The story is thin. The action is big. The dialogue is treated with the brief sensitivity and economy of TV show. Each character manages a moment or two of obligatory self-doubt, and with little provocation turn on one another like bickering twits. Thor illustrates this when he claims, “you people are so petty,” reaffirming that you should not expect too much austerity from “The Avengers.”
Contrived attempts at plot and emotion hover just long enough to suspend disbelief. But overall the visual delight and combined dynamics of Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Black window and Hawkeye convince the viewer sit back and enjoy the show.
SHIELD, the secret military law enforcement and espionage agency of the world, head mastered by badass spy Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) is researching a power source called the Tesseract (in the comics it is known as the “Cosmic Cube” – I guess the filmmakers thought “tesseract” sounded cooler and had to Hollywoodize it). When Thor’s magic half-brother Loki (Tom Hiddelston) emerges out of the Cube’s dimension door, Loki quickly hypnotizes Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) the archer assassin and the Shield-employed scientist professor Erik Selig (Stellan Skarsgård) into his pawns. The evil trio grab the Cosmic Cube and drive away in a jeep (because Loki needs a jeep), shooting it out with Shield Agent Maria “I’m so hot AND I can shoot” Hill (Cobie Smulders). For some reason SHIELD, who is supposed to make J. Edgar Hoover look like a piker, must have been victim of government-funded cuts, because they don’t have any security measures installed in their massive underground complex. Only a dozen agents stand between Loki and his escape. You would think a top secret military facility from comic book lore has security doors that seal the decks like in Star Trek. No security monitors notify back-up troops. Heck, they can’t even afford a security guard at the underground parking lot gate as Loki and company drive away.
Agent Hill (remember, she is hot AND can shoot) gives chase and fires bullets through her windshield at Hawkeye 5 feet away, but no one gets hit. The only thing Nick Fury can do is activate the compounds self-destruct mechanism in hopes of burying Loki and the Cube under a thousand tons of rock, but instead destroys the SHIELD compound and cuts Agent Hills’s forehead. Realizing Loki intends to use the Cube to transport a race of flibbertigibbet aliens to invade the earth, Fury prompts “The Avengers Initiative.”
Fury’s right hand man Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) couriers over to Tony Stark’s (Robert Downey Jr.) new green “arc reactor” powered skyscraper over New York’s Grand Central Station. This is what skyscrapers should look like. Reprising her “Iron Man” role of Tony Stark’s girlfriend/assistant Pepper Potts, Gwyneth Paltrow returns long enough to shake her booty shorts in our face and remind us that Marvel comics (and movies) are aimed at adolescent boys. Pepper convinces narcissist billionaire Stark that if he helps Shield get the Cosmic Cube back and save the world she will give him a happy ending.
Meanwhile Agent Natasha Romanoff (Scarlet Johansson) - code named the Black Window gets a phone call telling her she must stop letting a Russian mafia boss torturer her because her ex-boyfriend Hawkeye has been compromised by the enemy. Shield sends her to recruit Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) - the world expert in gamma radiation (some expert – we know how that turned out, i.e. “The Hulk”) to help shield locate the Cosmic Cube along with Loki, Hawkeye and Professor Selig.
Now is it me, or should an evil magician from another dimension be able to disappear anytime he wants? Any disbelief is once again waylaid in “The Avengers” as Thor show’s up in a grand entrance to put a whipping on his brother Loki for his bad behavior. Iron Man and Thor duke it out because Thor is messing with the possibility of finding the Cube. Cap, ever the do-gooder proves his shield can take a hit from Thor’s hammer, and the three heroes call it a truce. All the while Loki is hanging out enjoying the escapade. And so is the audience.
And hence “The Avengers” escalates. Hawkeye turns good again, Loki opens the alien portal and the alien flibbertigibbets attack Manhattan. But Nick Fury has done one thing right…he has created The Avengers. The ensuing battle is both enjoyable and ridiculous. Acting as a team, Captain America falls into his natural talent of leadership, and dispenses orders. Butts are kicked. People are saved. Monsters are smashed. The Avengers win. Audiences cheer.
The action is scattered evenly enough to cut the mustard. But adding more intense jeopardy for each of the characters would have delivered more satisfying results. Never did I really feel like Iron Man or Thor or Captain America was in danger, nor their livelihood intertwined, as they skip along in battle to regroup now and then. When Iron Man shoots an array of repulsor blasts at the enemy, one ricochets off of Caps shield to destroy an attacking alien. It feels accidental, not planned like it should have been, in order to show the avengers are meshing as a team and can utilize each other’s strengths to augment their effectiveness.
Despite some holes in plot credibility and shallow character arcs, The Avengers will leave you satisfied. It is a good movie to enjoy and not analyze much unless, like me, you think about it on the way home. I look forward to the next one.