Tuesday, June 26, 2012
THE AVENGERS (2012)
In a top secret underground installation S.H.I.E.L.D. operatives Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) and Nick Fury (a hammy Samuel L. Jackson) attempt to turn the tesseract (the much-prized glowing cube from CAPTAIN AMERICA) into a weapon. Before this can happen THOR villain Loki (Tom Hiddleston) steals the prize and turns scientist Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard) and Clint Barton aka Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) into unwitting minions. Fury asks Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) to enlist Tony Stark aka Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.), Steve Rogers aka Captain America (Chris Evans), and reclusive Bruce Banner aka The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) to locate Loki before he uses the tesseract to open a wormhole and allow an alien army to invade Earth. The mighty Thor (Chris Hemsworth) shows up to help wrangle his errant brother, and soon superhero bickering and banter ensue along with requisite infighting before this unwieldy bunch joins forces for a final climactic fight. If you did not see the myriad (and mostly frustrating) precursor films, it may take time to get your bearings. Writer Joss Whedon wastes no time with back-story, though his busy script has plenty of snappy dialogue and satisfying character moments. Meanwhile director Whedon never allows you to ponder the film’s logic too closely. After seeming constrained in the disappointing IRON MAN sequel Downey, Jr. is looser here. Likewise Evans finds fun in his square character, perhaps because he’s not required to carry the film. Renner is fine but remains ill at ease as an action hero (see last year’s MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE), and Hemsworth feels oddly shackled in his role. This is not the case, however, with the marvelous Hiddleston, the smoldering Johansson, and the understated Ruffalo, who make each of their comic book characters both relatable and idiosyncratic. But for the final, overblown battle sequence in which much of Manhattan is laid waste, Whedon attains a successful balance between action and character throughout and delivers that which most action directors can only dream – an almost perfect popcorn picture.