26. The Avengers (2012)

Director: Joss Whedon

Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Clark Gregg, Cobie Smulders, Stellan Skarsgård

I’d been waiting a long time for this one. Mind you, I’ve never read one issue of the Avengers comic book series. I’m more of an X-Men kind of guy. But that franchise was hijacked by a film studio that didn’t understand what made the X-Men great. My main problem throughout has been that Fox hasn’t respected the characters. When you disrespect the characters, you’re disrespecting the fans. The best efforts they put forth were with “X2: X-Men United” and “X-Men: First Class,” but it’s still not quite the X-Men I came to love. Fortunately, other than X-Men, Spider-Man and a few others, Marvel Studios finally gained control over their own property, and the time had come to set forth on a cinematic gamble that had never been attempted before. The result? “The Avengers” is that superhero movie that Fox is never going to give to me.

One trick that the comics like to pull (to squeeze the most money they can out of the readers) is to set up storylines that crossover from one comic series to another, and then another, and so on. In the span of four years, Marvel Studios pulled a similar trick with their movies, but I forgive them because it made each movie all the more important. The beauty of it is that you don’t necessarily have to have seen the others to enjoy this one (although it helps). “The Avengers” works as a standalone as well as being the sixth in a series. For the record, the others are “Iron Man,” “Iron Man 2,” “Thor” and “Captain America: The First Avenger,” in that order. You can skip 2008’s “The Incredible Hulk” because there’s been a casting change since that movie, and for the better. I love Edward Norton, but Mark Ruffalo is the better man to play Bruce Banner, the human scientist alter-ego of the big green rage monster.

There is very little I can say about Robert Downey Jr. that hasn’t already been said by others. The guy is more perfectly “suited” for his role than any other actor cast as a superhero ever has been. Watch any interview he gives and you’ll see what I mean. It isn’t just that Tony Stark and the Iron Man suit are one. It’s that Downey and the character of Tony Stark are one. That much was evident in his very first scene in 2008’s “Iron Man.” He always seems to have a way of making a joke out of any bad situation, no matter how dire. By the time of 2012’s “The Avengers,” Tony has successfully thwarted the efforts of three villainous characters, but still hasn’t learned how to work with others, and now the threat he has to help vanquish is of extra-terrestrial origin.

One of the great surprises in the cast of “The Avengers” (not so surprising if you’ve already seen “Thor”), is Tom Hiddleston as Loki, the adopted brother of Thor from the realm of Asgard. Hiddleston plays a man whose idea of getting back at his equally godlike brother is to attack and conquer Thor’s other favorite world, Earth. There is a way that Hiddleston can smile that makes you think, “What’s Loki up to now?!” No good, that’s for certain.  Also a lot of fun is Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton, a.k.a. Hawkeye. As Tony Stark so readily quips in one scene, Hawkeye is the Legolas of the group, the one who is so good with a bow and arrow that he never misses his target. He also seems to have a special history with Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) which is only barely touched on amidst all the chaos. Jeremy Renner is also the only member of the main cast to have worked previously with director Joss Whedon.

On top of being the brains behind three of my all-time favorite TV series (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Angel” and “Firefly”), Joss Whedon also has a history as a comic book writer, including “Astonishing X-Men.” When I heard he was tapped to direct “The Avengers,” I was ecstatic. The guy is my idol. I absolutely love his brand of humor that he injects into all of his work. I knew immediately that he better than anyone else was the right fit for this movie, and I can safely say he did not prove me wrong. He’s even been asked back for the “Avengers” sequel, set for a May 2015 release. I’ll be there.

My favorite scene in this movie is the confrontation between the Hulk and Loki during the epic battle at the film’s climax. It’s vintage Joss Whedon, just the sort of thing you’d have seen in any of his TV series. Loki starts speechifying as he does throughout this movie, and then BAM! Suffice it to say, you don’t mess with the Hulk, and you don’t dare insult him.

It’s true that the plot of “The Avengers” is a very simple one. This isn’t “Shakespeare in the Park.” There’s not much resembling a moral that I can see other than that of “When in doubt, work as a team.” But “The Avengers” was never about telling some kind of deep, emotional story. It’s just old-fashioned good over evil… in brightly colored costumes.

  1. Sylvia Williams says:

    Excellent! Love the last line! That sums it up for me, as well!

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