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Movie Review

Marvel's The Avengers

Marvel's The Avengers
Chris Hemsworth (left) and Chris Evans in "The Avengers"

Whole star Whole star Whole star Whole star
Rated PG-13 for intense sci-fi action/violence and a mild drug reference. 2 hours, 23 minutes.
Publication date: May. 4, 2012
Review by Tyler Hanley
Released: (2012)

Adjectives used in some of Marvel Comics' iconic titles from the early 1960s through today -- amazing, fantastic, incredible -- also describe director Joss Whedon's superhero epic "The Avengers." Whedon ("Serenity") helms with a master craftsman's focus and a devoted fan's enthusiasm in adapting the popular Marvel series that made its print debut in 1963.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have been a comic-book collector and reader since the tender age of 8, when my father introduced me to the hobby (thanks, Dad). But don't worry about taking this review with a grain of salt. "The Avengers" shines regardless of the reviewer's personal bias. The screenplay (also by Whedon) is witty and rife with whip-smart dialogue; visual effects and costume design are exceptional; character dynamics are deeply developed; and the ambitious action scenes are astonishing.

The result is the most impressive superhero film ever produced.

"Avengers" assembles a handful of costumed adventurers introduced in a collection of Marvel Studios films that launched with "Iron Man" in 2008 and continued with "The Incredible Hulk" (2008), "Iron Man 2" (2010), "Thor" (2011) and "Captain America: The First Avenger" (2011). Super spy Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), director of the secretive and well-financed government agency S.H.I.E.L.D., is forced to gather "Earth's mightiest heroes" when mischievous Norse god Loki (Tom Hiddleston) swipes a powerful object dubbed the Tesseract (or "Cosmic Cube"). Loki has made a pact with an alien army in hopes of dominating our humble planet -- an ambition he seems likely to accomplish.

Fury tasks Natasha Romanoff (aka Black Widow, played by Scarlett Johansson) with recruiting genius scientist Dr. Bruce Banner (a brilliantly cast Mark Ruffalo), whose behemoth alter ego, The Hulk, could be either a massive asset or a disaster-in-waiting. Also on board are: Tony Stark (aka Iron Man, again played with gusto by the incomparable Robert Downey Jr.), super soldier Captain America (Chris Evans), hammer-wielding warrior Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and archer extraordinaire Clint Barton (aka Hawkeye, played by Jeremy Renner). Together the group must navigate philosophical differences, quash Loki's devious schemes and cooperate to fend off an unparalleled attack on Earth.

Whedon's inspired screenplay is riddled with tension and humor. Downey Jr. is excellent again as Tony Stark, serving up much of the picture's clever (and often riotous) dialogue. Ruffalo threatens to steal the show with his spot-on performance as Banner, and the filmmakers' rendition of the Hulk is far better than previous incarnations in "Hulk" (2003) and "The Incredible Hulk." Hiddleston notches up his portrayal of Loki with a wicked grin that suits the character perfectly, while Jackson, Evans, Johansson and Renner are all strong as well. And Marvel fans can expect a few fun surprises, too...

Whedon has created something of a masterpiece with "The Avengers." It is a tremendous viewing for action and science-fiction fans alike. But for comic book fans it is akin to cinematic euphoria: a thrilling, creative, crowd-pleasing triumph.

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