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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

‘The Avengers’ assemble in marvelous movie

Published: May 19, 2012
Section: Arts, Etc., Top Stories

Well, I think I love Joss Whedon more than I love my parents and I am not even sure if that is a bad thing. This man gave us “Buffy: the Vampire Slayer,” “Angel,” “Firefly” and “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog” and now he has given us “The Avengers,” based on the Marvel comic books. As a huge Whedon fan, I walked into that theater with very high expectations—he met and exceeded all of them, serving as both director and writer.

“The Avengers” was incredibly fun. The big action scenes were huge, the serious moments were severe and the humorous bits were hysterical. Sometimes action movies make the mistake of having so much action that there is no plot but “The Avengers” had a solid plot and took time to develop it. Basically, the Asgardian god Loki (Tom Hiddleston) comes to Earth to steal a power source called the Tesseract, which he plans to use to bring an alien army to Earth to conquer the planet. A group of uniquely talented people—read: superheroes—are brought together by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) of S.H.I.E.L.D. to overthrow him. It is a simple enough plot, which is why it works so well. The plot never becomes so technical that the viewers are just drumming their fingers waiting for the movie to start again and yet there is enough meat there to sustain a 2.5-hour action movie.

And, while the action scenes were expansive, they never overstayed their welcome; Whedon interspersed the action scenes with witty dialogue. Also, for a superhero fan, seeing Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) get into a tizzy with Thor (Chris Hemsworth) was just amazing. Due to Iron Man’s metal suit, he was an almost fair match for Thor but not quite; what he did not have in power, he made up for in wit. After Thor tells Iron Man that he has no idea what he is dealing with, Iron Man, mocking Thor’s clothing, responds, “Shakespeare in the Park? Doth mother know you weareth her drapes?” This is one of the funniest and most entertaining fight scenes in the movie.

It does not hurt that Downey is a phenomenal actor. The acting in this movie was very strong, featuring Oscar winner Gwyneth Paltrow (Pepper Potts); two-time nominees Downey and Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye); and one-time nominees Jackson and Mark Ruffalo (the Hulk). These actors were great, hitting each line and really bringing these 2D comic-book characters to life; they also carried some of the weaker actors, like Hemsworth and Chris Evans (Captain America). While Evans and Hemsworth were fine in the movie, their acting inadequacies shone brilliantly next to the rest of the all-star cast.

Hiddleston and Scarlett Johansson (Black Widow), while not as big-name as some of their cast-mates, play their parts perfectly. Hiddleston has great charisma and nearly every time he is on screen, all eyes are drawn to him—the one exception being his scene with Johansson, in which she flips through emotions so quickly and expertly that it is slightly dizzying. Having so many main characters in one movie can often damage the final product but Whedon switches between characters well, giving the audience enough time with each for some character development and yet not leaving any by the wayside. It does not hurt that when one leaves Ruffalo, one is going to Downey, both fantastic actors.

One of the reasons that the acting is so powerful is because the movie relies on the actors rather than on cool special effects. While the movie has CGI in it—most notably for the Hulk (who is voiced in Hulk-mode by Lou Ferrigno)—CGI is not overused. If something could be done outside the computer, it was. A lot of superhero movies fall into this trap and come out looking like cartoons, the most obvious being “Green Lantern,” in which Ryan Reynolds looked like he just came off the Lucky Charms cereal box with about as much definition.

One pitfall to this movie is that it expects you to come into the theater with some previous knowledge of the Avengers. Before this movie came out, all the principal characters were in at least one of two Iron Man movies, one Captain America movie, one Thor movie and technically one Hulk movie (although Edward Norton played the titular character, not Ruffalo). While it is not necessary to see these movies beforehand, it is helpful. And, if you really do not want to watch those movies, take a quick look at some comic books just to explain who the characters are. I went with some friends who are unfamiliar with the Avengers and for the first half of the movie, some of them thought Thor and the Hulk were bad guys. Part of this is the movie’s fault for not clarifying, I suppose, but part of it is that the movie assumes the viewer will know that the Hulk did not get his own comic book by being a villain.

Even being slightly confused did not hamper enjoyment of the film, however, as the witty dialogue could be understood by everyone. While some of the inside comic-book jokes certainly went over people’s heads, the outside jokes hit home. A personal favorite is when Thor is trying to defend his step-brother Loki to the Avengers and it gets very heated. Finally, Thor reminds the team that Loki “is of Asgard and he is my brother.” Black Widow retorts: “He killed 80 people in two days.” Without missing a beat, Thor replies, “He’s adopted.”

Another great moment is when everyone is tiptoeing around Bruce Banner (the Hulk when he’s not hulking out) trying not to get him angry because they won’t like him when he’s angry. They are all avoiding saying anything about the Hulk and just focusing on Banner as a scientist when Iron Man says to him: “Dr. Banner, your work is unparalleled. And I’m a huge fan of the way you lose control and turn into an enormous green rage monster.” The look on Ruffalo’s face is priceless.

This finely crafted movie is a boon to comic-book fans everywhere after for the past few years being pelted with superhero movie after superhero movie, most of which were subpar. “The Avengers” raises the bar for superhero movies and for all action movies.