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Marvel Comics' The Avengers was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. A detailed and chronologically correct layout of the Marvel Movie Universe, if you don't wish to have a second look at the various Iron Man, Hulk, Thor and Captain America movie(s) can be found here. Onwards....
Given the plethora of movies set in the Marvel Universe that have been released in the past five or six years, it would almost be silly to enforce this site's Primary Rule ("you shouldn't have to know the Source material to enjoy what you're about to see). Props, then, to director Joss Whedon and his writing partner Zak Penn for providing just enough recap to cover all the bases and unleashing a juggernaut of a comic book based movie.
Juggernaut. Sorry, that's an X-Men villain. Wrong series. Those that do know the various Marvel comics will see on screen many elements introduced over the last fifty years which (you) will understand and everyone else will just think (is) just a lot of fun.
We'll get right to the point and say that the buy-the new-comics-on Wednesday fanboys will easily rate The Avengers at a perfect $10 on Cranky's scale of doing things. As for everybody else . . .
IN SHORT: Sibling rivalry on a planetary scale ... well, planet New York <g> [Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action throughout, and a mild drug reference. 142 minutes]
Those who have been reading Marvel comics for far too many years can recite the company story template by heart:
Begin with an item, perhaps a glowing blue cube stuffed with cosmic-ish power; something that can be used for either good or evil. Open it or unleash it or reveal it and let havoc ensue. Gather a team of heroes to Save the Earth . . . but first let them bash each other'sw brains out because no super-being knows who is truly good and who is truly evil. Once that is out of the way, have at the true bad guy and (maybe) hide the fact that nothing is truly as it seems.
Of course, what is template to us is relatively new to most of y'all in movieland. Let us just say that, now that you know most of the individual players -- because you have seen the earlier Marvel movies, we have no doubt about that -- now you get to see them try to play nicely together.
It's Marvel. That never happens either. And while The Avengers could easily be nothing more than 2+ hours of good guy beating up on good guy or good guy beating up on bad or any combination or set of betrayals, as we wrote above Whedon and Zak have delivered an accessible, action packed battle-fest with plenty of moments that will have fanboys giggling like little girls -- and the uninitiated will also be laughing at virtually all of those moments, because that's how much work has been put into this script.
The Avengers opens with the Tesseract, introduced in Captain America: The First Avenger, a glowing blue "cosmic" (-ish) cube. While earnest scientists do their research -- here, it is Thor's Professor Eric Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård), a scientist of S.H.I.E.L.D. -- the (Strategic Homeland Intervention Enforcement Logistics Division) -- super-powered bad guys attack and steal said item.
Those bad guys wouls be led by the Norse god Loki (Tom Hiddleston) Loki wants a world of his own to Rule, like any god should. His brother Thor (Chris Hemsworth) has got one. His adopted father (Odin) has/had one. His biological father (don't worry about it) had one. Loki wants to be King. He decides that Earth shall be his kingdom and sides with an alien army of beings called Chitauri to pull it all off.
Sensing the coming attack, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) assembles a team to protect the planet. He's been showing up at the end of all the earlier Marvel movies to clue in the newfound heroes that "something" is coming, so there's a fairly deep roster to call from: Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain America (Chris Evans) -- who will all do battle in Germany -- and two master assassins, Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson). The latter is sent to corral the only missing super powered entity on the planet, a Dr. Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), hiding in a leper colony in India, where misery helps him deal with his "anger issues".
Sure, some of the good guys have to beat each other senseless before playing nice. It is the way of all things Marvel.
Once gathered on the SHIELD "helicarrier," a vessel that can fly or sail or submerge, the script lets the human "identities" play off each other; scientists Banner and Stark talk gobbledygook; Hawkeye and the Black Widow let us infer that some of their spy-days missions were a lot more than get in-kill-get out affairs. Emphasis on "affairs". And while the big guns are doing whatever they need to do, all us reg'lar folk are repped by Agents Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) and Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) of SHIELD, and a taste of Stark's girlfriend Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow).
And then all hell breaks loose.
More than that we're just not going to tell you. Battles will be fought. Heroes will die. New York will get the junk beat out of it. Our audience, granted there were more than enough fanboys in the seats, broke into spontaneous applause at least twice during the film. They roared at Mark Ruffalo's Banner/Hulk whose character has, at least for now, seemed to find a purpose.
If you absolutely detest actionflicks, then you have no reason to see this movie. Everybody else, pile on!
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to The Avengers, he would have paid . . .
The former 'cuz I'm a former blubbering fanboy and the latter for all the dates that may be dragged in kicking and screaming -- though we couldn't guess why <vbg> -- to see the movie.
As for those legendary Marvel surprises always held for the very end of the earlier films? Now that The Avengers has paid off, don't think they're going to stop. As always, bring a fanboy to translate what it is you see. We'll hint: the age of Lee and Kirby is about to end.
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