Marvel’s “The Avengers” (2012) – reviewed by George

Directed by Joss Whedon from his screenplay, which was based on a story by Zak Penn and Whedon, this is truly a blockbuster. Clearly an action movie but with touches of humor, sadness, and eventually triumph tempered with what has gone before (so much better than the infantile clapping and cheering of lesser movie endings), “The Avengers” is also an introductory movie, introducing a team of superheroes who have already made a second installment.
The six Avengers are Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner). They are assembled by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), and are aided by various members of S.H.I.E.L.D., Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg), Agent Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders), and Dr. Eric Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard). Tony has his own small team, Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), and the robot Jarvis (voice of Paul Bettany).
The villain is Loki, Thor’s brother (Tom Hiddleston), who has come to earth to get the Tesseract, a source of unlimited energy which Thor brought here. He has come without his army of Chitauri, but can call them at any time. And Loki has no principles but power, and no regard for anything or anyone that keeps him from getting what he wants.
The team is not exactly cohesive, and that provides some of the humor:
Bruce Banner on an encounter with Loki: “You could smell crazy on him.”
Thor: “Have care how you speak. Loki is beyond reason, but he is of Asgard. And he is my brother.”
Black Widow: “He killed 80 people in 2 days.”
Thor: “He’s adopted.”

Then in the sadness after the first encounter is disastrous, Nick tells Tony Stark and Steve Rogers, “We were going to build an arsenal with the Tesseract. I never put all my chips on that number though, because I was playing something even riskier. There was an idea, Stark knows this, called the Avengers Initiative. The idea was to bring together a group of remarkable people to see if they could become something more. To see if they could work together when we needed them to, to fight the battles that we never could. Phil Coulson died still believing in that idea. In heroes. Well. It’s an old-fashioned notion.”
So the script sets up two projects: a series of Avengers films and a Phil Coulson TV series – all you need is Tahiti.
I liked this movie a lot, and I’m looking forward to seeing “Age of Ultron”. My only quibble is that several scenes are filmed in darkness. I crab about this regularly, but it’s simply true: if you see a film in total darkness in a theater you can pick it all up, but if you watch at home in the daytime when you can’t darken the room, you miss stuff. And I’ve already pointed out the solution: follow the lead of David Fincher who directed the dark scenes in “Gone Girl” using a mix of browns and ochers. Dark and suspenseful, but clear as a bell.
Thanks, Jen and Robb!

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