Sunday, May 6, 2012
The strengths of The Avengers are a superb cast and a well-written script. These amenities, so often missing in a movie with this surefire a commercial appeal, make this the rare movie that any critic can be happy to see succeed. There’s action and firepower, but also wit and characterization.
All of the leads are talented actors, and it’s great fun just to see them interact with each other. This might be the truest insight Whedon brought to his script. The movie is not jam-packed with action, but instead spreads out the explosions, leaving room for our heroes to come together and, humorously, get on each other’s nerves. Much of the film’s mid-section revolves around the Avengers’ struggle to work together and discover the real reasons for their being summoned.
The biggest star in the Marvel universe is Robert Downey, Jr,, who seems to have as much fun playing Tony Stark as Tony Stark has being Iron Man. In particular, it is great to see Downey’s irreverence come face-to-face with Captain America’s righteousness and virtue. Evans does a remarkable job at making the hokey sentimentality of Steve Rogers seems as though it is coming from a real human being.
The team is filled out by Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Scarlet Johannson as Black Widow, Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye, and Mark Ruffalo as The Hulk. In particular, I thought Ruffalo did a great job depicting the strain of his double life. Johansson and Renner are fine, but I admit to finding their characters a little more incredulous. Okay, maybe Black Widow can escape from a rogue Russian general’s lair, but how much use would she really be against a Norse demigod commanding an alien army? And compared to Thor’s hammer, Iron Man’s suit, and Captain America’s shield, Hawkeye’s near-limitless supply of arrows really don’t seem like much of a threat.
Still, these are minor complaints. As unrealistic as the story might be (these are not grounded in as near a reality as that of Christopher Nolan’s Batman films) the ride is unadulterated fun. Whedon’s script is light on themes or morals (there are some nods toward ideas like sacrifice and the value of freedom, but these are merely window dressing) but is full of great character moments and excellent plotting. A blockbuster well-worth your popcorn money.