|In two words, "Hell, yes"|
I don't feel like explaining the plot of The Avengers in detail. It's not a bad story, but I'm going to go with a "simpler is better" attitude here. A desperate and petty demigod, Loki (Tom Hiddleston) has stolen a tesseract. What the hell is a tesseract? Well, here, it looks like a glowing cube, but can apparently do all sorts of things.
|Like make Loki give nasty grins|
|Namely, Triangle Man and Person Man|
Do you really need more than that in your action movie? The Avengers does what it sets out to do; it combines a bunch of superheroes in a movie and gives them a suitably intimidating enemy to fight. The acting in the film is not terribly dramatic, but it's pretty good for what it is. Robert Downey, Jr is still great as the egotistical and charming Tony Stark (AKA Iron Man). If this film leaned on any one character in particular, it was Iron Man. Luckily, Downey is still enormously entertaining in this role. Chris Evans showed a little bit more range as Captain America this time around, thanks to larger doses of humor and smaller doses of melodrama than in his own movie.
|...and lots and lots of posing|
|Above: realizing how much better 13 Going on 30 would be with a Hulk|
|ScarJo, in her biggest action scene. Even she doesn't buy it.|
The key to the success of The Avengers came from screenwriter/director Joss Whedon. Whedon has been able to deliver some great lines for many years, but this is easily the best script he has produced to date (that landed on the big screen, anyway). It might be a little light on emotion, but what little heart it has is taken advantage of fully. This is a very well-paced action movie, with enough downtime to allow for humor, but enough seriousness to not wind up a Last Boyscout clone. The secret appears to be how well he times his beats; Whedon did a great job playing with audience expectations, even when it was only slightly. I have never really thought of him as an actor's director --- I suppose I thought of him as a story-first sort of guy --- but I loved how he had all these heroes portrayed. The characters butted heads in a believable way and worked together in a way that made sense, too. Surprisingly, the least likable hero in the film (Black Widow) fell into Whedon's historical comfort zone (strong female leads), but that was a small price to pay for how well he handled the movie's headliners. I was also impressed with some of the action scenes. There is one in particular, which shows each Avenger doing their thing in turn, as the camera pans from one hero to the next, that was just awesome to watch on the big screen.
First and foremost, though, The Avengers is an action movie. And that is an understatement. Free of boring origin stories or emotional investment, this film was able to provide action scene after action scene, many of which could have been the cool climax to a lesser movie.
Transformers: Dark of the Moon, I'm looking at you). But The Avengers was both. I think it is because each hero had multiple occasions to do something cool; with so many characters swaggering onscreen without interfering with each other, the audience gets scene after scene of characters taking turns at awesomeness. I should also point out how fantastic the Hulk looked in this movie. This isn't the first time somebody has created a CGI Hulk, but this was the first time that they used full motion capture; I don't know how much of a difference it made, but his face did look pretty Ruffalo-like.
|Remember that time Mark Ruffalo was shot with lasers?|
The Avengers is, of course, not blemish-free. It is a big, dumb action movie, after all. The general plot of the first half was a little weak; "get captured" is rarely a step in an excellent scheme. The aliens were a little generic. I would have liked to see more types of alien attackers, but I suppose they were all essentially faceless henchmen.
|Another flaw: when was Hawkeye in Inception?|
How good is The Avengers? I would argue that it is the best pure action movie to come out in at least a decade. Please feel free to disagree with that statement; I have put some serious thought into it already and am primed for a fight. Chances are, you already know how much you will enjoy The Avengers. Fans of action movies and comic book flicks will be in love. No matter how good you think it will be, you're underestimating it. If you're on the fence, this is one of the most pleasurable summer popcorn flicks ever. If you are tired of soulless comic book movie adaptations, then this Frankenstein's monster made of the wet dreams of every marketing team everywhere will not change your mind. It is what it is, and it's possibly the best of what it is. I normally have to take a few grains of salt when sitting down to enjoy a comic book flick, but The Avengers is so much fun that I fully expect it to join the illustrious ranks of Die Hard and Predator in my action movie library. In other words, I'm planning to watch this a few dozen more times and expect to love it every time.