Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Avengers

movie review: in the picture

The Avengers ****

Starring: Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston, Clark Gregg, Cobie Smulders, Stellan SkarsgÄrd, and Samuel L. Jackson
Directed by: Joss Whedon

Over the last decade, Hollywood has seen massive success bringing comic book heroes to life. The big screen ventures of Spider-Man, Batman, Superman, and The X-Men have not only helped popularize the genre but also transformed it in the process. Marvel Studios' latest project both capitalizes on and expands this trend. The studio has been building up to a convergence over the course of five films, showcasing its cast of superheroes in standalone chapters, while planning to eventually bring them all together. Iron Man, The Hulk, Thor, and Captain America have been the stars of their own movies, and now, with their characters defined and back stories detailed, the superhero team finally assembles in the much anticipated, high-budget summer blockbuster, The Avengers.

After Thor's (Chris Hemsworth) adoptive brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) - who is on a mission to free the world from freedom - enslaves Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and makes off with an enormously powerful energy cube known as the Tesseract, S.H.I.E.L.D director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) summons our old friends in a bid to retrieve the Tesseract, save the world, and thwart an extra-terrestrial attack. Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Bruce Banner/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans), and Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.) are joined by Thor, and together, they must fight the forces of evil… if they can first manage to stop fighting with each other. Egos collide as the superheroes interact. Can this motley crew of gifted yet troubled people (and beings) get their acts together, work as a team, and save the world?

The Avengers is a film that knows exactly what its audience wants and how to deliver it, and it never forgets to be fun. The action unfolds at a brisk pace with everything leading to the final showdown. But while there may be action throughout the movie, The Avengers isn't simply fixated on the fighting or explosions or special effects, no matter how frequently these elements are employed. The plot might be standard, but the storyline is still smart and everyone gets their due. With each character battling their own issues and conflicts while being thrown into an epic fuss where they reluctantly learn to share space, the crossover provides a chance for everything from witty banter to frequent skirmishes. The main players are first pitted against each other and then against Loki and his cohorts, and are given the opportunity to further develop and grow in the process.

Writer and director Joss Whedon, hitherto (but probably not henceforth) best known for creating Buffy the Vampire Slayer, has managed to construct a well thought out project that is worthy of its current box office bonanza. He effectively puts together the many pieces that are handed to him, and injects emotions and wit into the proceedings. The film's very impressive cast also puts in some great acting performances. Robert Downey Jr. continues to be awesome as the snarky Tony Stark, Mark Ruffalo impresses in his subdued portrayal of Bruce Banner, while Tom Hiddleston's Loki is intense and fittingly despicable.

Overall, The Avengers is both a culmination of the cinematic action we have witnessed in the last few years from the Marvel universe, and a precursor for all that's yet to come. The movies that preceded it established the tone of the characters, and The Avengers builds on this while giving the franchise a chance to further expand. Joss Whedon proves to be a competent director, and the film's ensemble cast delivers solid acting performances. And while it may not be groundbreaking, the movie delivers exactly what it promised, and offers an entertaining start to what could potentially be a very exciting summer.

- Sameen Amer

Instep, The News on Sunday - 20th May, 2012

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