What I Learned At “The Avengers”

Considering Hollywood’s history of squandering potential, no one would be wrong to assume that even a proven cast of Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Evans, Jeremy Renner, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson, and Chris Hemsworth could disappoint. In fairness, the challenge of negotiating focus among all these talents in one movie is hardly an enviable task.

However, The Avengers surpasses expectations with a seamless combination of rapid-fire action, engaging story lines and unparalleled wit. Director Joss Whedon’s script allows the cast to play to its individual strengths, turning what could have been a super group clusterf___ into an ensemble that would cause the makers of X-Men to consider new careers (sorry, Zak Penn; it’s true).

What Whedon demonstrates in this latest Marvel Comics adaptation, as he has in the past, is that pretty people in flattering costumes can be enough for a good time, but turning those pretty people into multidimensional standouts is what makes the 20 IMAX doll hairs worth it.

Downey’s brilliant third portrayal of Tony Stark would have been enough to make this movie a comic fanboy’s dream, and he asserts himself in kind as the intellectual backbone of this superhero team. Evans once again fully embraces the old-fashioned heroism inherent to Captain America. Renner shines in his own way as the lesser-known Hawkeye, complimented by Johansson’s Black Widow, which may be Johansson’s most noteworthy role to date, given the physical demand and dynamic script. Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner is easily the best of this generation, bumping Edward Norton out of that noteworthy spot. Jackson’s Nick Fury lacks the expected Jackson flair, but the role does not call for more than showing up and making everyone else look good anyway. And Hemsworth’s Thor continues to make women swoon with his Nordic muscle and Shakespearean dialect.

With the gushing out of the way, now it’s time for the truths that you won’t read about in any other Avengers review:

Tim Burton is after everyone’s money

In case you were wondering if Tim Burton was done with animation, wonder no more. The aesthetic he honed with A Nightmare Before Christmas and Corpse Bride will be resurrected with the remake of his 1984 short film, Frankenweenie. Before seeing the trailer for this tale of a young boy who reanimates his pet, I would have told you that Disney and the director of Sweeney Todd had no business working together. But I might have said the same thing years ago about Eddie Murphy and Dreamworks. Play on, you weird so-and-so.

Terrorist comedy isn’t ‘too soon’ anymore

In Sasha Baron Cohen‘s return to the big screen, as The Dictator, he takes on his edgiest subject matter as he emulates an Arab tyrant who has fallen from grace in America. What Cohen’s reputation promises is a poignant, yet hilarious look at what it would take for two cultures to embrace one another despite fundamental differences on the surface. Most people may have only seen the trailers that featured cheap jokes about frivolous execution orders and a rigged track meet. But Cohen’s proven satirical brilliance, with Borat and Bruno, guarantees that audiences will leave knowing that someone told them more than a few 9/11 jokes.

Taylor Kitsch’s glory days are over

His first major film role as Gambit in X-Men Origins: Wolverine suffered from poor dialect coaching and prequelitis. He emerged from the wake of Friday Night Lights with Disney’s John Carter, which most of his FNL fans didn’t see. And it seems like Peter Berg’s Battleship will do little to return Kitsch to the cult popularity he earned as Dillon’s own Tim Riggins. My love of Friday Night Lights naturally prompts me to wish Kitsch the best in all of his future endeavors, but a movie that was obviously pitched as ‘Transformers-meets-War of the Worlds-meets-Independence Day’ will likely not return Kitsch to the top of the mountain that was built on incredible writing and emotional stakes. Here’s hoping that Kitsch can steal some of Ryan Gosling’s jobs soon.

The Ol’ Boys’ Club…is really old

So…I…well…I had a great time watching The Expendables…You may have read my review of it on this very site…But…see…well…I just…when the average age of an ensemble of action heroes is Middle, there comes a point when The Expendables 2 has to be treated like a comedy, right? I mean, the first movie was really just an 80s baby’s dream brought to life, so it was easy to overlook Sylvester Stallone’s age, especially when he was surrounded by younger, more believable ass kickers. But adding Chuck Norris and the bandwagon-riding Jean-Claude Van Damme to the mix only forces fanboys onto a level of suspended disbelief that hasn’t been applied since Space Cowboys. I just…I…I need to sit down…and I think most of those guys do, too.

I probably won’t be seeing The Amazing Spider-Man

Not much more to say than that. Blame Tobey Maguire. Blame Kirsten Dunst. Blame my interest in wasting no more time on Spider-Man. Hell, I haven’t even washed that joke of a trilogy out of my system yet. Man, whatever.

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