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Friday, May 24, 2024 — Houston, TX

"The Avengers" awes with superhero prowess

By Anthony Lauriello     5/23/12 7:00pm

Anyone who knows anything about the Marvel Comic universe knows that the supranational defense organization, known as S.H.I.E.L.D, operates from a flying aircraft carrier. In Marvel's newest superhero movie "The Avengers," Captain America (Chris Evans, "Scott Pilgrim vs. The World") and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo, "Zodiac") land on S.H.I.E.LD, and the audience delights in the scene of the mammoth boat improbably emerging from the ocean. Its huge airborne propeller engines drip with water; the moment is expected but still pretty darn cool.

This scene serves as a synecdoche for the entire film, which is entirely predictable, ridiculous and entertaining. The plot of the "Avengers" comes from one of the basic tenants of comic book lore: The more superheroes the better. It also follows the traditional plot structure: The larger-than-life personalities and egos collide and eventually learn to work together to defeat a foe too large for any of them to individually tackle. This transformation moves at a decent pace, although there is dialogue in the middle of the film that serves to reinforce points that have already been repeated numerous times because the "Avengers" is a film utterly devoid of subtlety of any kind. It is idiot proof. No one of any age will walk out of the theater scratching his or her head, wondering what happened.  However the writing does have many lighter comic moments that shine compared with more serious lines about alien attack and the end of the world.

 The film's superheroes are the familiar stars of other recent Marvel superhero films such as "Iron Man" (Robert Downey Jr., "Sherlock Holmes"), "Thor" (Chris Hemsworth, "Star Trek") and "Captain America." Together they battle Thor's evil brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston, "Midnight in Paris") and his alien allies. The scriptwriters also include the Hulk, the powerful manifestation of Banner's anger, and the super spy duo of Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner, "The Hurt Locker") and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson, "The Prestige"). Just like in the comic books, these last two heroes seem somewhat out of their league. Hawkeye's special power is his accuracy that helps him release technologically advanced arrows. In a movie filled with futuristic technology and amazingly powerful weapons his bow sorely stands out. Iron Man even jokingly calls him "Legolas," a reference to the elf in the fantasy epic "The Lord of the Rings." However, Hawkeye seems far more able than Black Widow whose only real power seems to be cleavage and a tight leather outfit. Yes, she is clever at interrogating people and good with a pistol, but how can that compare to Thor's godlike powers or the Hulk's raw strength? It is of no surprise that she contributes little to the team. The film would have been better served by dropping these two characters and focusing on the far more interesting and powerful superheroes.

The film's acting is surprisingly good in a genre notorious for bad lines and worse delivery. Downey, as always, gives a solid performance as Iron Man and the arrogant playboy Tony Stark. However, at times, his attempts to outdo his earlier performances in "Iron Man" and "Iron Man 2" make his character seem a little over done. Hemsworth does an excellent job portraying Thor and showing emotion when dealing with his errant brother Loki. This is all the more notable because, as a potent deity with flowing golden locks and a body builder's physique, Thor easily could have become a one-dimensional character.  However, the best acting goes to Ruffalo for his portrayal of Banner and the Hulk. Banner is not just a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde story, but also the tale of a brilliant genius that is famous for simply being an enraged brute. Ruffalo does a wonderful job portraying the sadness and anger that comes with his very unique condition.

When the film ended and I waited for the post-credits scene to begin, (Note: This movie has two post-credits scenes, so I recommend staying to the very end) I could not help but feel a simple joy. This movie is not art and it will not change the way I look at the world. However, its simple entertainment value is a testament to the incredible power of movies.  Like many of its superheroes, "Avengers" is far from perfect, but that does not mean I was not awed.


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