers told ya in school, do your research.  If you do, you’ll be rewarded.  And you’ll get geek cred, always a good thing, people.

To catch everyone up, when last we saw the gang (Iron Man, The Hulk, Thor, Captain America, Black Widow and Nick “Get These Motherfuckin’ Superheroes In My Motherfuckin’ Program!” Fury), they were celebrating the way they snatched up The Tesseract (aka The Cosmic Cube).  Now all safe and sound, Fury’s S.H.I.E.L.D. super-scientists are experimenting on it/with it, and all’s right with the world.  Except when a huge gout of gamma radiation gets loose, releasing Loki, trickster god of Asgard and all-around envious second son of Odin.  Loki wants power, and he doesn’t care how he gets it.  By making a deal with outer space bad guys — as well has having superhero Hawkeye and braniac scientist Professor Selvig under his thrall — it’s looking like he’ll get his wish.  Oh, but who will stop him?  Wait wait, don’t tell me.

Marvel’s The Avengers goes through it’s storyline with high-adrenaline glee, bopping from one awesome moment to the next without so much as a breath between ‘em.  There was so much fun stuff going on, the things that stuck with me were the little tidbits here and there; the fact that Gwyneth Paltrow got on board as Pepper Potts, even though she’s on screen for about 5 minutes.  That earns her her geek badge for life, as far as I’m concerned.  Getting to hear “Hulk Smash!” in a new, fun way.  Drooling over Tony Stark’s Black Sabbath t-shirt (I love that Stark is into Sabbath.  It feels right somehow.)  And then there’s that post-credits bonus scene…but hold that thought.

The most amazing scene in the film?  Now that’d be cheating.  Which is sorta my way of saying I couldn’t really pick just one.  Joss Whedon does his due diligence here, weaving all sorts of superhero storylines together seamlessly.  Nice trick, especially since he’s also been hard at work with Cabin in the Woods.  And like Cabin, this film will be a total nerdgasam.  In fact, I enjoyed The Avengers more than Cabin in the Woods.  I know, I know.  But while Cabin definitely felt like “Josh Whedon: The Movie”, Marvel’s The Avengers is a film that doesn’t feel like another episode of Buffy or Angel.  Not that more of either would be a bad thing, far from it.  But it’s good to see Whedon do what he does best — whipsmart dialogue, in-depth characterization, brilliant chemistry between characters and awesome battles — and have it feel like something completely new in his repertoire.

This isn’t just a superhero film, it’s a bringing together of outcasts.  Like The Seven Samurai, Marvel’s The Avengers takes a group of folks that are on the fringes of society and forms them into a unit, a family of sorts.  Yes, these particular folks are superheroes, but let’s face it; they’re probably not on anyone’s Thanksgiving dinner invite.  But with all the quirks and problems with fitting in, these superheroes manage to bond with each other…after a fashion.  You may have read about the inter-Avengers throwdowns, and I promise they’re as cool as they sound.  Still, at the climax they’ve got each other’s backs.  It’s as cozy a theme as any found in Golden Age back-issues.

The actors here bring their A-game, and they have fun doing it.  I give anyone props for holding their own against quips thrown out by Robert Downey Jr. and Samuel L. Jackson, so the entire ensemble gets a standing O from me.  Even Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow, the only chica in the Avengers super-team, oozes tough guy, and it’s completely believable.  As is her stuntwork, and the stuntwork of the entire cast and crew.  And WHAT UP IT’S ROBIN SPARKLES EVERYBODY!  Robin, er, Cobie Smulders, never looked  more badass.  I love seeing her in non-How I Met Your Mother stuff, and even though it’s little more than an “Insert The Other Female Character Here” role, she aquits herself well.  A tip of the hat to screenwriters  Whedon and Zack Penn for giving Marvel’s The Avengers true continuity.  When I saw that they had Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster (the main squeeze in Thor) accounted for, as well revealing a dating life for S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Coulson, I sat back and relaxed.  This is a movie that loves it’s source material, and it shows.

My only concern is with folks that aren’t up to speed on the backstories of these characters.  If you haven’t seen the films, you may be missing out on some joyful glee here and there.  I don’t want that for you.  So take a peek at the other films — hell, Wiki ‘em if you’re in a timecrunch — so you can crank your enjoyment level to 11.

Whedon does a great job of letting us into the inner minds of these superheroes, and in doing so creates an even more exciting mythology for our team.  Will there be more films to come?  Since Samuel L. Jackson has said he has a nine picture deal as Nick Fury, but has only done five films so far, it’s a pretty sure bet we’ll see this crew assembling again.  Especially if you see the bonus scene at the start of the end credits…. No, I’ll be a good girl and let y’all find that out for yourselves.

What I love most about this film is that it’s opening the day before Free Comic Book Day.  Many of the films leading up to this one also opened the first weekend of May, so it’s a double-treat to get my comics on and see this film.  It’s a match made in Marvel heaven.

Marvel’s The Avengers.  You’re gonna want to assemble for this one.

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