"Avengers" review

I got to see "Marvel's The Avengers" at the theater on Saturday, and have been very slow in getting up my review. Which is a shame, because everything I would have said has already been said multiple times, but I wanted a good excuse to talk to my fellow geeks about it. So here goes!

The Wasp Version (i.e. short but hot): It was great! Not the best super-hero movie ever, but right up there. Awesome ending extended action sequence that was everything any fan could have ever hoped for, plenty of laughs, enough quality character moments to make followers of each individual Avenger happy, and an extremely impressive overall presentation. A+!

The Wonder Man Version (poorly dressed but mighty): I say this isn't the greatest super-hero movie of all time only because, in my personal opinion, several other smaller films were more moving or affecting, like "Iron Man" and "Dark Knight". But it's still crazy good.

Look, I won't waste your time dissecting the entire movie because you should just go to see it already. If you're on this site, it's probably because you love super hero stuff. And if you love super hero stuff, you'll love the film. When we were kids reading comics and imaging how awesome it would be to see in live action, this is the movie we were hoping for. Only better.

Explosions galore, characters kicking ass, fantastic in-jokes, all the stuff that makes us love comic books is there. I used to think there was simply no way to make a team super hero movie work, at least for a team like the Avengers or the Justice League, made up of disparate characters from various parts of the company brought together in an "All Star" format. Too many characters in too many competing costumes, and trying to deal with all of that while also having a plot? No way. Unmakeable. Impossible, I always thought. Yes, you can do "X-Men" or "The Incredibles", groups that were made from scratch to be together. But the Avengers? Nunh-unh.

Folks, Joss Whedon done kicked the ever-lovin' crap out of THAT notion. If this doesn't finally elevate him to the top tier of directors then there's no justice in the world. And major kudos to the Marvel Studio, which has managed to keep the thread alive through five previous movies, all with this ultimate goal in mind.

Clocking in at a hefty 2:22, I never really got bored or anxious. It moves at a nice clip, and while I can see how people who don't know anything about the characters might be a bit lost, I don't care about them. It's a comics-lover's wet dream.

The standouts for me were the Hulk, Black Widow, and Hawkeye. Yes, Robert Downey Jr. was fantastic as always, but we've come to expect that from him. I was most nervous about Ruffalo's Banner going into the movie, since I thought Ed Norton Jr. was so outstanding in the last installation. But Ruffalo knocked it out of the park. His physical mannerisms, from the wringing of his hands to the slightly hunched posture, all brought a new dimension to the character that I just loved. And his signature line as he dashed into combat was an instant classic.

The back story of the Black Widow and Hawkeye provided the movie's heart, in my opinion, giving us some people to care about beyond "how hard can they hit the bad guy". I was especially impressed with how they fleshed out Hawkeye's role, because let's face it, in a world with Iron Man's repulsor beams and Thor's magic lightning, what the hell good is a bow and arrow? But I was a believer by the end.

Random bits I liked:
• Hulk and Loki in the Stark Tower penthouse. Laugh out loud funny and awesome.
• Hulk rampaging through the helicarrier after Black Widow. Genuinely tense.
• Everything Agent Coulson.
• Thor & Hulk going at it on the helicarrier.
• Black Widow's interrogation techniques.
• Seeing Stark and Potts together again.
• Cut-off blue jean shorts. Yummers.
• "Hang on, Legolas."

The Mockingbird Version (stuff I didn't like):
I thought that out of all the characters, Thor got the shortest shrift. Not a lot of great moments, not much humor, not much visceral impact besides the aforementioned tete-a-tete with Hulk on the helicarrier. And trust me, anything with Hulk in it automatically gets a +20 Awesomeness Bonus to its roll. Thor wasn't bad, don't get me wrong, but out of the entire cast that role had the least meat on its bones. Which, given Chris Hemsworth's impressive physique, is NOT easy to do.

In terms of plot, let's be real, the ending was fairly hackish. Not that I mind, because coming off the nonstop super-powered fisticuffs and massive property damage immediately preceding it, they could've ended this thing with an attack of the Laser Cats and I'd still be happy.

However -- and I don't want to spoil anything here -- I was a little let down that apparently the bad guys bought their ship from Vader's Discount Megaships. 'Nuff said.

I thought Samuel L. Jackson mostly phoned it in. He's still great, but we didn't get a lot of "Hell yeah!" moments out of him.

I never really understood Loki's whole plan with the helicarrier. I mean (SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER!), Hawkeye almost brought the entire ship down with one arrow. Let the guy shoot one more and it's all over, why the need for this elaborate ruse that had us spending so much time on that ship? It all smacked of MacGuffin chasing in a way, sort of a pointless exercise. But it was fun, so I can overlook it.

The Hulk Version (where we SMASH this review to a satisfyingly crunchy conclusion):
Nitpicks aside, the movie is a ton of fun; I can't think of a better way to spend two hours inside as the temperatures climb. At least, ways that don't involve writhing green extraterrestrials and a healthy dose of me as James T. Kirk.

Go see it. Stay till the last of the credits roll. And bring your big kid diapers because you're not going to want to miss a moment.