#6: The Avengers

Director: Joss Whedon

Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston, and Samuel L. Jackson

Back in 2008, Iron Man surprised audiences everywhere with just how good it was.  Some people even thought that it was better than that “other” superhero movie that would come out later that summer.  Those people are crazy, but what Iron Man paved the way for is perhaps the most genius marketing campaign that spanned four years to finally culminate into 2012’s The Avengers, the most fun you possibly could have had at the box office this past year.

Marvel really hit a homerun with what they did with the Avenger films.  Regardless of how you felt about films like Iron Man 2, Thor, or Captain America, you have to admit that they seemed to know exactly what they were doing the entire time.  The Avengers is, quite possibly, the best stupid comic book movie we will ever get and is way more fun than we could have imagined when we first heard the news.

The Avengers obviously proceeds after the events of each of the previous movies.  Loki is on the hunt for the Tesseract, which opens a portal to allow a race of aliens to infiltrate Earth.  Once he steals it from, S.H.I.E.L.D. it’s up to Nick Fury to assemble the Avengers in order to save the world.  That’s what the plot is, but what the movie is really about, or really what’s so fun about this movie is getting to see all these characters and actors on the screen at the same time.

Joss Whedon had his hands full trying to relegate enough time for each person to feel like they had an equal share of the pie, and for the most part, he’s successful.  Each character has their own moments to shine and they each bring enough to keep it from feeling like it’s a sequel to one of the Avenger films rather than The Avengers.

Robert Downey Jr. is still the best actor and if this movie is ever in danger of being stolen by one person, it’s by Downey Jr.’s portayal of Tony Stark/Iron Man.  Not only is Stark an interesting character, but Downey Jr. is as well.  He’s charismatic, witty, and everything that Tony Stark should be.  It’s impossible not to like him and it’s great to see his comeback continue.

If you’ve seen the other Avenger films, you’ll know that Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, and everyone else gives it there all and they are all perfect in their roles.  I’d like to give special mention to Mark Ruffalo’s portrayal of Bruce Banner, because it is one that we’ve yet to see.  Ruffalo plays Banner with amazing restraint, as if he’s holding back… I don’t know, some sort of two ton green menace.  He’s more reserved, reluctant, than Edward Norton’s version of Banner, who was much more angry and much less sympathetic.  You can see the discomfort in his body language.  He hates himself, he hates who he becomes and it’s a pretty interesting performance.

Tom Hiddleston’s Loki is the villain the film deserves.  He’s a menacing genius, allowing Earth’s Mightiest Heroes to fall right into his machinations, while at the same time, an entitled brat, overconfident in his own powers and his place in the universe.  This was one concern that I had going into the film.  I was unimpressed with the film Thor.  For me, it was the weakest film in the series leading up to this film, so I was worried that Loki would be the villain in this one.  Loki rose to the occasion and supplied just enough villainy to warrant his place as the antagonist to the greatest assembly of superheroes in film history.

The final battle scene is a masterpiece of action sequences.  The fight through New York is this generation’s Death Star battle.  It’s equal parts thrilling, mesmerizing, and joy-inducing.  The sequence took everything that the Transformers series attempted to do over three movies and perfected in a single half-hour.  It’s nearly perfect.

On top of the action being top-notch, what makes this film so special is that it may also be the funniest movie of the year.  Thanks, in large part, to the onscreen persona of the previously mentioned Robert Downey Jr., this film has so many laugh-out-loud moments that it could have been considered a comedy if it wasn’t so action-packed.  The moment between the Hulk and Loki is one of the best moments in comic book movie history and a hilarious one at that.

It’s great to see a superhero film succeed at being over-the-top and flashy.  With the success of The Dark Knight series, comic book movies look like they’re trying to mimic its grittiness and its interest in portraying as much reality as possible.  But here, Joss Whedon embraces the fantastical nature of comics and The Avengers and knocks it right out of the park.