“The Avengers” a complete knock-out; Marvel delivers after years of promises

In the movie industry, there are few motion pictures that have been as highly anticipated as “The Avengers.” It’s taken Marvel years of planning, gambling and (probably) hefty contract negotiations to reach its goal of combining some of the most beloved heroes of all time into one ultimate alliance (video game fans, please forgive the pun) against the super high expectations of fans the world over.

Their secret weapon in this daring fight? It isn’t Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr. “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows”), it isn’t Captain America (Chris Evans, “What’s Your Number?”), the incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo, “Shutter Island”) or even the demi-god Thor (Chris  Hemsworth, “The Cabin in the Woods”). No, no; Marvel’s secret weapon in this larger than life movie concept, is writer/director Joss Whedon.

That’s right, Joss Whedon. As in, the mastermind behind the “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” series, “Angel,” “Doctor Horrible’s Sing-A-Long Blog,” “Cabin in the Woods,” “Serenity,” “Firefly,” “Titan A.E.,” “Toy Story,” and the rather regrettable “Alien: Resurrection” (hey, even geniuses have off days).

Do you see that list? That little list of pure awesome? Yeah, so did the people in charge of living up to every sky-high expectation the Marvel movies have instilled in fans since the first hint that an Avengers movie was in planning stages, and they said, “Wow, look at all of that awesome…maybe, just maybe, he can pull off this unrealistic goal of pure epicness that we’ve promised our fans.”

But did he succeed?

Yes. Yes he did. Joss Whedon offered up fans what he does best; big explosions mixed with humor, subtle but intense character development, several well-spaced “wtf” moments, and even bigger explosions. His writing and direction takes the best of each character and exploits it just shy of being over-done, leaving viewers wanting more, but not “needing” it.

Take Mark Ruffalo for instance; this poor guy is the third Hulk in the last decade or so, and no one was expecting anything spectacular of his character. But Whedon, knowing that he had to give each hero his or her own convincing story arch within the movie, wrote the Bruce Banner/Hulk character with the proper conflict between personalities, but focusing  more quietly on the Hulk frontier, placing the obvious development within the Banner character, with hints at the same happening to his enormous green alter-ego. In the end, the Banner/Hulk character might just be more beloved than in either of the previous movies he was featured in.

A large part of that particular character success is also due to Ruffalo’s acting. Again, being the third Hulk in recent years puts a certain expectation on his shoulders, and it isn’t a good one. His Banner possesses a more “geeky” appearance, a more withdrawn and practical personality and even a bit more of a dark humor. When you see him, you think nothing of him, and then he wows you with his entire arsenal of subtle charms, and you can’t help but root for his character more than the others.

That isn’t to say that the other heroes don’t shine just as brightly, Scarlett Johansson plays a dynamic and sexy Black Widow, and despite being drop dead gorgeous, her character is in no way, shape or form a simple case of “eye-candy” for the audience. Johansson’s Black Widow can hold her own in a fight, and doesn’t require rescuing at every turn. She is a master spy with control of her emotions and every aspect of her visage; Johansson does a phenomenal job of completely altering the way she carries herself and what emotions she’s attempting to portray at the drop of a pin; just as her character requires of her. Every second of it is believable as well.

The overall chemistry between characters is spectacular; when Whedon isn’t knocking you off your feet with his special effects and eye-popping fight scenes, the actors all leave their mark on both you, the audience, and one another. Every altercation on screen, every smile, punch, eye roll and scowl is so truthful that you’d swear these actors had been working together on this movie for decades.

Marvel, thank you for employing Mr. Whedon to write and direct this movie; no one else would have been able to pull it off half as well as he does. You promised us the world, and you’ve made good on it. We’ll be patiently awaiting for “The Avengers 2;” don’t screw it up.

*Be sure to a) see this movie, b) see it twice, and c) stay after the credits for the usual “ooh” and “ahhh” scene at the end.

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