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photo by Zade Rosenthal © 2011 MVLFFLLC. TM & © 2011 Marvel.
Captain America (Chris Evans) and Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) in The Avengers.
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The Avengers

Directed by Joss Whedon

Starring Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, and Scarlett Johansson

Rated PG-13

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The slew of Marvel superhero movies in recent years has culminated with Joss Whedon’s multimillion dollar brainchild, The Avengers. Each Marvel installment had a pleasant dosage of witty lines and heroic bravado, but when all of these characters come together, there is a little too much of everything. Still, the special effects, comical dialogue, and some stellar acting make the movie worth both the money and the time.

After the Tesseract (a cube with unlimited potential energy) is taken into S.H.I.E.L.D. headquarters to be examined, it is stolen by Loki, Thor’s exiled brother. Loki has made a pact with an evil alien named the Other to receive an army to conquer the Earth in exchange for securing the Tesseract. With the Tesseract in his possession, Loki flees, and Nick Fury, the director of S.H.I.E.L.D., realizes that the Avengers Initiative must be put in place in order to save Earth. The Avengers, who each have their own reasons for joining forces, must then overcome their differences and unite to save the world.

First and foremost, we can’t help but notice the cheesiness. For example, the Other is a gross exaggeration of every movie monster mashed into one, with a costume resembling a nun’s habit and blood dripping from his mouth. Then when Loki wreaks havoc at a museum opening and forces the crowd to kneel to him, Captain America swoops in, and one by one, people in the crowd gain the courage to stand up against Loki. Given, in a movie where six superheroes save the world, some kitsch is warranted — but at times it seemed a little overboard.

However, plenty of other aspects save the movie from being an all-out cheesefest, one of which is the special effects. Iron Man’s suit disassembling as Robert Downey Jr. walks into his tower surpasses any CGI effects in the previous Iron Man movies. In another scene, Loki teleports from Earth to another galaxy as the background changes pixel by pixel from one location to the other. One last triumph is following one of Hawkeye’s arrows as it leaves his bow and attaches itself to an alien’s hovercraft, and you can see the parts of the hovercraft ignite as it blows into smithereens.

The casting of each character is quite impeccably done. Cobie Smulders of How I Met Your Mother fame rocks a skin-tight body suit and earns her role as Nick Fury’s right-hand-man. Scarlett Johansson brings the cunning qualities of the Black Widow to life and holds her own in the fight scenes. Tom Hiddleston’s portrayal of Loki is downright menacing as he grins at his mischievous plans, takes pleasure in removing a man’s eye, and rejoices in stabbing his brother.

Unfortunately, all attempts to grasp at a deeper meaning fail. There are a few instances where mirrors and reflections are used to show both sides of a conversation. During an explosion scene, a camera from inside a car captures the view through the front window as it flips upside down. These shots are so obviously forced that they stand out in the film as attempts to portray different perspectives that the audience doesn’t need to see.

Whedon also seems to want to tackle the issues behind war as the superheroes deny being just soldiers a few times throughout the movie. But simply mentioning the fact that soldiers can lose their personal identities in war does not make the movie philosophical — Whedon should just stick to explosions and snarky one-liners.

Overall, however, the movie is a joy to watch. It never drags, and Marvel fans won’t be disappointed. A couple television actors smoothly transition to the big screen, and other veteran actors show they haven’t lost their touch. Although Whedon attempts to imply a deeper meaning, it isn’t as blatant as recent tries to appeal to the masses with some contrived message that is supposed to make audiences think. It was actually refreshing to see an action movie just be an action movie.