Review by Pete Mason
There could not have been a better way to start off the 2012 summer movie season than with a powerhouse film like “The Avengers,” the long-awaited assemblage of comic book heroes and misfits Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, the Hulk, Black Widow and Hawkeye. Their individual movies (all but the latter two), reboots (“The Hulk”) and sequels (“Iron Man 2″) have been a billion dollar-plus franchise, and this movie looks to blow them out of the water. Combining four of the greatest comic book characters of all time in one movie is not an easy feat. The personalities should clash, overshadow each other, and someone would surely hog the screen – but not in this movie. Well balanced between characters, it would be hard to say who had the most screentime among all, thanks to director Joss Whedon who completely blew away even the highest of expectations with a non-stop film that sets the bar very, very high for the rest of the summer.
I caught the very first public screening of the film at Crossgates in IMAX 3D at 12:01am on Friday, May 4. Arriving early, JC from Earth World Comics in Albany brought out a pair of gorgeous girls dressed as Black Widow and Ms. Marvel to give the fan boys and girls a little something extra, plus some swag and photo ops, as well as to promote Free Comic Book Day on Saturday (May 5). Fans dressed accordingly, with Hulks, Nick Furys, Tony Starks and one solid Thor in the audience. This was Christmas and New Year’s for the geeks, and not a moment was lost in the theater. Regular viewing of the film may not have such a vibrant audience, but this was certainly a special occasion. When the biggest movie of a franchise – or really, a long-awaited combination of multiple franchises – starts the summer, a celebration is in order.
The film finds the earth in peril from Loki (Tom Hiddleston), the Norse God of Mischief who is set to make earth and its inhabitants his to rule over. He sets out to locate and harness the power of the Tesseract and bring an army from another world to earth. That part is presented early on but the true plot lies in how to stop this threat. We meet Captain America (Chris Evans), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) early in the film, with Thor (Chris Helmsworth) and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) showing up shortly thereafter.
As individuals, they are all possessed with certain powers, but together, they clash physically and with personalities. Once they are able to work as a team under the direction of Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg), they do so with efficiency, and it is nearly impossible not to feel brought into the movie and cheering the team on as if you are on the streets of a besieged New York City.
With nearly non-stop action throughout the entire film (there is very little downtime and filler) the story proceeds at an almost auto-catalytic pace. The effects throughout the film are quite possibly the best ever to be on the big screen, detailed and more realistic than anything before (including “Avatar”). In the biggest of the scenes, you are blown back into your seat with the realistic effects, and it is truly a treat for the eyes and ears; even the sound is top notch and incredible with each explosion and punch.
The true highlight of this film though, is the Hulk. When Bruce Banner finally unleashes the beast within, the Hulk arises and is finally proportionate, accurate and realistic. The previous two films had missed the mark, but we finally have our one true Hulk. His larger-than-life presence will astound you and lead to some of the best action and laughs in the film, sometimes both at once. By far, the loudest cheers came from the aftermath of Captain America instructing everyone for a plan of attack and capping it off with “Hulk… Smash.”
For auteurs, there is a literal deus ex machina in this film, a true treat if you can catch it, as well as a subtle “Lord of the Rings” reference that had a theater full of comic book geeks (myself included) roaring in laughter. I highly recommend kicking the summer off and seeing “The Avengers,” whether you enjoy comic book films or not. This movie is made for the movie-goer first and the comic book reader second, although if you stay past the credits, there’s a scene for the latter as well. IMAX 3D was made for this kind of film, but regular 3D will suffice and provide you with the best possible enjoyment of a simply fantastic and amazing film.
“The Avengers” is rated PG-13 for violence. Running time is 2 hours and 22 minutes, and the film is playing at seemingly every movie theater in the Capital Region.