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Director: Joss Whedon
Writers: Joss Whedon and Zak Penn
Stars: Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Jeremy Renner, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson, Clark Gregg, Stellan Skarsgard, and Tom Hiddleston
S.H.I.E.L.D., an international counter-espionage organization headed by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), plans to harness the power of the Tesseract (Cosmic Cube). But before they can discover its secrets, the Tesseract is activated by an outside force and brings Loki (Tom Hiddleston) from another dimension. Though weakened by the travel, Loki is able to brainwash Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) & Prof. Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard), steal the Tesseract, and destroy the S.H.I.E.L.D. base.
Faced with the clear & present danger of Loki, Fury begins to assemble The Avengers: Capt. America/Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), Iron Man/Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.), and Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson). In short order Loki is willingly captured, the Black Widow brings in Bruce Banner/The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) comes from Asgard. Though The Avengers are assembled, they are not a team. Before long Loki has exploited their clashing egos to his advantage: The Hulk is unleashed, S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Helicarrier disabled, and his plan to unleash an extraterrestrial attack on Earth unleashed.
To say The Avengers is packed with action is an understatement, but to say it has life is a different story. Though Joss Whedon does an excellent job in showcasing each character, you do not emotionally connect with anyone. I was ambivalent about the characters and the story until the Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) scene; after which I was emotionally invested in the team’s coalescence. Watching each hero assume their role in thwarting Loki’s plan was a delight.
Joss Whedon did an overall good job bringing the film to life. What prevented it from being great was the sometimes slapstick approach to some of the Hulk’s actions: such as with Loki near the end of the film and with Thor after a joint fight against the aliens. Also, though much better, the final alien attack on New York was basically the same as in Transformers 3. Where Whedon did an excellent job was in juggling all the characters.
Though none of the actors will be nominated for an Academy Award, all are comfortable in their roles. Chris Evans and Robert Downey, Jr. bicker with each other convincingly as two people with very different codes of conduct and motivations. Both later gain respect for each other as brothers-in-arms. Chris Hemsworth picks-up where he left off with character development from Thor. As the new kids on the block Jeremy Renner and Scarlett Johansson do solid jobs; Johansson fortunate enough to be given a bit of back story to develop as opposed to Renner who was one-dimensional. Samuel L. Jackson is given the job of walking around like a badass and does so. And Tom Hiddleston? He delivers as the heavy. You understand his motivations, feel his menace, but also see his vulnerability.
Then there is Clark Gregg as Agent Coulson. Upon his performance stands the emotional weight of the movie. Without him all we have is a tale, “full of sound and fury signifying nothing.” With him we have a reason to watch it again and again.
Grade = B