Marvel’s The Avengers: Entertaining Toy Box, with All-Star Cast, headed by Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans

Despite some shortcomings, Marvel’s The Avengers delivers—big time! After years of promises and anticipation, the company has assembled together its disparate heroes.


here is a highly enjoyable and entertaining ensemble-driven epic, whose greatest merit is maintaining an effective balance between the individual heroes (and their stories) and a tale in which they function as a group motivated by collective goal.

Serving as closing night of the 2012 Tribeca Film Fest (April 28), “The Avengers” opens theatrically in some foreign markets prior to its U.S. release on May 4.  As the first feature of the upcoming summer season, this buoyantly upbeat picture should become a mega-blockbuster both domestically and internationally.

“Marvel’s The Avengers” is based on the popular Marvel comic book series “The Avengers,” created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby and first published in September 1963. Shortly thereafter, it went on to become an institution in both the organizational and sociological senses of this term. The team originally consisted of Iron Man, Thor, The Hulk, Ant-Man and Wasp. Captain America joined the team in Issue 4, after being revived from a trap in a block of ice.

“The Avengers” lacks visual coherence and thematic unity—how could it be with so many separate pieces in the big puzzle. The film is directed by Joss Whedon (mostly known for his TV work, creator of “Buffy: The Vampire Slayer,” “Serenity,” “Firefly”), a self-avowed fan and connoisseur of the series, who functions, among other things, as traffic controller (sometimes literally). But in the hands of another director, the picture could have been much worse.

Based on Marvel’s famous (and notorious) superhero team, “The Avengers” brings together the main casts of the previous franchises: Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). Surprisingly, the four men work well together, and in many moments, they project the impression that they actually fit into a bigger pattern and are members of one large unit.

Four iconic characters, each boasting specific personalities, particular skills, and different social backgrounds, join forces under the leadership of Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson, well cast), director of the international peacekeeping agency S.H.I.E.L.D., who initiates a daring act to defeat an unexpected enemy threatening global safety and security.

Added to the already glorious ensemble are Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), the only significant female in the feature, but in toughness and smartness she’s on the level, right up there with the boys..

Despite pulling together the ultimate dream team, Fury and reliable confidant Agent Coulson must find a way to convince the Super Heroes to work with–not against–each other, when the powerful, greedy, and dangerous Loki gains access to the Cosmic Cube and its limitless power.

It was Jackson’s enthusiasm about the project that led the producers to shoot that promising end credit scene and what he says to Tony Stark in the scene, “You’re part of a bigger universe. You just don’t know it yet.”

Neither the director nor the actors take themselves too seriously, and they are all united with the goal of having fun and offering fun to their varies viewers in a calculated package that combines heroism and humor, action set pieces and joy, and occasionally even some witty bits and smart one-liners.

“The Avengers” is an effective balancing act. Each and every character in ‘The Avengers’ is flawed in a dramatically interesting way and also has an intriguingly dynamic personal story–in addition to the collective goal of “saving the world.”

The director and his writing partner will not be offended if I describe “The Avengers” as a well-oiled machine (or toy box), in which no less than eight characters are interfaced, each maintaining his/hers personal arc and yet make sense.

There is another juggling act that Whedon pulls off successfully: He has made a picture broad enough to satisfy the expectations of the fans of the previous movies, while honoring the wishes of the fans of the comic books. (There is, of course, overlap between the two groups, but they are not the same, nor are their desires).

When the experience is over, you are left with some joyous memorable moments, or thrilling bits of action, which derive directly from the writing and high-caliber performances.

Whedon has said that his visual style as a director comes from comic books, and that his whole strategy of storytelling derives from panel art. In this specific respect, the movie’s visual scheme represents his approach, turning “The Avengers” into a spectacle, which is pleasing to the eyes.

Tony Stark/Iron Man – Robert Downey Jr.
Steve Rogers/Captain America – Chris Evans
Bruce Banner/The Hulk – Mark Ruffalo
Thor – Chris Hemsworth
Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow – Scarlett Johansson
Clint Barton/Hawkeye – Jeremy Renner
Loki – Tom Hiddleston
Agent Phil Coulson – Clark Gregg
Agent Maria Hill – Cobie Smulders
Professor Erik Selvig – Stellan Skarsgard
Nick Fury – Samuel L. Jackson
Pepper Potts – Gwyneth Paltrow
Jarvis – Paul Bettany



MPAA Rating: PG-13.

Running time: 143 Minutes.