“The Avengers” (2012)

[http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0848228/]

The summer’s biggest movie so far, and likely the biggest of the whole summer, is Marvel’s “The Avengers”. Directed and scripted by Joss Wheton, it has all the action anyone would want in a movie as well as the humor, the characters, even the pathos.

And, it even has mind control. NOTE: Spoilers Ahead! You Have Been Warned!

Description: When Loki returns to Earth via the power of the Tesseract, he is bearing the “Scepter of Plot Contrivance” which gives him the power of mind control, by removing the free will of its victims. Hawkeye and two scientists fall under his sway and work for him throughout most of the film. Hawkeye takes a good shot to the head that brings him out of Loki’s control. Fortunately the good guys are able to hold off the alien invasion initiated by Loki long enough for a final solution to the problem to be sent.

Commentary: This is probably the best comics movie I’ve seen in a long time. (So say a lot of other people.) It beats out all of the previous Marvel movies and builds on (and improves upon) the movies of the past few years that all presaged this movie. I would have to go back to the original “Superman” for a comparison, and even that pales in comparison.

And how does this accomplish this? How did “The Avengers” escape the mediocrity trap that affected such recent films as “Green Lantern”? For one thing, the quality of the competition was equal to the heroes. By the end of the film, Loki managed to make himself an equal foe to all of the Avengers singly, and the alien foes were a match for the team’s assembled might. But before then, they were all against each other (some of which was Loki’s doing, I’m sure) and therefore they all were antagonists before they were allies. For another, it was funny: the number of great lines (or non-lines, as when Steve Rogers just hands Fury a $10) in the movie was greater than several of the past superhero movies put together.  And the lines come naturally to the characters: it shows a great understanding of the nature of the characters that comes from a gifted and experienced writer like Joss Whedon.

But what brings this to the top are the actors. Everybody is spot on, from the major stars all the way down to the little people. Tom Hiddleston as Loki is one of the best casting decisions of the year (or before, as he played the same character without the same charm in “Thor”, but he really shines here.) And despite their varying levels of power and ability, each of the Avengers have their own face time and demonstrate exactly why they are a positive member of the team: Black Widow’s scene interrogating Loki is a masterpiece, and Loki’s teeth-gnashing at the end when he realized he’s been played is great; Hawkeye launching arrows looking in the opposite direction, then surprising Loki with an exploding arrow; the recognition that Bruce Banner was just as important to the team, and his ‘partnership’ with the Hulk was never better realized; Captain America taking command the way a military leader should in a crisis; Thor, the moment he reached for his hammer and hesitated, pausing a moment to wonder whether he was still worthy to wield it; and Robert Downey Jr. who almost steals the show and has the most character development.

I’ve already seen it twice, and I plan at least one more viewing. Don’t miss it.

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