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Movie Review: The Avengers (2012)
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Avengers movie posterThe Avengers
Directed by Joss Whedon
Written by Joss Whedon and Zak Penn
Starring Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston, Clark Gregg, Cobie Smulders, Stellan Skarsgård, Gwyneth Paltrow and Samuel L. Jackson
Marvel Studios/Paramount Pictures
Release Date: May 4, 2012

“And there came a day, a day unlike any other, when Earth’s mightiest heroes were united against a common threat! On that day The Avengers were born — to fight foes no single hero could withstand!”

Scenario: 27-year-old Adam Frazier (aka Famous Monster) gains access to a time machine and travels back to 1990, where a 6-year-old Adam is lying on the floor playing with his collection of ToyBiz Marvel Superheroes (complete with carrying case).

Thor, Captain America, Iron Man, and the Incredible Hulk have been forced to put aside their differences and work together to defeat the devastating (and educated) tag-team of Dr. Doom and Dr. Octopus, who are attempting to take over my mother’s kitchen – a strategic move that will no doubt leave scuff marks on the linoleum floor.

There’s a brief electrical storm in the kitchen and I emerge from a ball of light. Six-year-old Adam asks the obvious question, “Are you from the future?” to which I reply, “Yes. Before you freak out, they make more Star Wars movies – but they suck. Let’s not talk about it.”

“The reason I’m here is to prepare you. I’ve taken a great risk in coming back, but you must stay alive to see the year 2012 – for 22 years from now, you will visit a movie theater and see all of your favorite superheroes in one movie, teaming up to fight the forces of evil!”

Six-year-old Adam Frazier instantly explodes into a chaotic whirlwind of tears, confetti, and tattered shreds of blood-soaked Ninja Turtles pajamas, causing 27-year-old Famous Monster to fade away from existence Back to the Future style. That’s the power of nostalgia – the power of childhood – and ultimately, the power of The Avengers.

The Avengers Assemble

Written and directed by Joss Whedon (Buffy The Vampire Slayer), The Avengers features an ensemble cast including Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston, and Samuel L. Jackson.

Nick Fury (Jackson), the eye-patched director of the super-secret government organization S.H.I.E.L.D., recruits Iron Man (Downey Jr.), the Incredible Hulk (Ruffalo), Thor (Hemsworth), and Captain America (Evans) to save the world from Thor’s mischievous brother, Loki (Hiddleston).

The squad teams up with S.H.I.E.L.D Agents Coulson (Gregg), Maria Hill (Smulders) and spy-assassins Hawkeye (Renner) and Black Widow (Johansson) to bring down the Asgardian god and his army of otherworldly foes.

In other words, the greatest fucking childhood fever dream ever come to fruition. The Avengers is the culmination of Marvel Studio’s four-year plan to take over the world with the steady release of Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor, and Captain America: The First Avenger.

Whedon’s masterwork cleverly weaves the mythology of those films into an exciting 142-minute workshop in sensory overload. Loki seizes control of the Tesseract, Red Skull’s Cosmic Cube from Captain America: The First Avenger. Thor’s celestial sibling intends to use the artifact to open a portal to another realm, unleashing an army of malevolent beings to conquer Earth.

The Avengers Iron Man and Captain America

S.H.I.E.L.D agents are dispatched to recruit Earth’s mightiest heroes, but not all of them are keen are joining the fight. Tony Stark (Iron Man) is fastidious in his endeavors to make Stark Tower a self-sustaining beacon of clean energy, while Thor is dealing with Frost Giants and unspeakable beasts in the realm of Asgard.

Dr. Bruce Banner — aka The Hulk — (Ruffalo) is in Calcutta, on the run from General “Thunderbolt” Ross and the United States government. And then there’s Steve Rogers, the super-soldier known as Captain America. Rogers is a man lost in time, out of place in a country that no longer resembles the one he once fought for.

Once the team is assembled on S.H.I.E.L.D’s Helicarrier, contradicting philosophies and colossal egos collide. These guys don’t play nicely with others. Luckily, Whedon spends the first half of the film exploring each character and their conflicts, it’s like a superhero therapy session.

You can expect to see a lot of in-fighting amongst the team, with Iron Man and Captain America trading intellectual blows while Hulk and Thor test each other’s physical might.

The Avengers represents the perfect fusion of an intelligent, witty script, and an ensemble cast with more chemistry than a meth lab. Every character is pitch-perfect, every actor is at the top of their game. Whedon has an ardent love and intimate understanding of the source material and injects the story with his signature humor and sensitivity.

Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans completely dissolve into their roles. While the fictional egos of Tony Stark and Steve Rogers smash and bang against each other, we’re witness to the work of two actors fighting for the spotlight – and the competition among them only fuels the friction of the team’s dynamic.

The Avengers Hulk Smash

Ruffalo is the best Bruce Banner since Bill Bixby. In 2008′s The Incredible Hulk, Edward Norton’s Banner isn’t that captivating – he’s just your average scientist. You’re just waiting for someone to piss him off so he can turn into a green rage monster and smash things.

In The Avengers, Bruce Banner’s brilliant mind is needed to unravel the mystery of Loki’s portal, and he works together with billionaire playboy philanthropist Tony Stark to crack the case.

And when Banner unleashes “the other guy,” it truly is incredible. This Hulk (voiced by the original Hulk, Lou Ferrigno) is the one you’ve always wanted to see – uncontrollable and insanely powerful. He is a threat to everyone and everything around him, and he refuses to be bullied by puny space aliens and their serpentine warships.

Everyone gets their moment to shine, and with Whedon’s background in writing strong, female characters (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow steals more than a few scenes with her level-headed, deadly approach.

The Avengers Black Widow

Renner’s Hawkeye is an icy, uncanny assassin with a bloody past – a character who I hope is explored in the inevitable sequel or S.H.I.E.L.D spinoff. And what can you say about Samuel L. Jackson? The man IS Nick Fury – an enigmatic, grizzled figurehead with an agenda. Oh, and he yells a lot too.

If you’ve followed Marvel Studios’ films for the past four years, then The Avengers will make your heart explode with sticky-sweet nostalgia and air-punching affection. It is the most exciting, entertaining film of 2012.

Sure, it won’t win any BAFTA awards or be held in the same esteem as Christopher Nolan’s highbrowed Dark Knight saga, but The Avengers is pure movie magic – the most fun you’ll have at the multiplex this year.

For 142 minutes, I didn’t need a time machine to visit my 6-year-old self. I became a little kid again, in awe at the flickering images on the screen, captivated by childhood fantasies fulfilled on celluloid. For a comic book kid turned movie geek, The Avengers made me misty-eyed for a time when my only responsibilities were playing and dreaming.

Thank you, Joss Whedon. Thank you.

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