Movie Review >> The Avengers : Heroics, Humor, and a Bit of Heart

A few years ago, Iron Man and Iron Man 2 helped reinvigorate both Robert Downey Jr’s career and the comic book superhero genre. Last summer, cinemagoers and comic fans were treated to a surplus of comic book epics, ranging from the very disposable, non-Marvel-ous Green Lantern (don’t know anyone who is clamoring for that sequel) to the hugely entertaining Captain America (Thor falls somewhere in-between). This spring, Marvel fans (and I predict many others) will be able to enjoy a superhero equivalent of The Magnificent Seven with Joss Whedon’s very entertaining The Avengers, only this time it isn’t a poor, hardworking village at stake—it’s nothing less than the entire Earth (by way of New York).

The movie takes a little time getting everyone together after an opening sequence in which the Tesseract (a powerful renewable energy source cube that will—heck, the good guys have it, the bad guys want it) is stolen by the movie’s super-villain Loki (Thor’s bitter brother, played with relish by Tom Hiddleston) who needs it to summon up his alien invaders to conquer the planet. Needless to say, Samuel Jackson’s Nick Fury gets more screen time here, as he has to corral (with the help of Scarlett Johannson’s lethal but loyal Black Widow) the various gifted individuals who comprise The Avengers. Chris Evans’ Captain America is back on board, still trying to come to terms with modern America; Mark Ruffalo’s Dr. Bruce Banner, the New Hulk on the Block, reluctantly agrees to help find the Tesseract while working on his anger-management issues; Downey’s perpetually hip, self-promoting Tony Stark/Iron Man suspects some ulterior motives on the part of Mr. Fury, while Chris Hemsworth’s mighty Thor is nowhere to be found—at least at first…

Though the eventual action sequences involving the Avengers vs. those who threaten the world as we know it are generally well-done-if a little prolonged-the most pleasurable parts come from some hilarious sight gags (mainly involving the Hulk) and the witty interactions between the various personalities, who for the most part, don’t resemble a ragtag band of heroes as much as they do a dysfunctional family: Iron Man razzes Captain America about patriotism and self-sacrifice while testing Dr. Banner’s resolve to be relatively Hulk-free; Thor tries to deal with his evil brother (“he’s adopted”) and his own feelings of guilt over the turn of events; Black Widow prods Loki to find out what he’s really after-while dealing with her own blood-stained past, involving the temporarily “turned” agent Barton (Jeremy Renner in brood mode). And while all the actors turn in solid, professional jobs, one newcomer and one unsung hero steal the show. Mark Ruffalo–as the third Hulk in a decade–lends low-key humor and a touch of gravity to the proceedings as a man resigned to his fate, yet wants to be left alone to do some good-far, far away. Clark Gregg’s erstwhile Agent Colson is the other very human heart of the piece: brave, amusing, vulnerable–and strangely touching in his hero-worship of Captain America and the heroic ideals that drive the Avengers.