The summer movie season officially launched today with one of our most anticipated movies of 2012, and damn, was it a freaking blast! The culmination of five prior Marvel films, The Avengers is the pot o’ gold at the end of the rainbow of various popular superheroes, wholeheartedly embodying the comic-book studio’s name (i.e., you WILL marvel at what you’ll see). Even though I had some more-than-satisfying action just last week in Safe, Jason Statham’s bad-ass rampage through Manhattan was like a salad appetizer compared to what The Avengers serves you.
It’s a very appropriate title, for The Avengers overall makes up for mediocre efforts from last year and this year’s crappy Ghost Rider sequel. I liked Thor‘s Shakespearean drama but found it a bit unsatisfying beyond that (especially the action). And after rewatching that and Captain America yesterday, the first avenger still remains my least favorite. However, The Avengers is a multi-headed monster that surpasses both of those movies… COMBINED. It’s as if all the action that was missing in Captain America: The First Avenger had been saved for the extravaganza that is The Avengers.
Every one of them gets a chance to shine in the spotlight, too. Sharing’s not a problem, even for Tony Stark, who’s played terrifically (as usual) by multiple Academy Award nominee Robert Downey, Jr., in his career-resuscitating role. As Iron Man, he’s primarily matched against Steve Rogers / Captain America, who’s again played well by Chris Evans. The other Chris (Hemsworth) also returns as the thunder from down under. Thor is essential viewing if you haven’t seen it yet because not only does it provide crucial insight into the background of the godly extraterrestrial, it also introduces you to Loki, the villain of The Avengers, and Hawkeye, played by multiple Academy Award nominee Jeremy Renner.
Back from Iron Man 2 is the hottest Avenger, Black Widow, played by Scarlett Johansson, whose curves are barely contained by her tight jumpsuit. Mmmm-mmmm. The only Avenger who isn’t a reprisal is Dr. Bruce Banner; as the third actor in the last decade to assume the role, Academy Award nominee Mark Ruffalo does a great job with the non-Hulk parts. Finally, you’ve also got Oscar nominee Samuel L. Jackson returning as Nick Fury and Oscar winner Gwyneth Paltrow returning as Pepper Potts, but she’s just kinda there to be there, trying to look good or cute. Trying. I don’t want to come off as shallow, but if anybody should’ve been replaced…
The intrasquad conflicts and the epic battles that arise from them comprise the highlights of The Avengers until the movie busts out of its relatively tame first hour of assembling the team. That’s when viewers are treated to what they’ve been waiting a year for: a no-holds-barred finale that would wow even Michael Bay. Arguably better than the final act of Transformers: Dark of the Moon, the last hour of The Avengers makes it THE action film to beat this year. Yeah, I’d put it ahead of The Raid: Redemption because the next time I movie hop, I’ll be sure to catch the second half of The Avengers again.
What’s even more impressive is that just as I had thought while watching Wrath of the Titans, the post-converted 3D was so good that I figured “for sure this was shot in 3D.” The Avengers is exactly what you’d expect and want from a summer blockbuster: crowdpleasing, exhilarating, and intentionally funny (even hilarious at times). It’ll hold you over until The Dark Knight Rises on July 20 and Thor 2 next year.
Most of the preceding Avenger films (Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America) rewarded audiences with stingers, including our choice for Best Stinger of 2011, so you know The Avengers HAS to have one, too. Check out the extra scenes during and after the credits, the latter of which is an exclusive to the US. We had to wait longer to see The Avengers, and we got a little bonus for it! In the time between international and domestic releases, the stinger has already become our top user-rated stinger, more than doubling the previous champ. So go assemble your fanboy friends and check it out! The Avengers gets 4.5 out of 5 stars or A- or Excellent.