“The Avengers” Movie Review

     Joss Whedon's superhero mash up "The Avengers" delivers on so many levels that it's hard to discern exactly where the film excels the most.  Now the record holder for the biggest opening weekend of all time, "The Avengers" will be one of Disney's biggest success stories of 2012 and will undoubtedly wipe away the bad taste that was "John Carter", their expensive flop from a couple months ago.  Now that the final product is in and the Marvel master plan is complete, one can't help but to applaud how the plan was so masterfully executed.  With successful origin stories which helped introduce these characters to the masses, the studio built hype but also a clear mass appeal which obviously had audiences craving the end product of putting each hero together in one film.

     Unless your a big comic book guy (I'm not), you were likely only vaguely familiar with the likes of Ironman (Robert Downey Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain America (Chris Evans), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner).  Thanks to television and an earlier film, the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo subbing for Ed Norton) was likely the most recognizable member of the Avengers, so it was important for each of the origin stories to succeed and reach as broad an audience as possible.  Clearly, this goal was achieved as the prerelease tracking for "The Avengers" was as strong as any major film sequel of the past five years, including "The Dark Knight" and the "Potter" films.  My concerns with this film prior to seeing it were about the filmmakers ability to stuff enough great moments in the film to give each hero their own time to shine.  What I underestimated was Joss Whedon's ability as a writer as the film not only gives each hero their due, it is also filled with witty dialogue and interesting conversations that go along with the core story nicely.  With so many pop culture references, it was as if Whedon channeled his inner Quentin Tarantino as he penned the script.

     The plot in "The Avengers" isn't very complicated, yet there was no questioning the need for S.H.I.E.L.D leader Nick Fury (Samuel Jackson) to make the call to assemble his team of very special people as the threat here is legitimate.  Thor's evil brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is back and has stolen an alien energy source called the Tesseract which he intends to give to an alien race called the Chitauri in exchange for Earth.  Part of the deal has the Chitauri and their massive army aiding Loki in taking over Earth, which would be defenseless if not for the Avengers.

     The film spends its first 90 minutes reintroducing us to each character and more importantly allows us to see the interactions and squabbling between each hero when they meet and are forced to work together against this threat.  Each has their own agenda and each seems to want to be the leader, yet all of them are only a piece of the puzzle.  Whedon gives Robert Downey Jr. and his Tony Stark character the best lines of the film and his A type personality shines through as the most powerful of the group.  Stark's rants matched against the Shakespearian speeches of Thor has the making at times of comic genius.  Consider the subtle comments made by Stark as he walks past Thor and says "What's up Point Break?", a reference to Thor's hair and it's likeness to Patrick Swayze.  The timing of lines like these are impeccable and it is these quips which make each hero come off as more of an everyman rather than the superheroes they are.

     For the final 40 or so minutes, Whedon creates a gargantuan battle sequence on par with any of the recent work by James Cameron or Michael Bay.  You need only look during the end credits at the literal army of effects companies and artists Whedon had at his disposal to understand the undertaking this film really was.  The companies included Industrial Light and Magic (George Lucas), Digital Domain (James Cameron), and WETA Digital (Peter Jackson) among a dozen others which should tell you a lot about the quality of the team behind the camera.  What makes the climactic sequence so good; however, isn't the visual effects.  If that's all your looking for, go rent "Transformers 3" which still remains a steaming pile of crap in my opinion.  With even better effects, "The Avengers" sets itself apart with a smart script, interesting dialogue, and characters you will care about.  You would never know this is only Whedon's second feature based on how solid his work is in this film.  I've seen few that have come out with this type of hype and actually deliver both to the mainstream and the fan base.  At a minimum, the script is worth awards consideration at the end of the year.

     Obviously, the future of this franchise is bright.  Already in the pipeline for the next couple years is "Ironman 3", "Thor 2", and "Captain America 2" , so we'll never be lacking our Marvel character fix should we require one.  Inevitably a second Avengers film will come together as well.  I suppose the only real challenge is to come up with another viable threat which would again require such an assembly.  My only question is this: In each of the previous films, don't you think the individual characters could've used a little help?  What was Ironman doing when Thor was defending that small New Mexico town from Loki in the "Thor" movie? Wasn't he watching the news?  How big does the threat have to be where the other Avengers will come give their teammate a hand? Questions, perhaps, for Whedon to ponder as I see no one better for the job of writing and helming a sequel to what I would consider the gold standard for a summer tentpole. GRADE : A-