(director/writer: Joss Whedon; screenwriter: based on a story by Mr. Whedon and Zak Penn/the comic books were created by Stan Lee; cinematographer: Seamus McGarvey; editors: Jeffrey Ford/Lisa Lassek; music: Alan Silvestri; cast: Robert Downey Jr. (Tony Stark/Iron Man), Chris Evans (Steve Rogers/Captain America), Mark Ruffalo (Bruce Banner/the Hulk), Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Scarlett Johansson (Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow), Jeremy Renner (Clint Barton/Hawkeye), Tom Hiddleston (Loki), Stellan Skarsgard (Professor Erik Selvig), Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury), Clark Gregg (Agent Phil Coulson), Cobie Smulders (Agent Maria Hill), Gwyneth Paltrow (Pepper Potts); Runtime: 142; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producer: Kevin Feige; Marvel Studios and Paramount Pictures; 2012)


“Filled with fanboy-wank.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Joss Whedon (“Serenity” and the Buffy the Vampire Slayer series on TV)directs and writes this cash cow blockbuster that’s specially made to order for those who can’t get enough from reading about comic-book superheros and need to see them on the big screen. It’s a lengthy, cynical, giddy, and at times a tedious and familiar save the world tale requiring the outcast superhero Avengers to fight the bad guys, an army of outer-space warriors, on the streets and skyline of downtown Manhattan in a large-scale climax battle. The story is by Mr. Whedon and Zak Penn. It’s filled with fanboy-wank, yet it has things that non-fans might also enjoy such as snappy banter, bigger-than-life CGI effects and thrill-ride escapist heroics.

The red caped Thor’s (Chris Hemsworth) adopted brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is the film’s villain. Loki craves god-like power and comes to Earth from the alien planet of Asgard armed with a bad rep as an asshole and a special spear and a magic helmet to get that power which will enable him to rule the world–that is, the Tesseract, a cosmic blue cube that’s the source of unlimited sustainable energy and is a portal to outer space. The invaluable cube was discovered on the ocean’s bottom and placed for safekeeping in the security-tight confines of the international peace-keeping agency known as S.H.I.E.L.D, where it’s stolen by Loki. The eye-patched director of the agency, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), a man of many devious secrets and shady motives, overrules his board of director bosses on how to get the Tesserat back, as he refuses to use nuclear force fearing it will do tremendous damage to the civilian population. Instead Fury calls on The Avengers, a group of spandex costumed freaks with unusual powers and strange life stories, to meet with him on his giant high-tech airship and plan the counter-attack.

The Avengers called to action from places around the world are: wise guy playboy genius narcissistic billionaire Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.); old-fashioned straight-laced not up to speed on techie things W.W. II hero Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans); the all-powerful hammer-wielding Nordic god Thor (Chris Hemsworth); the red-headed covert agent strutting around in a black bodysuit, Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson); the archer assassin Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner); and the always angry but repentant scientist Bruce Banner/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo).

Other prominent cast members include Gwyneth Paltrow as Stark’s assistant and girlfriend Pepper Potts; Stellan Skarsgard as the brainwashed by Loki energy expert, Professor Erik Selvig; Clark Gregg and Cobie Smulders as S.H.I.E.L.D. Agents Phil Colson and Maria Hill.

The enormous hype for this superhero extravaganza doesn’t prevent the predictable action-pic from delivering the comic book goods and leaving the viewer with a great film experience. It provides a comic book friendly film that will surely please its geek fan base and reach out to a mass audience that can get off on the eye-popping 3D visuals, the charm of its characters and the fantasy action special effects. It aims to please with proven formulaic fare, taking no chances to disappoint its fan base. The result is not a particularly interesting film, but mass audiences like such simplistic hyper entertainment; especially, if the production values are high. Whedon and his creative team have done an excellent job bringing all these diverse superheroes together into a cohesive picture and they also make the already familiar still seem fresh. What’s more, the director gets a brilliant Hulk characterization from Ruffalo’s ability to channel his ordinary man inner rage into a force that transforms him into a deadly monster.