Iron Man came out in 2008. This means we've been anticipating the release of The Avengers for over four years! And while I've marveled (ha, ha) at the marketing (and revenue) of in-movie advertising, I've wondered if the film could live up to expectations. Could there be a believable story where six extraordinary individuals are actually threatened? Well Joss Whedon proved that the answer to that question is yes, he also showed that the ride there can be equally compelling. In fact, The Avengers plays out almost like an origin story in its own unique way.
The plot is pretty simple and straightforward. Global security is threatened when Loki (brilliantly played by Tom Hiddleston) returns to earth to rule. Nick Fury attempts to assemble the avengers to help protect the world from disaster.
Now in the UK this film is called "Avengers Assemble" and while I don't think that name has the same strength, I do think it's an apt description. A few have criticized the first half of the film as being slow, but I think it's critical to the integrity of the entire movie. It's amazing to believe that these very self-reliant and in many ways self-absorbed "super heroes" would have any reason to want to work together. I quite enjoyed watching their inward (and sometimes very outward) struggle while they worked this out.
I'll admit that I am sometimes lenient on acting when it comes to super hero action flicks. And I tend to find the comic relief in these movies, well, unfunny and cheesy. I was thrilled that Joss Whedon infused his incredible wit and humor into the dialogue and also wrote characters that were meaningful and worth rooting for - not a small task for such a large ensemble - most of which had already starred in their own film. I truly felt that all of the acting was excellent and especially Mark Ruffalo's portrayal of the humble Bruce Banner. I quickly forgot that the role had ever been played by anyone else as I sat on the edge of my seat waiting for The Hulk to explode.
It's also worth noting that while you expect the action in the film to be awesome, it exceeded my expectations as well. There is a scene in the final battle that moves from one character to the next and really encompasses the enormity of what you're watching. It's very exciting.
SO HOW DOES IT END?
Tony Stark proves that he is willing to die to save the world by flying a missile through the portal and into the alien ship. Fortunately he falls back through the portal in time for The Hulk to catch and "resuscitate" him. Loki is returned to Asgard in shackles by Thor. And if you stick around until the very, very end of the credits you can catch all the characters eating shawarma.
The Avengers definitely exceed my expectations and to quote a good friend of mine, "it felt like cracking open a good comic book." I give it 5 out of 5.