Marvel’s The Avengers Directed by Joss Whedon Marvel's hero-worshiping spectacular isn't exactly a religious experience.

Look Back With Anger: DRUNK HULK SAT THROUGH THOR FOR THIS!!??

Fanboys and -girls, the moment has arrived. After sitting through The Hulk, Iron Mans 1 and 2, Captain America, and Thor—especially if you stayed for all those post-credits morsels—you finally get to see your superheroes battle as one in Marvel’s The Avengers, the awkwardly titled Comic Book Movie to End All Comic Book Movies. At least, that is, until its sequel comes out. Which, of course, is teased in another post-credits morsel.

In other words, we’ve invested a lot to get to this point. The years-in-the-making buildup—not to mention the millions the film has already made overseas—means The Avengers is much more than a mere popcorn movie. It’s the apotheosis of years of comic-dweeb object worship.

So, be it Stan Lee or writer/director/Geek-in-Chief Joss Whedon, thank your deity for Iron Man. Tony Stark and his metalheaded alter-ego provide the measure of self-deprecating bite The Avengers needs. Otherwise, you can practically feel the Comic-Con drool holding this hype monstrosity together.

As perfectly played by Robert Downey Jr., Stark is the wiseass of the group. He’s slightly embarrassed by the name. (“Avengers...it’s what we call ourselves,” he explains at one point. “Kind of like a team.”) He tempers the film’s market-calibrated PG-13 rating with a hint of R. (When asking Bruce Banner, aka the Hulk, his secret for staying calm, he supplies his own possibilities: “Mellow jazz? Huge bag of weed?”) And he recognizes the ultimate silliness of their team-up—not to mention the movie itself. (“Dr. Banner, your work is unparalleled. And I’m a huge fan of the way you lose control and turn into an enormous green rage monster.”)

It’s that humor, alas, that’s The Avengers’ strength—not its story nor its action, as really it should be. This is the plot: Loki (Tom Hiddleston), the evil adopted brother of Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and the Norse god of mischief, has traveled from Asgard, basically a realm of cosmic Vikings, to Earth, where his plans are indeed mischievious. (He’s pissed at Thor, god of thunder, for being the strong and mighty chosen son and all.) Loki immediately steals the Tesseract—a box of “unlimited sustainable energy” that was seen last summer in Captain America—from S.H.I.E.L.D., a law-enforcement agency headed by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson). Weapons of mass destruction are mentioned, too, one supposes a possible product of all that energy. (There’s lots of science talk—“prototypes,” etc.—that whizzes by quicker than Banner can lose his shirt.)

So Fury sets in motion what those post-credits teasers called the “Avengers Initiative”—i.e., a bunch of superheroes ready to kick ass and set things right in the world. But Loki gets to one of them first—using some nifty blue-lit spear, he reverses the allegiance of Hawkeye, adding one compromised do-gooder to his alien army.

And so Fury gathers Iron Man, Thor, Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Captain America (Chris Evans), and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson). You’d think their shared superprowess would make them fast friends, but no: Whedon apparently had to pad this 142-minute movie somehow (really?), so way too much of The Avengers consists of good-guy in-fighting. Thor bickers with Iron Man. Iron Man bickers with Captain America. Black Widow seems to bicker with everybody. Hulk bashes Thor. (Anyone who says words like “recompense” in so haughty an accent has it coming.)

The result of all this internal unrest? Battle fatigue—early. Once the film gets to its big showdown—which feels like a good third of the movie—it goes all Transformers on us, with fighting followed by explosions followed by more fighting and more explosions until you’re dizzy and just want someone to win already. (And since we know who’s going to—er, spoiler alert?—could we just fast-forward to that sequel setup?) All the more head-spinning is its negligible but still annoying 3-D, which, it hardly needs to be said by now, dims the view while adding nothing to anything. Don’t waste the extra $5.

And don’t waste your expectations on the large cast. Renner, unfortunately, hardly appears at all. Ruffalo, an odd choice in a line of odd Hulks, is subdued enough to not make an impact either way. Johansson has some sweet action scenes, particularly in one escape sequence involving a nifty bit of tied-to-her-chair combat. Evans and Hemsworth, meanwhile, are mostly there to set up other people’s one-liners and do battle. (Thor does get one good quip: “You people are so petty...and tiny.”) The most actorly of the lot is Downey—who seems to spend more time in a Black Sabbath T-shirt as Stark than a metal suit as Iron Man—though he can do this kind of quipping-arrogantly thing in his sleep.

When the marathon is done, what you’re left with is a decent summer tentpole—not a great or particularly memorable one, and probably not one you’ll want to sit through again. There’s sturm und drang but nothing you’d call a comprehensible narrative; there’s action-figure characterization but barely a real character. Who knew Whedon—the arch, thinky creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer—had so much Michael Bay in him? It’s best summed up by one exchange between Banner and Black Widow: “So this all seems...horrible,” he says. To which she replies: “We’ve seen worse.”

Our Readers Say

This is a crappy review, the Avengers was awesome. You obviously didn't do your research; you don't even have the movie titles right. It should be "The Incredible Hulk", not "The Hulk". That was a different movie, not tied to Avengers.
Not really sure what that guy Jon is getting at, but i totally agree with you. It's not that I think the movie was bad but you really would expect more from a guy like Whedon. A good example is the movie-from-tv Serenity, that movie poops on the avengers in my opinion. I like comic books but i get tired of all these weird people totally obsessed with them and demanding these aspects occur in film adaptions. That's why they're called "adaptations". It's a film makers take on an original concept. Plus i'm fairly certain the studio pushed Whedon go more the micheal bay route so they could feel safe spending their $200 million investment. Sure it paid off but it kinda annoys me they didn't put more narrative into the movie. It was good but far far from great. Could of been alot better.
@Harsh S - I have to agree with Jon, the review is alright but she misses a lot of points on the movie. Banner/Hulk did'nt make much of an impact, WTH is she talking about, Ruffalo's performance was one of the strongest points in the film, the reviewer needs her eyes checked for not reckonozing that. Further more, that 200 million was well spent and the 1.36 billion "The Avengers" has collected so far makes you and this reviewer's complaints non relivant and pointless. Was 'Serenity' a pretty good film yes, is it in the class of "The Avengers", not even close to it's level, this film by far exceeds anything Joss Whedon has ever directed, easily his finest work to date.
A very poor review that reeks of a personal bias that pigeonholes films of the superhero genre as automatically bad.

You don't seem to understand that the expectations for thought-stimulating / cerebral are different from those of the Avengers type.

Snarky, off-putting, stereotypical. I really hope this was just an exercise and not a serious attempt at you reviewing films.
Four word review: The movie was crap.
As a fellow movie reviewer I can understand the tendency to be a little over analytical rather tan just watching a film and enjoying it for what it is, but comparing The Avengers to something a huge cheese ball like Michael Bay would direct is a little far fetched not to mention way off the mark. The thing that differentiates Whedon from someone like Bay is the ability to make a huge action movie flow. I can't even remember how often I had to endure a pause in the action for some cheesy one-line while watching the Transformer movies, and while there are a ton of lines in The Avengers, none of them can hardly be classified as one-liners. The humor moved with the characters and the characters only act as they are written, it's like you were expecting a room full of Alpha personalities to suddenly act like a congregation of Buhddist monks, and when they didn't you threw a tantrum and wrote this terrible review.

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