Movies: "Marvel The Avengers" | Arts & Culture

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Movies: "Marvel The Avengers"
Movies:  "Marvel The Avengers"


If you’re a fan of Marvel Comics and the great Golden Age team of writer Stan Lee and artist Jack Kirby, I guarantee you’ll enjoy this movie.  If you’re a fan of comic book movies in general, ditto.  If you’ve already seen more than your share of massive explosions, alien invasions and superheroes battling evil (and occasionally each other), maybe not so much.


Me, I’m in the first category, so I got a real kick out of most of “Marvel The Avengers”, whose clunky title apparently is meant to avoid confusion with the wonderfully witty 1960s TV series starring Diana Rigg.


There are three good reasons to like “The Avengers”.  The first one is the large doses of humor injected by director Joss Whedon (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Firefly”, among others) and his co-writer Zak Penn.  The jokes range from Iron Man’s (Robert Downey Jr.) ironic witticisms to a hilarious sucker punch unleashed by The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo, who spends much of the movie in the haunted role of Bruce Banner), and elicit real laughs from the audience.  


Whedon and Penn’s script also delivers swift backstories for all of the Marvel superheroes who team up to battle the wicked Norse god Loki (a terrific Tom Hiddleston), who’s out to subjugate the Earth, now home to his blond opposite, Thor (Chris Hemsworth).  


In order to thwart the invasion, spymaster Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) must round up a posse of heroes, some super, some not so much, including the aforementioned plus Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Captain America (Chris Evans), then get them to stop fighting each other and take on the bad guys.


The second reason to enjoy the movie is its faithful recreation of the great Jack Kirby’s penchant for dreaming up giant machines and busy scenery.  “The Avengers” features all sorts of ginormous objects, including a flying aircraft carrier and alien attack vehicles that look like huge, armored fish.  We’ve all seen one movie version or another of imagined flying machines, robots and such, but this movie really hews close to the original art of those classic comics of the 1960s.


The third reason is the quality of the production itself, including its solid cast.  


Downey is such a natural as Tony Stark, the playboy, inventor and philanthropist who dons a flying suit to become Iron Man.  Chris Hemsworth’s Australian accent works to make his Thor seem otherworldly.  Jeremy Renner, a newcomer to big-budget cinema after his gritty roles in “The Hurt Locker” and “The Town”, is no pretty face but manages to stand his ground with the big name stars.  Samuel L. Jackson is, well, Samuel L. Jackson, whatever the role.  And Hiddleston (“War Horse”) brings Shakespearean style to his wicked Loki.  I should also give props to some good supporting players, including Clark Gregg as secret agent Coulson and Gwyneth Paltrow, on screen briefly as Tony Stark’s love bug.


If there’s one aspect to the movie that drags it down, it has to be the big finale, which lays waste to much of Manhattan.  Enormous CGI battle scenes have been done to death, particularly in the overblown “Transformer” movies, and this one does not look much different.  


I’ll let you decide whether you want to see this one in Imax 3D or not.  I can assure you, everything works just fine in a conventional format.  “The Avengers” is rated PG-13 for its almost non-stop action violence (little of it very bloody, but still).


I give it a B.