By Bob Garver
Superhero fans have been waiting for “The Avengers” since “Iron Man” in 2008. Since then, all the films featuring Avengers have included hints and references to the characters’ upcoming collaboration. Some say what we’ve gotten is four years of commercials. I say it’s been four years of building anticipation. The problem is that the film now has to deliver on four years’ worth of hype. It’s an okay blockbuster, but the bar is set so high that it can’t help but be disappointing.
The film represents a landmark team-up by six heroes of the Marvel Comics universe. Four have already starred in their own movies: Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain America (Chris Evans), and The Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo, replacing Edward Norton from the 2008 film, who himself replaced Eric Bana from the 2003 film). Two have only had cameos in the other films: Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) from “Iron Man 2” and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) from “Thor”. The team is brought together by an organization called S.H.I.E.L.D. led by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), the man who first let us know that there would even be an Avengers movie. And yes, the dull but dependable Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) is along for the ride too. The guy grows on you.
The main villain is Loki (Tom Hiddleston), the no-good adopted brother of Thor. He wants to do bad things to the planet where his brother found love, as well as steal a powerful relic called a Tesseract for an unseen master. He has the formidable power to instantly enslave people with a gentle tap of his staff, a power he woefully underuses. He’s good at scheming, but his demeanor isn’t imposing. I would have preferred Hugo Weaving’s Tesseract-obsessed Nazi scientist from “Captain America”, but at least it’s fun to see the weasely Loki take physical abuse, especially at the hands of The Incredible Hulk.
Half of the film consists of the Avengers arguing with each other. Iron Man is as brash as ever, Thor thinks he’s above the others because he comes from a different dimension, Captain America can’t stand ego of any kind, Black Widow is hiding secrets about S.H.I.E.L.D. and Bruce Banner (The Incredible Hulk) is actually quite agreeable… unless of course someone makes him angry, in which case he’s a danger to the entire world. A few of the quips at each other’s expense are funny, but the dissention lasts too long. We know The Avengers are going to have to learn to work together, the film doesn’t need to waste time belaboring the point.
The other half of the film is action sequences, especially a long one toward the end where Loki’s army of aliens is destroying Manhattan and The Avengers have to stop them. It’s actually pretty standard for a comic book action movie, the only thing that struck me as unusual was how easy it was for our heroes to defeat Loki’s minions. We’re supposed to believe that without The Avengers these creatures would enslave the planet. Even without The Avengers, they couldn’t enslave a Dairy Queen.
I love the idea of a comic book crossover movie, but “The Avengers” is too predictable. It doesn’t help that the advertising and publicity for the film has already given a lot away. We’re supposed to be so excited to see all The Avengers together in one place that we don’t care that the story is uninspired.
Two and a Half Stars out of Five.
Wait, don’t stop reading now! There are two post-credit sequences in the film. The first reveals the villain for the next film, a character unfamiliar to me. The second, at the very end of the credits, is terrific. It is as awkward as it is brilliant. The scene alone is why I give the film Two and a Half Stars instead of just two.
“The Avengers” is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action throughout, and a mild drug reference. Its running time is 142 minutes.