Here's the best thing I can say about The Avengers (and no, I will NOT refer to it as Marvel's The Avengers, because the branding is implicit):
It offers a couple of the biggest laughs in recent memory, including a slapstick gag worthy of Chuck Jones in his Looney Tunes heyday.
Thankfully, there are other nice things to say about The Avengers, a Marvel mash-up featuring a group of superheroes who (almost) all have had their own movies. Don't think of this as a sequel to the others; it's its own thing unto itself.
And, thanks to writer-director Joss Whedon, that thing is veined with wit, even as it offers exactly the kind of action that fanboys and normal movie-goers alike want out of something like this. The wisecracks and bulls-eye one-liners aside, The Avengers offers big mouthfuls of action, at a scale that tickles the imagination.
Yet Whedon also realizes what the real attraction is here: It's not the moment when these various troubled superheroes put their own issues aside and band together to fight off a horde of invading aliens (although that's a moment that's worth the wait). Rather, it's about the sturm und drang -- the personal demons that goad these differently abled creatures into battling each other.
Those, after all, are the comic books that were always the best -- the ones that pitted superhero against superhero. You always know that the superhero will defeat the villain. But when it's hero vs. hero, well, anything goes.
Or so it seems in this movie. You've got Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) vs. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor vs. Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Hulk against Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Black Widow taking on Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner). And that's not to mention the trash talk, the best of which is offered by Downey as the ever-flippant Tony Stark.
The plot is as comic-booky as it comes, drawing on clues and hints that popped up at the end of Thor, Captain America and the Iron Man movies.
This review continues on my website.
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