Well, I was going to write up some ridiculous, overlong blog entry about The Avengers and superhero movies in general. But then 2/3 of the way through it, I realized that even I didn't want to read it. I got off on some tangent about Batman and... anyway, I'll leave that for when The Dark Knight Rises comes out.
So here's what you need to know:
The Avengers is awesome.
The action is great. Everyone gets a chance to show why they excel at what they do. You could see how Captain America could go toe-to-toe with bigger, badder dudes and not just hold his ground, but come out on top. I left wanting to see even more. Admittedly, Hawkeye and Black Widow are a bit less effective at fighting giant mechanical alien space monsters than say, Iron Man, but hey... Scarlett Johansson in a catsuit. How can you go wrong there? And they even managed to make Hawkeye look cool (leaving the big purple "H" off the costume probably helped).
Some origin story movies have to cover so much backstory, action suffers as a result. In hindsight, I wish Iron Man, Thor and Captain America had some more action scenes in their first movies. But that's not a problem here, in no small part because so much groundwork was covered in those other movies. They drop in just enough information here so you know who these characters are, and what they're about, in case you haven't seen the other movies. By the time you get to this film, everyone is up to full speed, and it doesn't take very long to get this movie rolling.
The heroes all get their moments to shine, and we get to delve into more of what makes them tick. Everything is very well balanced, and nobody dominates the film. It's not "Iron Man 3" - this is very much a team movie. The dialog is very smartly written, and there are a number of instances where characters are cleverly paired-up and this leads to some great comedy, conflicts, camaraderie, compassion and um... something else that starts with "c".
Pathos. I guess.
Well, so much for alliteration.
There are a lot of very funny lines in the film, but they all stem from genuine character moments. The movie also has a lot of heart. I liked these characters. That's hard to do in a film that's so densely-packed with characters, action, and business.
Speaking of characters, Mark Ruffalo is excellent as Bruce Banner. I was kind of worried, since I thought Edward Norton did a really good job in the last Hulk movie, and there were hardly any shots of Ruffalo in the trailers to judge by. But as a friend of mine pointed out, "The Avengers is the best Hulk film ever made." Bruce Banner and the Hulk have the two best lines in the film. Ruffalo makes Bruce Banner a compelling character, as if he's had to inhabit him and bear the weight and the responsibility of the Hulk for years, but yet he still has a wry (and slightly wicked) sense of humor about it. The Hulk himself looks the best he ever has, and is a genuinely fun (and at times, scary) character to watch. It wouldn't surprise me if Marvel dusted off the Hulk franchise again and took another shot at a sequel.
Tom Hiddleston is terrific again as Loki. He was the best thing about the Thor movie, and he doesn't disappoint here, either. He's great fun to watch as a villain, likable and detestable all at the same time, and a worthy reason for the Avengers to assemble. You can't have a great superhero film without a great villain, and he makes for a solid core for this movie to revolve around.
Did I mention Scarlett Johansson wears a catsuit? 'Nuff said.
Cobie Smulders, smolders as agent Maria Hill. Also in a catsuit. Sign me up for S.H.I.E.L.D.
The Avengers starts fast and doesn't let up for 2 1/2 hours, yet it's not tiresome. It doesn't feel busy, but dense. There's a lot to absorb - so much so, that I plan on seeing it again. I almost never do that with movies, because I always feel that after one viewing, I've seen basically everything the movie had to offer.
Admittedly, part of this could be because some guy brought his little kid along who asked questions every 5 seconds for the first 20 minutes of the film. Finally, after repeated "sshhhh!!"s from me and the guy next to me, the dad finally took his kid out. Top tip for parents: if you have inquisitive little kids that ask questions every 5 seconds, get a sitter. Or sit as far away from everyone else in the theater as possible. This ain't your living room, y'know.
The Avengers is, simply put, the best comic book movie ever made. It's the very reason I used to read comics: great characters, huge action, over-the-top villains, and lots of all of the above. Best of all, The Avengers is fun. That's the best thing that can be said about any movie, and this one delivers. Big time. Go see it. In 2-D (I can't imagine 3-D making the movie any better, and would likely just serve as a distraction).
Oh yeah... almost forgot to mention, stay through the credits, all the way to the end.