May 8, 2012 -- It's tough to live up to expectations when expectations are so high, but “The Avengers” pulls it off, thanks to the clever writing and directing of Joss Whedon and armies of actors and other artists who made this action extravaganza.
When Marvel Comics group decided to do their own movie productions, in partnership with Disney studios, they set out to make action movie franchises. They have succeeded in record-breaking fashion. It is not easy to create an action franchise. Look what happened to “Green Lantern” and “John Carter.” They were good films, but failed to live up to box office expections. Even Marvel had trouble with the formula in the first “Hulk” movie starring Eric Bana in 2003. It failed to catch on with audiences to the degree that Marvel wanted. It made about the same amount of money worldwide as “John Carter” did, so they rebooted with another Hulk movie, this time starring Edward Norton of “Fight Club,” in 2008, which didn't do much better, but they didn't give up on it. They are now working on another one.
Marvel kept pushing ahead with its Avenger plans. They finally hit pay dirt with “Iron Man,” an excellent action film, in 2008. The huge success of “Iron Man” propelled Marvel to success with the rest of their Avengers series, “Thor” and “Captain America.” The success of “Iron Man” also resurrected the flagging career of Robert Downey Jr., who is now at the very tip top of Hollywood's acting A-list and is riding the wave of a “Sherlock Holmes” franchise as well. Marvel has also succeeded with its other action franchise, “The X-Men.”
Writer-director Joss Whedon (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer” TV series) manages to accomplish the difficult feat of developing a wide variety of characters, allowing a lot of interaction between them and still saving time for plenty of action. There is a lot of witty dialog in the movie as all these type-A personalities clash. In addition to a war with an army of aliens in New York City, there is a battle between Thor and Iron Man and a battle between the Hulk and just about everybody else.
I think my favorite scene in the movie is the showdown between the Hulk and Loki (played by Tom Hiddleston of “Thor”). Loki, the film's main villain, starts monologuing (ignoring the warning about that behavior in “The Incredibles”) about how he is a god and mortals like the Hulk are not worthy opponents. The Hulk is not impressed with Loki. What he does and says next is very funny.
What you pay your money to see in a movie like this is action. The action and special effects are good, but there is a bonus, the acting and dialog are also quite good. Even Scarlett Johansson (“We Bought a Zoo”) turns in a good performance in this film as the straight-faced action hero The Black Widow.
There are a lot of nice little touches in the movie, like the inclusion of the last actor you would expect to see in it, Harry Dean Stanton (“The Green Mile”). The original Hulk, Lou Ferrigno, does the voice for the Hulk in the movie and delivers its funniest line (he had a cameo role as a guard in the 2003 Hulk movie, which even had a little cameo appearance by the late Bill Bixby). Marvel editor Stan Lee has his usual cameo appearance in this movie as he does in all Marvel movies. There is a funny takeoff on the “Hulk smash” catchphrase. For those who want to wait 20 minutes for the credits to end there is a hilarious little scene at the end which will probably confound the expectations of Marvel movie fans. This film rates a B+.
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