By MICHAEL WALTERS
“The Avengers” is an overblown, overstuffed, superhero extravaganza, and that’s precisely what its legions of fans will be looking for. It compensates for a somewhat less than compelling villain by cramming the screen with characters, many of whom we’ve seen before in earlier Marvel movies. The collaboration works out better for some than for others, but even the most annoying of them isn’t so bad because there’s always something new, and exciting to smash around the next corner.
And the movie is always a little better when Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark is around.
The biggest surprise is the Incredible Hulk, this time played by Mark Ruffalo. Third time’s the charm for the big green guy, and Ruffalo plays him sort of like an easy-going AA member who’s come to peace with his personal demon. He does his best to avoid a relapse, but also knows that a little Hulk smashing isn’t the end of the world either.
The plot involves Loki — the Norse trickster from Thor — trying to obtain a mysterious cube, rule the world and gain revenge against his hammer throwing brother. Samuel L. Jackson assembles various superheros including Thor, a thawed Captain America (Chris Evans), Iron Man (Downey Jr.), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), The Hulk, and Black Widow to fight the threat and save the world in a metropolis leveling explosion packed finale sure to delight even the most jaded of fanboys. I wasn’t a fan of Thor in his own movie, and Loki is hardly in the same class as the great superhero villains but in small doses the big thunderhead is more tolerable this time around. However, Captain America’s square jawed simplistic patriotism wore thin pretty quickly for me. And despite Scarlett Johansson’s considerable assets, Black Widow proves to be a big black bore.
Writer-director Joss Whedon has provided all the explosions, and special effects fanboys will ever need, while making the film comprehensible for the uninitiated. In the end it’s the interactions of the characters that really sets “The Avengers” apart. They strike uneasy alliances, and bond over a shared cockeyed worldview. But they provide a nucleus strong enough to survive countless sequels to come.