Now playing at Dunbar, Park, Scotiabank
When announced, The Avengers struck some critics as a blatant cash grab: a movie featuring The Hulk, Black Widow, Iron Man, Thor and Hawkeye (whoever he was). You might as well throw Julia Roberts, Sandra Bullock and Reese Witherspoon on the same soundstage for a "Legally Blonde Pretty Woman walks on the Blind Side" romantic comedy.
But by the hammer of Thor, critics couldn't have been more wrong!
Yes, The Avengers promises to make a hulk-load of money. But there's a decent film in there too, one with a big heart and a great sense of humour.
If you are one of the few people under retirement age who has not seen Iron Man, Thor and Captain America, find someone who can get you up to speed, fast. While some of the prequels leading up to this superhero love-in were less thrilling than others, they are essential viewing if you want to fully appreciate the film's narrative.
Case in point: we begin where Thor left off, with petulant half-brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) determined to head an alien army hell-bent on enslaving Earth. Loki has found a doorway through space, and after making a grand entrance, proceeds to assemble his own personal army. He's after the tesseract, a raw energy source that can move mountains, literally. After Loki takes off with the glowing blue cube, it leaves a black hole effect behind, sucking a massive research facility and much of the surrounding desert into the center of the earth, in an orgy of sound.
And that's all before the opening credits.
SHIELD director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) is trying to bring the world's best brawn and brains together to form a heroic alliance. "You're going to leave the fate of the human race in a handful of freaks?" Some heroes are easier to recruit than others.
After taking down a warehouse full of baddies-while tied to a chair, no less-Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) is in. But gamma ray expert David Banner (Mark Ruffalo) is reluctant to come on board, in case his big, green alter ego should rear his ugly head.
Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is back, talking funny ("What is this, Shakespeare in the Park?" quips Iron Man). Black Widow hints that she has a special interest in saving Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner, seen briefly in Thor) from Loki's grip. Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans) is the moral compass for the group, his gung-ho patriotism a source of amusement for Tony Stark/ Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.).
Iron Man is the wisenheimer of the motley alliance, cocksure and ready with a putdown for each one of his super-buddies. "Everything special about you came out of a bottle," he snarks to Captain America. Downey Jr.'s dry-as-dust delivery elicits big laughs, but the jokes are judiciously applied, lest the ensemble concept turn into a one-man show.
With all that super-hotness aboard one aircraft, egos clash, resulting in some dream scenarios for fanboys: Who would win in a fight, Thor or Iron Man? How about Thor or The Hulk? The Hulk or Black Widow?
There's the requisite rah-rah moment as our crew suits up for a fullscale ET invasion, complete with creepy beasts on flying alien jet-skis and an airborne space shark/insect thing whose tail does quite a number on the infrastructure of a major city. There are some dizzying and impressive perspectives during the city battle, as shots swoop and take corners, making the viewer feel as though he's along for the ride.
Effects are varied and seamless, and the action rarely lags. This is as good as a superhero movie can get. Remember that hulking pile of money? "They'll come back," promises Nick Fury. "Are you sure about that?" asks a lackey. "They'll come back, because we'll need them to." And if that's not an obvious enough lead-in for a sequel, stay after the first round of closing credits to see who The Avengers will take on next.