Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain America (Chris Evans), et al, join forces under the guidance of Samuel L. Jackson, aka Nick Fury, to stop Thor’s brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston), from destroying all of mankind.
We’re told early on in “The Avengers,” Marvel’s cacophonous answer to the equally brain-dead “Transformers,” that a “Level 7” emergency has been declared by the mono-sighted Nick Fury, head of the clandestine secret superhero service, S.H.I.E.L.D. But why stop at 7? Why not 70? The rest of this bloated, overblown movie surly knows no such bounds. It’s full-bore, and I do mean “bore,” from the get-go, as writer-director Joss Whedon empties everything at his reported $225 million disposal to assault our eyes, ears and intelligence with one of the stupidest comic book tales ever put to film.
OK, maybe “stupid” is too strong a word; more like inane or jejune. But you get the picture. Or, at least, I hope you do, because I certainly didn’t, what with all the clunky dialogue, ho-hum special effects (note to Whedon: I’ve seen New York, yawn, blown up dozens of times before) and numerous Oscar-nominated actors out to prove who’s the better ham. From what I could gather amid all the clanging metal and hyper-cool transparent computer screens, it has something to do with a long-haired British fop going by the canine-sounding name of Loki (Tom Hiddleston) trying to take over the Earth. But little does Loki realize that banks and big oil already beat him to it. Sorry, Loki.
Just kidding about the latter, although that would have made for a more interesting story than Loki and a bunch of second-rung superheroes (no Batman, Superman or Spider-Man in sight) fighting to take control of some glimmering blue special effect thingy they call – apparently for lack of a better word – a Tesseract.
The alleged fun in all this is the petty infighting that erupts between stupor-heroes Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Thor (the living mannequin Chris Hemsworth), the Hulk (a slumming Mark Ruffalo), Captain America (Chris Evans looking and sounding eerily like Rick Santorum), the Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson squeezed nicely into a tight body suit to arouse the girlfriend-free fanboys) and Hawkeye (Jeremy
Renner at his worst) after they are summoned by the immortal Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson, who obviously asked his pal Siri to iPhone in his performance) to gain possession of said thingy. I admit it’s clever for a couple minutes, especially when Downey (the only actor putting forth much of an effort) repeatedly fires insults at the pompous Thor, calling him “Shakespeare in the Park” and “Point Break.” But after about five minutes of it, it starts to get old, and you start asking yourself, “Is this all Whedon has up his short sleeve?” Apparently so, because it goes on for like an hour, as each stupor-hero takes turns abasing the other. The only thing breaking up the monotony are the occasional “action” scenes in which quick cuts and surprisingly fuzzy 3-D effects make it nary impossible to tell who’s fighting whom over what. Add to that the loads of expository dialogue necessitated by Whedon’s inability to show instead of tell, and you have a movie that practically dares you not to get involved in the lives and the plights of what should have been colorful characters.
Page 2 of 2 - Alas, the only thing colorful is their costumes and the giant balls of flame erupting from umpteen explosions that go off with diminishing returns. True to Whedon’s big-bang theory, the computer-generated effects are certainly impressive, especially if you like seeing the screen filled with lots of busyness. Whedon literally throws everything he can think of into every scene, from those cliché see-through computer screens to the surrounding multi-colored lights and gadgetry.
What’s missing, though, is any semblance of heart, mind or depth in any of the characters, who do nothing but snark when they aren’t employing their respective stupor-hero gift. Heck, we don’t even get much, if any, of the sibling rivalry between Thor and his adopted brother, Loki. Ah, but that would require the sort of effort Whedon isn’t remotely prepared to give in a flick that errs in believing bigger is always better. Still, I’m certain the masses will flock to this no matter what I say. But that doesn’t mean I have to like it. Believe me, I don’t. And I can assure you my hate for it goes well beyond Level 7.
(PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action throughout, and a mild drug reference.) Cast includes Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Tom Hiddleston, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner and Samuel L. Jackson. Written and directed by Joss Whedon. 1.5 stars out of 4.