DVD Release Date: September 25, 2012
Theatrical Release Date: May 4, 2012 (3D/2D theaters and IMAX 3D)
Rating: PG-13 (for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action throughout, and a mild drug reference)
Genre: Action, Adventure
Run Time: 142 min.
Director: Joss Whedon
Actors: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Clark Gregg, Stellan Skarsgard, Gwyneth Paltrow
Good versus evil. Heroes versus villains. Moral clarity versus muddy postmodernism. Such storytelling might seem old fashioned, but every now and then a movie reminds us that “old-fashioned” ideas have a potency that’s lacking in much modern storytelling.
Marvel’s The Avengers—a group of superheroes brought together by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), director of intelligence agency S.H.I.E.L.D., to fight forces threatening humanity’s continued existence— remind us that some story themes never go out of style. Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans), Bruce Banner/the Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Natasha Romanoff/the Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) are assembled by Fury to take on Thor’s brother Loki and his armies from Asgard unleashed on Earth.
Sound silly? Sure, but The Avengers often has a playful spirit, unlike some of the films dedicated to the individual characters who comprise the group. The Avengers’ script, cowritten by director Joss Whedon (The Cabin in the Woods), steers clear of the ponderous seriousness that has weighed down some of the earlier Marvel films, giving arrogant playboy Stark a few moments of self-deprecation and even using the moody Hulk for comic relief. The end result is entertaining and mostly enjoyable, if overlong.
The Avengers’ story centers on the Tesseract, a glowing energy cube that opens a vortex between Earth and Asgard. That’s where Loki (Tom Hiddleston), still licking his wounds from Thor, comes from with an army of fighters eager to enslave humankind to Loki’s evil rule. People need to bow down to someone, and he’s ready to receive their obeisance. “Freedom is life’s great lie,” he intones. “You were made to be ruled.”
The focus on Loki is the first thing The Avengers gets right. A vaguely remembered adversary from the passable but forgettable Thor, Loki dominates the early part of The Avengers thanks to Hiddleston’s fiendishly fun portrayal of the power-mad figure. Like a malevolent spiritual subjugator, he seems unstoppable and undefeatable—until he meets his match in the Avengers.
Each Avenger is used to saving humanity on their own, but it will take the whole group working together to confront the diabolical Loki—especially after he turns Hawkeye and scientist Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard) into his willing servants. Much of the movie’s pleasures come in watching the Avengers learn to work together to confront a foe who’s more than they can handle individually. Wise-cracking Stark grates on the completely unironic Rogers, while Banner worries about anger-management issues and Thor struggles to explain why his brother has gone bad.
With so many major characters, Whedon has to pack a lot into The Avengers, and he does so without giving short shrift to any of the major characters. So, what’s lacking? Romance, for one thing. A whispered come-on to Stark by Pepper Potts, (Gwyneth Paltrow) followed by Stark’s reaction, is as steamy as things get, but the film is so busy trying to give equal time to its multiple characters that a love absence is easy to overlook. Whedon instead concentrates on the characters and on delivering thrills, orchestrating a few spectacular scenes of rampaging alien forces.
Although the initial thrill of these sequences wears off as the editing grows more chaotic and the film draws toward its conclusion, Marvel fans who have been eagerly anticipating The Avengers won’t care. This is the long-awaited payoff, and Whedon makes it count. And yet, as the destruction and mayhem extend to the two-and-a-quarter-hour mark, many viewers who weren’t already among the most devoted Avengers fans will be ready for this Marvel chapter to wrap up. (We know, of course, that the end credits will include some sort of teaser for yet another entry in the Marvel franchise, and on that score, The Avengers doesn’t disappoint.)
Could the film have stood a little trimming in the editing room? Sure. But the length isn’t a big impediment to enjoyment of The Avengers. When Fury, sizing up the Avengers’ challenge from Loki and his armies, says, “I still believe in heroes,” you’ll be reminded of another line from the film: “People just might need a little old-fashioned.” Count The Avengers as a reminder that summer movies—even overstuffed, overlong ones—can still provide a heavy dose of good old-fashioned fun.
- Language/Profanity: “Hell”; “da-n”; “oh my G-d”; “buck-a-s nude”; “son of a bi-ch”; “bas-ards.”
- Alcohol/Smoking/Drugs: Champagne is poured; reference to a “bag of weed”; Stark offers Loki a drink.
- Sex/Nudity: Pepper whispers in Stark’s ear, and he has a shocked expression; Banner is shown nude, but his nether region is blocked.
- Violence/Crime: A deadly scepter; gunshot to the head; car crash; helicopter crash; gunfire; superpowers wielded in a destructive manner; a facial disfigurement; Banner says he put a bullet in his mouth, “but the other guy spit it out”; explosions; a man is stabbed in the back; Hulk smashes objects and people.
Marriage/Religion: Loki commands people to bow down to him; Captain America says, “There’s only one God”; a reference to the story of Jonah.
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