Are you one of the unlucky souls who hasn't already been to a screener of "The Avengers" and isn't currently in one of its many midnight showings? Remedy this immediately.
"The Avengers," the multi-hero Marvel epic, has officially hit theaters and it will near-literally blow your mind. Crafted by Joss Whedon ("Buffy," "Firefly," "Serenity," etc.), this is no ordinary comic book hero flick. "Avengers" takes everything that's catchy and visceral about the source material and sculpts it into a sleek and intricately woven film so deftly that even the most hardcore comic book movie haters will have a hard time not giving it their rapt attention.
While it is its own entity, "The Avengers" falls in line with previous Marvel flicks, so those who have kept up with the Hulks, Iron Mans and Thors will find themselves in familiar territory. For the unintiated: "The Avengers" finds Loki (Tom Hiddleston), the adopted brother of Thor, in the midst of waging an intergalactic war on Earth. He's bent on reclaiming the Tesseract (big glowy extra-terrestrial power cube) from the U.S. government, and he's contracted a fiendish alien army to do it.
To stop him, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and S.H.I.E.L.D. assemble Earth's greatest superheroes, the Avengers: Thor (Chris Hemsworth); Iron Man, a.k.a. Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.); The Hulk, a.k.a. Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo, the latest actor to play the big green guy); Black Widow, a.k.a. Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson); Captain America, a.k.a. Steve Rogers (Chris Evans); and Hawkeye, a.k.a. Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner).
If you think that's a list, just wait. Despite having to unite against evil, the sheer size of the Avengers' individual egos and personal agendas puts their roll call to shame. They're all superheroes in their own right, after all; why do they need to team up when they've made it so far solo?
Whedon does a masterful job of capturing their bravado through his double duty as writer and director. There's no doubt audiences will be rolling in the aisles as they all try to match wits -- and punches -- against each other to prove themselves. Although this makes for great action and even more stellar verbal sparring, the real cinematic craftsmanship is behind Whedon's ability to illuminates each hero's frailty. With super powers come super insecurities, and he ties these into the plot seamlessly and organically, giving the film depth without getting sucked into Friday-afterschool-special territory.
If I'm scaring any comic rookies off, don't freak out. The screenplay and plot cover all the necessary background and give each character their time to shine. More than just technical facts, "The Avengers" really works to develop its characters and does so with an artful dexterity that will leave even the most novice of Marvelites with a confident grasp on not just the need-to-know stats, but the heroes' emotions, flaws and motivations -- and all without coming off as forced or hurried.
Because of all this solid groundwork, "The Avengers" feels amped from the very beginning. The story doesn't get bogged down in shiny flashbang effects, and the action flows fluidly and keeps the movie's many characters from getting mired down in the weight of fitting everything in. Once the team gets their act together and finally starts acting like one, this forward motion hits rocket speed. Punches, one-liners and stunning visuals fly a mile a minute, and it's a beautiful thing.
Missing "The Avengers" in theaters wouldn't be a crime since technically not seeing a movie isn't illegal, but it's pretty close. This is an instance where every penny is well spent -- even -- no, especially -- the 3D ones. The camera work is spectacular, and the CGI is captivatingly intense. You're going to want to see this blockbuster in all its glory.
Batman's got one hell of a tough act to follow.
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