How many superheroes does it take to save the world from extraterrestrial forces?
In any other superhero movie, it would take just one. In The Avengers, it takes six. Is the threat that much greater? Perhaps. But the spectacle (and it is a gigantic one) is entertaining all the same.
Loki wants to rule the world and with the help of an alien army, he just might be able to. The movie opens to an explosive and action-packed sequence in which Loki (brother of Thor, the God of lightning and one of our heroes) steals the Tesseract, a self-sustaining energy source that doubles as a portal to other galaxies, from S.H.I.E.L.D., a military organization that protects the Earth from parahuman security threats. The chase out of S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters is non-stop destruction, the first of many scenes where stuff (actually, make that EVERYTHING) blows up.
S.H.I.E.L.D. needs the Tesseract back, so Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) enlists the help of the people he has been recruiting after the credits of almost every Marvel movie released in the last five years. Enter (take a deep breath) Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, The Hulk, Black Widow and Hawkeye (Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson and Jeremy Renner, respectively).
The sextet has a wide range of skills and backstories, but given that four of the six have headlined six movies in the last decade (two Iron Man films (2008 and 2010), two Hulk films (Eric Bana starred in Ang Lee’s Hulk in 2003, and Edward Norton in 2008’s The Incredible Hulk,) Captain America: The First Avenger and Thor, both from the summer of 2011), there are no origin stories for them here. And none are needed. A totally clueless moviegoer can watch The Avengers and “get” what the characters are supposed to be about.
The Avengers is an origin story for the group itself. The movie is perfectly set-up for a long series of sequels (be sure to stick around after the credits for this one, too.) And given that the movie grossed $18.7 million* in midnight screenings in North America alone, I don’t think we should be surprised if The Avengers 2 through 9 get greenlit within a week. Iron Man 3 is already slated for May 2013, Mark Ruffalo signed on to play the Hulk in six films, Thor 2 is due out in November 2013, and a second instalment of Captain America is slated for 2014. (*Update: The film grossed $80.5 million in its first day of release)
But with any ensemble comes a standout, and Downey’s witty quips as Tony Stark were it, an easy feat considering Downey, who has had the most screen time as his character, was acting circles around his castmates. The film runs 142 minutes and wastes some time with the question of will-they-or-won’t-they trust each other enough to work together as the Avengers. While I thought most of the effects were truly spectacular and the stunts amazing, there were two instances of CGI that I thought could be a lot better: one was a helicopter crash that looked better in Die Hard 3; the other was a scene involving civilians running away from a domino of exploding cars and taxis in New York City. It hardly takes away from the movie’s fun, but for those moments, I remembered that the movie was based on a series of comic books. It’s cartoony and it’s surreal. And that’s okay.
The Avengers is brainless, but it isn’t dumb. The sextet are superheroes doing super things to save the world from a super villain. Exaggeration comes in high doses, but the Avengers manage to retain most of their relatability and humanness, even though one of them is a God.
Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, other amazing nerdy things) directed The Avengers and co-wrote the screenplay with Zak Penn: while it is questionable how much leeway Whedon had with the material (since so much was at stake), he definitely proves that he can direct mainstream films with gusto.
The Avengers is a superhero movie, plain and simple, and it’s a damn fine one that kicks off blockbuster season with an endless barrage of bangs.
Watch the trailer and some scenes from the movie below: