It is uncanny how the ending to The Avengers is very similar to the ending of Transformers: Dark of the Moon
and I don't think that I can really distinguish between the two. Both
are over-the-top destructions of large, American cities, often with
machines fighting machines, incorporating huge explosions, implosions
and collapses of tall buildings. The only difference is that critics and
audiences are going for The Avengers more. The praise and the
box office can't merely be for the action because it's self-same to
Michael Bay. Could it be that Robert Downey, Jr. is simply a bigger draw
than Shia LaBeouf? In 20 years, LaBeouf could be Downey. LaBeouf's
character in Transformers is just as wise-cracking and charming. It's not that. Perhaps, it's the lack of overall robotics in The Avengers
that helps it. Perhaps, it's the writing. Writer-director Joss Whedon
did have a hit TV series, which had rhythms that you feel here, but not
all of Whedon's shows took off. Perhaps, it's merely the confluence of
super heroes that makes this compelling. That, the avoidance of heavy
themes, as opposed to The Dark Knight and the embracing of humor
really make this more entertaining, mainstream fare and possibly the
first, successful, live-action attempt at what animated films and TV
series have been doing for years, in terms of teaming up various super
heroes, but, according to The Los Angeles Times, it's the teaming up that clinched it.
The story is Agent Nick Fury, played by Samuel L. Jackson, not really distinguishing this character from Mace Windu, is called when a mysterious blue cube with great cosmic power is activated and brings to Earth, an alien with a god-complex named Loki. This is not Loki's first visit to Earth, but this time his plan is to lead an invasion that will dominate and enslave mankind. Agent Fury knew a day and a villain like this would come, so he already has in the wings, a group of super heroes to fight back.
Up first is Natasha Romanoff, a former Russian spy known as Black Widow, played by Scarlet Johansson. She's a world-class gymnast and martial arts expert. She does have super powers, but they're not disclosed in this movie. Second is Captain America, played by Chris Evans, who has super strength, speed and an impenetrable shield. Third is Iron Man, played by Robert Downey, Jr., who is part human and part machine with the most advanced technology and weaponry. Fourth is the Hulk, a green giant, played by Mark Ruffalo, and fifth is Thor, the god of thunder, played by Chris Hemsworth, who wields a heavy hammer that allows him to command lightning and fly.
I actually don't think that you need to see the previous Marvel movies to get into this one. If you've studied Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger, that will help with certain plot points but they're not a requisite. I think there's enough here to give you what you need in order to get the gist of the characters and their personal problems. Since the main draw for most is the fight scenes, much in the way of back story is irrelevant if the choreography is sufficient. In a way, we can get to know these characters anew because according to this narrative, this is the first assemblage of these characters, so most of them are meeting each other for the first time too. Of course, familiarity with these people goes a long way.
It especially goes a long way when the Avengers are battling and squabbling with each other. There is some confusion as to why some heroes would attack others, particularly in regards to the Hulk, but, generally the in-fights between the Avengers were my favorite. Beyond that, the fights against the bad guys were rather boring. It all culminates though in that Transformers-style smack down. None of it seemed any more spectacular than what Michael Bay did. There is a fairly-good, long, continuous take that swings around and shows each Avenger as they aid in the tackling of a large, flying, mechanical snake, but that was the only impressive instant. It had the energy but not quite the ingenuity of a similar take in Spielberg's The Adventures of Tintin.
Three Stars out of Five.
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and a mild drug reference.
Running Time: 2 hrs. and 22 mins.