Friday, May 4, 2012

The Avengers kicks off summer season on high note

I have a new favorite super hero movie.

That’s how much I loved ‘The Avengers.’

This is what all super hero movies should strive to be – action-packed, funny and accessible to everyone.

I went to the midnight showing in Clinton Township last week, and the minute I walked into the theater the atmosphere was electric.

Not only were there a handful of young kids in the audience – kudos to their cool parents – but there were also a bevy of very excited comic book fans.

Personally, I don’t read comics – but I’m a big fan of super hero movies – so it was a no-brainer for me to attend this flick at the earliest showing I could.

I can’t tell you the enjoyment factor that last night brought. Not only did I have a great time, but so did the rest of the crowd – a vocal bunch that laughed, yelled and applauded throughout the film.

It started with the trailers. As you can guess, ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ and ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’ were included. They didn’t get the biggest response, though. That distinction goes to ‘The Dictator’ – which looks just stupid enough to be an instant classic.

Once the movie started, a hush fell over the entire crowd. Honestly, though, that didn’t last long. A midnight showing is not where you want to be if you prefer your theaters quiet. My theater was buzzing from the get-go, essentially.

I don’t want to get into a lot of spoilers, but I think it’s fair to say that every member of the cast (save one) did a great job. That one is Cobie Smulders (Robin on ‘How I Met Your Mother’). I have nothing against Smulders, but believing her as an action hero was a big stretch. Thankfully, she’s not the focus of the film, though.

Robert Downey Jr. was at his snarky best as Tony Stark – and the one-liners were flowing from his mouth from the minute he was introduced. Downey lends a certain stability to the cast -- even though he's usually at the center of the chaos. It's an interesting dichotomy.

Chris Evans – who I usually find bland and boring (except for ‘Sunshine’) -- was understated and nuanced. It was like he conceded the flash to Downey and was content playing the straight man.

Mark Ruffalo is always solid, but he brought a sense of gravitas to Bruce Banner that neither Eric Bana or Edward Norton managed to. Not only was he the quiet voice of reason, but he also had a dry sense of humor that played well off of Downey.

Chris Hemsworth doesn’t show up until a half hour in, but his Thor is just as entertaining as he was a year ago. It doesn’t hurt that he’s so pretty to look at. Even Thor got some jokes in, though, so no one was left out.

Scarlet Johannsson was super spy Black Widow. I was a little dubious about her casting at first – mostly because I see Johannsson as a “serious” actress -- but she was enjoyable and likeable in the film. Plus, her chemistry with Jeremy Renner was palpable and her fight scene with the Hulk was rousing.

Renner played Hawkeye, a sharpshooter who we saw briefly in 'Thor.' Hawkeye spends a lot of the film separated from the other Avengers, but when he does get reunited with them he doesn’t throw off the chemistry, he only enhances it.

The final piece of the puzzle is Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury. Jackson is good in everything, but he plays things a little different in this film. Usually, Jackson is the one stealing everyone’s thunder. He seems happy letting Downey camp it up in this one, while he plays the heart (if not the muscle) of this particular group.

The first two-thirds of the film is getting to know the expansive cast. There are still several fights – including a rollicking face-off between Ironman, Thor and Captain America (where Ironman comments on Thor’s attachment to his hammer).

The midway action sequence involves everyone, but the best scenes are between Thor (who is trying to control the Hulk) and Ironman and Captain America (who are trying to work together even though they have vastly different styles).

The finale of the movie is set in NYC, and to say the special effects (especially in 3D) are breathtaking is an understatement. The entire final half hour is the battle alone – and every hero gets his chance to shine (that being said, the crowd I was in appreciated the showdown between villain Loki and The Hulk more than anything).

In the end, ‘The Avengers’ achieves everything it sets out to do (and then some). We do never really get a good explanation of the power source at the center of the plot – but it’s really not important to the enjoyment of the movie.

What do you think? Does ‘The Avengers’ live up to the hype?


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