Thursday Night Movie Club
The Avengers
star rating graphicstar rating graphicstar rating graphic½
Release Date: 4 May 2012

Director: Joss Whedon
Robert Downey Jr.
Chris Evans
Mark Ruffalo
Chris Hemsworth
Scarlett Johansson
Jeremy Renner
Tom Hiddleston
Clark Gregg
Cobie Smulders
Stellan Skarsgård
Samuel L. Jackson
Gwyneth Paltrow
Paul Bettany
Alexis Denisof
Tina Benko
Tony Stark / Iron Man
Steve Rogers / Captain America
Bruce Banner / The Hulk
Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow
Clint Barton / Hawkeye
Agent Phil Coulson
Agent Maria Hill
Nick Fury
Pepper Potts
Jarvis (voice)
The Other
NASA Scientist
The Avengers movie poster #1 The Avengers movie poster #2 The Avengers movie poster #3
The AvengersRack up another triumph for writer/director Joss Whedon (Serenity). For The Avengers, Whedon has the enviable task of bringing together six of Marvel Comics superheroes and crafting a story in which all the characters have a pivotal role. He succeeds with one of the best summer comic book movies in a long while. Marvel comic movies have never been dark like the Batman trilogy, but they are a lot of fun. Our heroes take a beating but keep on ticking.

A mysterious cube known as the Tesserat has become active at a remote S.H.I.E.L.D. research facility. The cube seems to be creating a bridge in space. Director Nick Fury's (Jackson) worst nightmares are realized when Loki (Hiddleston), Thor's estranged "brother" from Asgard appears. Loki cannot be stopped. He also has some tricks up his sleeve. His staff has the ability to control mindes. Several technicians and superhero Hawkeye (Renner) are "coerced" into helping Loki steal the Tesserat. What Loki's ultimate goal is remains a mystery.

Agent Fury has planned for this possible scenario. Ever since Thor first arrived on Earth, Fury has come to realize that we are not alone and that there are some very powerful beings in the universe. The Avengers Initiative will team all of the various super heroes on Earth into fighting unit that will protect the planet. The superheroes are not so eager to drop their individualizm and become team players. First on the agenda is to get all of them together in the same room.

Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow in The AvengersNatasha Romanoff aka Black Widow (Johansson) is first to be recruited. Black Widow is a super spy. She appears to have no special super powers. Johansson in black leather is right up there on every male's fanstasy list with Kate Beckinsale. Appearances can be deceiving. This early sequence is a harbinger of what is yet to come. It also showcases writer/director Whedon's talents. He writes wonderfully clever dialogue but the dialogue only works with the right directing of the actors. Johansson plays the scene straight to comic delight. Black Widow is in Russia and has been captured and now faces a grueling, violent interogation. Right in the middle of the interogation, her phone rings. Agent Coulson (Gregg) calls her on the phone. He orders her to drop everything and come in immediately. Black Widow is furious. She is in the middle of an interrogation. She has been subtly playing the bad guys into "spilling the beans". Only when the scene ends does the audience realize they have been duped by Black Widow's charms. An appropriate nickname, to say the least.

Black Widow gets the "fun" assignment: using her incomperable charms to recruit Dr. Bruce Banner, aka The Hulk (Ruffalo). She easily locates Banner in Asia and tricks him to a remote cabin. She explains that S.H.I.E.L.D. has been keeping track of Banner's whereabouts and actually helping him remain annonymous to other authorities looking for him. Black Widow is alone asking Banner to come quietly. She makes it plain that one way or another, he will be coming! When Banner agrees, Black Widow calls of the troops who have surrounded the cabin. This is just another example of Whedon's sense of humor and the subtle ways he carries them out.

Tim Hiddleston as Loki in The AvengersOne final example of Whedon's subtle turn of a phrase comes after Loki has been captured by Iron-Man (Downey Jr.) and Captain America (Evans). During the flight back to S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters, the jet is surrounded by loud lightning flashes. Loki cringes. Iron-Man sarcastically asks if Loki is afraid of a little lightning. Loki replies, "I'm afraid of what comes next." What comes next is the reappearnce of Thor, the God of Thunder (Hemsworth). With Whedon's pacing, the verbal line means nothing until Thor appears in the back of the jet. Then Loki's line becomes funny! The Avengers is loaded with similar sequences. If you don't laugh during this movie, you have become a Twilolight and lost your thumbs.

With several main characters as well as a complicated story line involving Loki and an unknown being from the cosmos to deal with, Whedon achieves the impossible. He keeps the story fresh, plenty of action sequences and most importantly, character development of the super heroes both in and out of costume. Whedon drops hints of Loki's plan: an invasion of Earth, but exactly what the invading horde is remains a mystery until the attack commences. Give the audience what they want, just don't do it all at once. The pacing is excellent for the material.Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark in The Avengers

Robert Downey Jr. gives another wonderful performance as Tony Stark/Iron-Man. He slings barbs and insults at Dr. Banner hoping he will erupt in rage and transform into the Hulk. Stark finds this amusing, Fury, not so much. When Banner is the only one in the room who speaks "English", in other words, understands the scientific mumbo-jumbo Stark spews forth, Stark begins to respect Banner for his scientific mind. Banner had been working on a way of duplicating the research that resulted in the creation of Captain America, with disasterous results. Maybe not so disasterous...

Tim Hiddleston as Loki in The AvengersTim Hiddleston is even better this time around as the villain Loki. Loki has a score to settle with Thor and his adopted planet Earth after his defeat. Humans will suffer his wrath. Hiddleton plays Loki with charm and elegance one scene, pure loathing next, and slyly conning in others. Loki is captured by Iron-Man and Captain America. Why does his capture set off Fury's radar. Hiddleston portrays so many elements of Loki. What is true, what is a lie and what is in the gray area are on full display. The audience never knows if Loki is on the level with anything he says or does. Thanks to Hiddleston, Loki is one badass you love to hate. Everything is coming up roses for Loki until... well, until Hulk smash!

Colby Smuthers and Clark Gregg in The AvengersWhedon gets another element right in this interstellar, colossal epic. Super heroes aren't the only heroes in existence. Mere mortals can and do rise to the challenge. Agent Phil Coulson, Agent Maria Hill (Smulders), and Dr. Selvig (Skarsgård) all have important roles to play. Coulson's sacrifice is effective in uniting the Avengers. Agent Hill carries out Fury's orders to the S.H.I.E.L.D. troops. Dr. Selvig is coerced into helping Loki open up the space bridge. He is also the one who closes the bridge and saves the planet. All people are heroes.

The Avengers is fresh, funny, serious, tender, complex, complicated, action-packed, great special effects, etc. Whedon keeps everything in line and on pace. Plot points are reiterated for plot clarity, but not in a way that is overdone or annoying. A small role for Gweneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts keeps the spark between her and Stark with all of the double-entendres the audience expects. Agent Coulson is able to bypass Stark's security because Potts allows him access to talk to Stark.

The Avengers is a good time for all: the actors, the characters, the special effects, writers, directors and the audience. Have fun this summer in a cool theater, again and again!