Starring Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth & Samuel L. Jackson Directed by Josh Whedon • 142 min., PG-13
If you’re looking to stretch your movie-superhero dollar, here’s some serious blockbuster bang for your cinema buck.
“The Avengers,” the long-anticipated Hollywood coalition of several Marvel Comics do-gooders into one star-packed constellation, lines up Thor, Captain America, Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk and supporting players Hawkeye and Black Widow for a mega-mission to save the Earth from an army of intergalactic marauders.
The “Avengers” buzz has been building in the superhero-verse for several years, but it really grew to a rumble with the rollout of recent movies built around Thor, Captain America and Iron Man, which all funneled into the Avengers storyline.
With only one exception (Mark Ruffalo, the latest actor to portray Dr. Bruce Banner, who morphs into the rampaging Hulk whenever he gets riled), all the key players reprise their roles from previous outings. Robert Downey Jr. returns as Iron Man, the metal-clad, rocket-powered alter ego of billionaire industrialist genius playboy Tony Stark. Chris Hemsworth is Thor, the Norse god of thunder, whose troublemaking, power-hungry stepbrother, Loki (Tim Hiddleston, a terrific villain also back for an encore), orchestrates a takeover of Earth as part of a larger plan of cosmic dominance.
Chris Evans brings back some gung-ho, red-white-and-blue gusto as Captain America, thrust into the modern world via a time warp at the end of his previous World War II-era adventure. Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), a master archer with perfect vision and a quiver of surprises, and the beautiful but deadly Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) didn’t get their own films to seed their “Avengers” roles, but they did whet fans’ appetites with brief appearances in the “Thor” and “Iron Man 2” movies.
The superhero squad is assembled by yet another Marvel Comics character, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), the director of an international agency charged with protecting the planet.
The Avengers don’t start out on harmonious footing. They’re not clear why they’ve been summoned. They’re all strangers when they meet, with differing ideas on what to do and how to do it. Barbs fly, tempers flare, and there’s one super-sized, three-way slugfest that turns a mountaintop forest into wood chips.
The script is clever, bright and tight, with a heartbeat about teamwork, sacrifice and the high price of peace pulsing inside its action-packed, rock-’em, sock-’em shell. Writer/director Josh Whedon does a stupendous job of juggling a big cast, big special effects and the big expectations of a fan base that’s been waiting for years for this movie. They won’t be disappointed.
If big-screen cinema magic spun from comic-book pulp isn’t your thing, there’s probably little about this chunky superhero stew you’ll find seasoned to your taste. But, on the other hand, if your DNA has even a few geeky strands that occasionally enjoy a good, solid, summer strum, this movie will definitely do it---and how.