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The Avengers - The movie mashup 4 years in the making ... and the wait was all worth it!
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I'll be frank. I've enjoyed the Marvel movies to very different degrees. Overall, I like each of them. But some were definitely weaker than others.
The Iron Man movies have a very charismatic lead and some fun action.
The Incredible Hulk is a dramatic improvement over its Ang Lee predecessor, but the story is pretty basic. The action is still fun, though.
Thor had some very outlandish imagery but the story is oh so bare bones. The action is competent and it comes together well enough.
Captain America: The First Avenger is very flag-wavingly patriotic and displays the triumph of the human spirit. But most of the characters are quite one-note. Still, it's fun.
But all of them seriously rose above Green Lantern.
And then there's The Avengers.
But first the plot:
Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) is running a research team that is investigating a piece of alien technology that was recovered during the events of Captain America. Quite literally out of nowhere, Loki (Tom Hiddleston) shows up and absconds with it. (I believe "absconds with" is Latin for "has scones with" or something.)
Anyway, Fury sends an order and has his people call other people, yadda yadda yadda and so the A-Team of superheros shows up.
(It's more involved than that, but you don't need to know all the details right now, so please stop bugging me about it.)
Oh, and don't forget the quiet yet stoic Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg).
Anyway, if you've seen any of the trailers and promotional material, you can already guess that the team doesn't exactly gel right off the bat. I mean, each of these heroes (with the exception of Jeremy Renner's Hawkeye and Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow) have already been given their own staring roles in their own movies. And now they have to play second fiddle to ... to "avenging", basically. Whatever that means.
Captain America (Chris Evans) is a flag-waving do-what-you're-told soldier. Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) is, in his own words, a "genius billionaire playboy philanthropist" whose alphabet starts at 'I' and sometimes doesn't quite get as far as 'U'. Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) is in self-imposed exile while his Mister Hyde is always lurking in the wings to over-power Dr. Jekyll. And Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is the freaking God of Thunder. How do you follow that? (Sorry for my freaking language.)
Thor - "Hey! They told me this was going to be Thor 2!"
Captain America - "Get real, Mr. Norse Renaissance Fair, and let the original patriot show you what a real franchise sequel looks like."
Iron Man - "Yeah, what would you know about it, Sleeping Snow White? In case you haven't noticed, they're already working on a little movie called Iron Man 3, so if you'd step aside and let a real franchise get moving I may just let you be my sidekick's sidekick."
"Hulk get pounding headache listening to you yapping!"
Director/screenwriter/fanboy Joss Whedon knows exactly what to do to make the team come together firmly yet believably: Let them beat each other up. Like a group of small boys who just can't stop from punching each other in the arm. Or giving noogies. Or calling down the power of thunder and throwing a lightning bolt at your little brother. Ah, boys will be boys. And never men if they keep that kind of thing up.
But it works.
The story itself is rather basic. Not thin and not completely predictable. Just basic. But let's be honest. You're not going to go to The Avengers expecting Inception. (No. We're saving that expectation for The Dark Knight Rises.) What we want here, and what this movie delivers in big steaming heaping piles, are good, fun, exciting action, and great character moments.
The action is wonderful, and Joss Whedon always delivers on character moments. But the great thing here is that we are able to get both at the same time.
I'll just say that there were two moments in particular with the Hulk (one between him and Thor, and one with Loki) that stand out in my head as I write this review. (After the one with Loki, I laughed so hard I actually got a little light-headed.)
In the end, The Avengers is very much more than the sum of its parts. As great as some of those parts are, this one stands head and shoulders above the rest.
Sorry Shane Black. I'm afraid the bar just shot way up there for your Iron Man 3. Let's hope you're up to the challenge.
But what do you think?
For me, this one gets a 9 / 10.
The Avengers is rated PG-13 for plenty of sci-fi violence and action, plus a mild drug reference.