The Avengers lives up to all the hype, embracing the geek in all of us and taking the audience on an incredibly wild ride. Once the action kicks in, The Avengers barely lets up, keeping the adrenaline-pumping, crazy stunts coming at a fast and furious pace.
Writer-director Joss Whedon obviously loves the source material, and those who've grown up reading Marvel Comics are going to love him right back. Whedon's truly earned that love and respect with what he and the Marvel/Disney teams have accomplished by delivering an Avengers film that stands tall as one of the best comic book-inspired movies of all time. In my book, it's better than any of the single hero films that led up to The Avengers.
Whedon did an amazing job of walking that precarious tightrope, balancing without slighting any of the members of the Avengers team. Fans of Thor should be no less satisfied in that character's involvement than fans of Iron Man. Also, those who've questioned the casting of Mark Ruffalo as The Hulk will be walking out of The Avengers as converted true believers.
Immediately after announcing Ruffalo's casting as Bruce Banner/The Hulk, Whedon explained why he chose the actor - who's best known for indie films - as the final piece of The Avengers puzzle:
"To me, I wanted Mark because he connects with you," explained Whedon in our exclusive interview. "He is a guy who you feel that he is you and he reaches out to you in a way that I don't feel the performances as Banner have really done. And this also has to do with the way the narrative works, but I feel I wanted to come at Banner and The Hulk visually from a new place. And I wanted somebody that had the quality that Mark has, which is somebody who has taken hits from life but is not defined by that. He's taken a hit and he stood back up. He's not thinking about himself necessarily. Mark is a very giving guy and actor. When he looks at me on screen I'm like, 'That's me. That's the guy.' And he's like that as a person. And just talking to him about The Hulk I learned so much more about the character of Bruce Banner than I had ever even thought of."
After watching The Avengers, I have to agree Whedon's assessment of Ruffalo is rock solid. He is The Hulk (the best we've seen since Bill Bixby and Lou Ferrigno teamed up back in the 1970s TV series), no doubt about it.
The Avengers finds a demigod from Asgard (Thor, played by Chris Hemsworth), a super soldier (Captain America, played by Chris Evans), a playboy billionaire defense contractor (Iron Man, played by Robert Downey Jr), a scientist who transforms into a massive green monster as the result of gamma radiation (The Hulk, played by Mark Ruffalo), and two super assassins (Black Widow played by Scarlett Johansson and Hawkeye played by Jeremy Renner) reluctantly - and with much in-fighting - teaming up to save the planet. Seems Thor's brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston), has used the Tesseract (a power cube) to open up a portal, enabling him to come to Earth where he plans on bringing in an alien army and forcing humans into submission. And it's going to take S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) with his trusty agent sidekicks Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) and Agent Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) wrangling the superheroes into a cohesive group and combining their talents to save the planet from Loki's diabolical plan.
The Bottom Line:
Whedon did a superhero job of making The Avengers into a must-see blockbuster extravaganza. He gets the absolute best out of his talented cast, with Tom Hiddleston, Robert Downey Jr, and Mark Ruffalo standing out from the pack. Hiddleston steals every scene as the power-hungry Loki, a spoiled brat of a demigod who believes he deserves to rule Earth. And Downey Jr's Tony Stark and Ruffalo's Bruce Banner have some incredibly funny exchanges (these have "from the mind of Joss Whedon" written all over them).
The Avengers is smart and flashy, fast-paced and full of spectacular action sequences. It's a true crowd-pleaser that will leave you anxiously awaiting The Avengers 2.
[Don't forget to stick around through the credits for a bonus scene setting up a possible sequel]
The Avengers was directed by Joss Whedon and is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action throughout, and a mild drug reference.
Theatrical Release: May 4, 2012