Whedon’s ‘The Avengers’ smashes records

The Avengers, from the left: Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain American (Chris Evans), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.) and the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). | Courtesy of Zade Rosenthal

The Avengers, from the left: Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain American (Chris Evans), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.) and the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). | Courtesy of Zade Rosenthal

by Kevin Smead

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The Avengers, from the left: Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain American (Chris Evans), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.) and the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). | Courtesy of Zade Rosenthal

The Avengers, from the left: Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain American (Chris Evans), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.) and the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). | Courtesy of Zade Rosenthal

After the credits of 2008’s “Iron Man” concluded, viewers were treated to a clip of Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) talking to S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) about something called The Avenger Initiative. With that brief interaction, Marvel confirmed many fans’ hopes that an Avengers movie would be on the horizon.

After a few more superhero-filled outings, such as “Thor,” “Iron Man 2” and “Captain America,” “The Avengers” is finally here. And man, is it good.

For those not familiar, “The Avengers” is like the “Super Smash Brothers” of the comic book world. Started in the early 1960s by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, The Avengers series of comics took characters from all across the Marvel universe, labeled “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes,” and pitted them against forces of evil. This time around, the team must stop Loki (Tom Hiddleston) from using a powerful Asgardian artifact called the Tesseract to open a portal through space, would will lead to an alien invasion and ultimately the destruction of humanity.

Though the team has varied throughout the decades, the film incarnation of the comic features mainstay Marvel characters such as Thor and Captain America, as well as a few fan favorites such as Hawkeye.

When all of these beloved characters come together, it makes for one awesome, nerd-tastic experience. It should be noted that the man at the helm of the film is none other than Joss Whedon, who directed and co-wrote the film. Whedon’s brand of quickfire, witty dialogue shines, especially in the hands of Downey, Jr. The portrayal of Tony in the two recent “Iron Man” films has been great, but in “The Avengers,” it’s exceptional.

What perhaps is most impressive, or diabolical, is Whedon’s and co-writer Zak Penn’s ability to write characters the audience comes to love, and then tear them away in a dose of cruel reality in this larger-than-life world. It gives the story emotional depth beyond superheroes simply blowing stuff up.

However, for those who like their superhero movies to be visually stunning (and who doesn’t?), there is plenty of hammer-swinging, shield-tossing, Hulk-smashing action to satisfy the biggest adrenaline junkie. Between the S.H.I.E.L.D. airship and the far off reaches of the universe, “The Avengers” is a sight to behold. If someone collected money for every time the city of Manhattan was destroyed in a movie, Whedon would probably have had enough to fund “The Avengers.”

What most people really care about — aside from the action, of course — is seeing their favorite Marvel character on the big screen. In this department, the actors do not disappoint. Chris Evans is great in his return as Captain America, making the super soldier seem oddly believable and human. The same can be said for newcomer Mark Ruffalo as Dr. Bruce Banner, and more notably, The Hulk. Ruffalo is, without question, the best Hulk so far, giving the character an edge that doesn’t feel fake, or worse, cheesy.

And after a mediocre solo film, Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston are awesome as the Asgardian brothers Thor and Loki, who are at odds with one another. The inclusion of Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) makes for some well-deserved moments of fan-service, including a scene involving Black Widow and a group of clueless Russians.

Speaking of fan service, don’t forget to stick around until after the first round of credits. There’s a surprise that will leave true Marvel fans giddy with anticipation for the inevitable Avengers sequel.

All in all, “The Avengers” is what going to the movies is all about. Though nearly two and a half hours, the time flies by. The film never slows; it’s guaranteed every emotion, from sadness to pure unadulterated joy, will be felt during its course.

With movie tickets getting more expensive, there are times when many moviegoers leave the theater upset that they wasted $12 on something that ended up being pretty lame. Rest assured, this is not one of those movies. Whedon and company have produced a top-notch superhero slam fest that makes other similar films, such as the “Transformers” series, look like something from the SyFy Channel. The quality is reflected in the box office number: “The Avengers” pulled in $200.3 million, taking the record from “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2.”

With other mega-blockbusters (looking at you, “The Dark Knight Rises”) being released in the next few months, “The Avengers” is a wonderful way to kick off this summer’s movie season.

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