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Avengers Review

Surprisingly, The Avengers doesn’t suck. I know, I know. It’s made eleventy billion dollars in theaters so far, but James Cameron’s tree-hugging crapfest Avatar made a killing too, so that’s usually no indication of artistic merit. Admittedly, I knew almost nothing of the Avengers going into the movie, other than being disappointed that it didn’t feature Uma Thurman in a leather catsuit (wrong Avengers, it turns out). Instead we get Scarlett Johansson in a skintight catsuit, which is actually an upgrade (despite the lack of leather).

Hot Avenger in bad movie

Hot Avenger in good movie

Disney had been building up to The Avengers for years by introducing each character in their own god-awful movie. Given the standard formula that the more characters are in a superhero movie, the more it sucks, it was a bad omen to see 7 comic heroes on the movie poster. I was wrong to doubt Joss Whedon, though.

Whedon’s script is as devoted to character development and drama as to blowing things up. His trademark nuance made the film more than the sum of its parts. Sure, pretty much all of Manhattan is destroyed by a creepy alien race, but my favorite scenes are of Natasha Romanoff’s manipulation during reverse-interrogations and Tony Stark’s smarmy toying with Bruce Banner.

As expected, the dialogue is razor sharp. There is a lot of Whedon-esque humor as well. The best line came from Thor. After the others criticize Loki, Thor does the honorable thing and stands up for him, defiantly stating “he’s my brother.” Black Widow then reminds him that Loki has “killed 80 people in two days.” “He’s adopted,” Thor deadpans.

The plot, though comic booky, is realistic enough. It centers on a green energy project almost destroying the world. The Tesseract is kind of like Ethanol/algae/whatever the green savior of the month is, except the Tesseract is an alternative energy source that actually works. Loki uses it to open a portal to another dimension so some creepy aliens can come in, conquer the world, and make Loki king.

Ruffalo and Downey Jr.

A lot of stuff was blown up, but unlike a Michael Bay movie, the explosions aren’t what’s important; it is the characters. My love for Scarlett Johansson was renewed, not just because she looks great in formfitting clothes, but also for her ability to give great depth to the intriguing character of the former Russian spy. Mark Ruffalo shines as Bruce Banner, a scientist out of his league and uncomfortable surrounded by spies and superheroes, just as he’s uncomfortable with the big green guy that he can become. Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye seems pretty much like The Walking Dead’s Daryl Dixon, here picking off aliens with his bow rather than zombies. Captain America is a somewhat boring character, but that’s not Whedon’s fault. It’s because he’s a steroid-user who dresses like a flag and throws a shield at people. Not much you can do with that.

Perhaps the most sympathetic character, though, is of Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg), the idealistic agent who serves as the group’s Jiminy Cricket. He believes in the Avengers even when they don’t believe in themselves, carries Captain America trading cards, and serves as the example of everything the team is fighting for against the likes of Loki.

When the team arrives, no one cares about any greater cause. Whether there out of coercion or to clean the red off a ledger, they are all there for personal reasons. Through the wide-eyed idealism of Coulson and the manipulative nudging of Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), they become a team, eager to take on the apocalypse against seemingly impossible odds. By the time the dust settles, most of New York is rubble, and Iron Man has ruined his second suit, each character has grown, whether it’s accepting their dark side, taking responsibility for the group, or the willingness to sacrifice their own lives for the greater good. The character arcs are unexpected in comic book blockbusters, but common to Joss Whedon, which is why Whedon needs to continue the series (or bring back Firefly; I’m flexible there).

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