Review (Grade: A)
The most impressive superhero film since The Dark Knight, Marvel Studios’ The Avengers is a funny, thrilling, and character-driven crowd pleaser. Seeing the five films that preceded this one (Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor,and Captain America) may enrich the experience, but it’s hardly necessary; the film stands well on its own for those who want to just jump in midstream. Marvel made a wise-choice in hiring writer-director Joss Whedon, who has proven his ability to balance action, humor, and emotion with a large ensemble in 2005’s underseen Serenity.
Whedon’s screenplay for The Avengers is razor-sharp; it’s fair to say that this is both the most moving and the most amusing of the films with these characters; it’s even better than 2008’s Iron Man, if only because this one has such a strong third act and sense of team dynamics. In juggling these larger-than-life characters Whedon deftly gives them all time to develop and shine, grounding the comic book spectacle in the relatable human struggle of bringing unity to a group of people with vastly different personalities and values.
Though the action and effects are spectacular and the villain (Tom Hiddleston’s Loki) is menacing, the real joy of this film comes from watching ego and selfishness give way to teamwork and altruism. The performances are great as well, with Robert Downey Jr, Chris Hemsworth, and Chris Evans continuing their solid work as Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America, respectively. Scarlett Johanssen and Samuel L. Jackson are given more to do than before (and rise to the occasion) though Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye is sadly underdeveloped.
The real revelation here, however, is Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner/The Incredible Hulk, a character that’s been brought to the screen twice in the past decade, but never as well-realized as he is here. As appealing to mainstream audiences as it is to “geeks” (thanks in no small part to its attractive cast, strong story, and winning sense of humor), The Avengers opens the summer movie season with a bang.
CONTENT OVERVIEW: The Avengers is rated PG-13. It has plentiful action violence, mayhem, and destruction, mild language, and a mild drug reference.
MESSAGES TO DISCUSS: Strength comes from overcoming selfishness and pride to achieve unit. There is no greater love than to be willing to die for others. Use of force is justified to defend the innocent from tyranny and oppression.