Starring Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth
The Avengers is a film with six main characters (seven if you count Nick Fury), four of which already have significant fan bases, and all of whom needed to get the proper development and exposure in order for the film to work as a whole. By pretty much everything about how movies should be made, what they were attempting should have crashed and burned. But dammit, writer/director Joss Whedon actually pulled it off, and pulled it off with flying colors.
The trailers for this film have all been vague, hiding any specific plot details. Part of this was clever marketing, part of it was simple necessity, because The Avengers has a surprisingly simple plot. Loki (Tom Hiddleston) comes to earth, seeking to dominate the humans he has come to despise. Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) rounds up Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), the recently de-frosted Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans), The Incredible Hulk/Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), and Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johannson). Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Loki's heroic brother, isn't far behind. Commence fighting and much angst. Rather than working against this movie, however, it's actually this simplicity that makes the film's characterization thrive. Frankly, if the heroes had to do any more, the minor problems this film has would have been considerably worse.
Said problems are mostly in the characterization. Whedon, no doubt realizing how impossible the task of giving each character their own broad journey would be, chose to have them function more as one singular character. They have their own personalities, sure, and most even have some kind of miniature arc, but "learning not to be dicks towards one another" is the most climactic change most of the characters go through, and even that comes off as a tad rushed. When it comes to each character dealing with his own issues and stories, the details of how it all works out can feel downright obscure. That isn't to say it isn't there, but its brushed over so quickly that even a second of lost focus (and losing focus in this movie is easy to do) can make character behavior seem random.
The Hulk's behavior, in particular, has been criticized for this. While I can't respond to those claims in detail here, I'll say that it makes a great deal more sense when you realize that Bruce Banner and his alter ego are far more connected then most people seem to realize. Multiple viewings can help with these issues, of course, but it's a shame that the character depth couldn't be as accessible as every other part of the movie.
It seems odd to have to comment on the acting, as most of the key players have already demonstrated their abilities to effortlessly slip into their superhero roles, and it is no different in this film. Mention must be given to Mark Ruffalo, whose portrayal of Banner is heads and tails beyond what any previous actor did with the character. I wasn't a huge fan of either of the previous Hulk movies, but Ruffalo's portrayal makes me yearn for a third. Further mention needs to be given to Clark Gregg as Agent Coulson, whose normally predictable character is taken in directions I can guarantee you don't expect.
Whedon's trademark razor-sharp dialogue is on full display, with some of the best witty banter and one liners of his career (one that consists of 14 seasons of TV shows and 5 movies, mind you). Tony Stark's biting sarcasm works as well with Whedon's writing as you would expect it to, but plenty of great moments are given to the other characters as well. Even if the characters development can be hard to follow, their wonderful dialogue does more then enough to give them personality and make them likable.
On the action side of things, this movie might just be the most entertaining experience I've ever had in a movie theater. The film's first 10-15 minutes are a bit of a drag, consisting of heaps of techno-babble, a mediocre fight, and some equally mediocre "lets round up the characters!" scenes. Once the setup is in place, however, the plot rockets forward at light speed, making its two and a half hour runtime breeze by in what seems like a heartbeat.
Each fight scene the movie piles on is more and more intense, eventually leaving you to wonder just how the film can top itself. It always does. Most good action movies have two or three money shots that make the movie memorable. When this film's pace heats up, it starts having them every few minutes. You remember that part in the trailers where Iron Man leads the giant flying creature towards the other Avengers? That's just a taste of what's in store for audiences.
The Avengers is a fascinating character study disguised as a brainless but heart pounding summer action movie, a disguise that sometimes works too well. Despite the occasional character imbalances, it's a must see for super-hero fans and well worth checking out for anyone else. Oh and don't forget to stay for the end credits scenes. Both of them.