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The Avengers

In 2008 a little movie called Iron Man came out and dazzled us with fun characters, solid storytelling, and exciting set pieces. But the most exciting thing came at the end of the movie, after the credits rolled, when we were treated to a very short scene featuring Samuel L. Jackson and Robert Downey Jr. That scene basically announced one of the craziest and coolest ideas anyone has ever had, a real live superhero team-up movie: The Avengers! And now after five setup movies and just four short years this epic nerdgasm of a film is finally here.

The Avengers begins with Loki (Tom Hiddleston) coming to Earth and stealing the Tesseract (that little blue cube from Captain America) from S.H.I.E.L.D. This is a problem as it contains unlimited power. So Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) calls together Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor, (Chris Hemsworth), the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Black Widow (Scarlet Johansson), and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) to get the Tesseract back and stop Loki from taking over the world with it and his army of mysterious alien warriors. It’s certainly a bare bones plot but that doesn’t matter here, as the characters and their interactions are the real draw; more on that in a minute though.

First let’s talk about why the characters and their interactions are so good: Joss Whedon. Marvel made a fantastic decision when they decided to hire this guy to write and direct their biggest movie yet. Not only is he a consummate nerd but he’s also an incredibly talented filmmaker.

Nearly all of Whedon’s previous work has shown that he is very skilled when it comes to working with an ensemble cast. From Buffy to Angel to Firefly, Whedon knows how to give every character their due (with style to boot) while still telling a good story. Here it’s an invaluable skill as all of these heroes are such large personalities. And Whedon delivers. He really makes every character shine whether they’re kicking ass or just talking to each other. Whether it’s Thor or Cap or even Maria Hill (How I Met Your Mother’s Cobie Smulders) everyone gets to do something fun, exciting, surprising, or just straight up awesome.

Speaking of awesome how about the action scenes! A lot of people including myself have griped about the anti-climactic final battles in most of the Marvel films so far. Whether it was Thor’s truncated fight with the Destroyer Armor, or Tony Stark’s malfunctioning suit, there was never really a solid finish to any of those movies. Not the case with The Avengers as nearly the entire third act is a huge battle between Earth’s Mightiest heroes and Loki’s alien army. Just shot after shot of comic book badassery. There’s also little to no shaky cam or quick cutting. The camera is dynamic and engaging without distracting from what’s on screen (take note Jonathan Liebesman, this is how it’s done). It’s nice to have a director who knows how action should be shot and does it with a passion. You can tell that Whedon is as big a fan as anyone and that he can’t wait to see this movie either.

Now to the cast. Wow. They all have these characters down so well and they’re so awesome. Don’t really need to mention how awesome Downey is because we all know he owns the roll of Tony Stark. Evans continues to play Cap as a bigger boyscout than Superman and Hemsworth continues to make the Thor-speak work while filling out the costume and swinging the hammer in the coolest way possible.

Ruffalo is a wonderful addition as the tortured Bruce Banner. Certainly the most fun any actor has had with the role so far. I’m excited that he’s signed for 6 movies because his world weary but humored take on the character is refreshing after Edward Norton’s fairly bland portrayal.

Hiddleston as Loki is also great again. He’s never not compelling even when he’s wearing his goofy horned helmet. The man needs to be in more films stat.

As for our friends at S.H.I.E.L.D. Jackson is badass as Director Fury, Johansson is more than meets the eye as Black Widow, Renner is definitely underused as Hawkeye, Clark Gregg is at his scene-stealing comedic best as Agent Coulson, and newcomer Smulders is sexy and cool as Maria Hill. Pretty much everyone does a fantastic job both in front of and behind the camera.

The planning and the building of this franchise is, for lack of a better word, a marvel. It has been fascinating to see it unfold over the course of now six films and nearly five years. But the best part is that all the hype and all of the fanfare is completely justified.

The Avengers is a success in every way. It’s already a financial success (it’s made over $600 million worldwide as of this writing) but what’s more important is that it’s a creative success. Marvel did the right thing in letting Joss Whedon do his thing. This movie has real characters with real motivations and personalities while also delivering some of the best action oriented eye candy of recent memory. It’s scary to think about all of the things that could have gone wrong or stopped the film from ever happening. But there it is, as real as the blue sky outside. The Avengers gets a 5 out of 5.

Oh and don’t forget to sit all the way through the credits for this one, there are two extra scenes people. TWO!

The Avengers is playing in both 2D and 3D at most local cinemas including Century Downtown Plaza 7 and Century Stadium 14.

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