THE AVENGERS (Rated PG-13)
Fanboys of the Marvel Comics universe will flock to see writer-director Joss Whedon’s “The Avengers” with the same fervor that once gripped teen girls swooning over “The Beatles” arrival in America.
No words of criticism or discouragement will dissuade the built-in audience. Fortunately, in the case of “The Avengers,” the summer movie season starts off with grandiose explosive excitement.
Imagine, if you will, a gathering of disparate superheroes called into action by the existential threat of Earth’s demise at the hands of a lunatic Norse god.
The menace becomes real when the small but unlimited power of the extraterrestrial energy source of Tesseract rears its ugly force, opening up a portal to the dark side of space.
This allows the villainous Loki (Tom Hiddleston) to recruit an army of aliens in order to launch an assault on vulnerable earthlings just ripe for domination, or so he believes.
The deranged Loki, of course, is the adopted brother of the virtuous, hammer-throwing Thor (Chris Hemsworth), one of the superheroes to be called to action by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson).
It is Fury’s organization, S.H.I.E.L.D., which recognizes war has been declared and mobilizes the superheroes of the Marvel Comics universe to combat mode.
Naturally, Thor, who has battled his adopted brother in the past, joins the group. Captain America (Chris Evans), who has been snoozing since the end of World War II, is revived from his slumber.
The egomaniac Tony Stark, aka Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.), is joyously on board, playing his sarcastic attitude to the hilt as he lobs delightfully funny, barbed jabs at fellow superheroes.
The mild-mannered Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo, new to the role), who turns into the Incredible Hulk when stirred by anger, is also capable of verbal sparring. But first, he has to be retrieved from missionary work in India.
Superheroes, accustomed to doing big things, also possess large egos. As a result, they don’t really like each other all that much. In itself, this makes for interesting character development.
After all, Joss Whedon realizes that there has to be a lot more to a successful superhero action film than just unlimited battle scenes and destruction. We have to find our superheroes worthy of attention.
Other players on the scene include the archer Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and the aptly-named Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), the expert killer in martial arts.
I don’t believe it would be wise to give away too much of the story, but insatiable action fans will need to exercise a degree of patience while awaiting the full-scale assault on New York City.
Between the wisecracks and eager moments of one-upmanship, the superheroes are shown to be ordinary mortals in terms of the emotional baggage they carry with them.
The most complex character might be Bruce Banner, a brilliant scientist who labors mightily to keep his anger management issues in check.
Ultimately, after all the characters have been well-defined and their personalities are allowed to shine, “The Avengers” gets down to some serious business.
Tony Stark’s massive headquarters near Grand Central becomes ground zero for the alien attack. The explosive finale is a colossal battle in which most of Manhattan is leveled to the ground.
Because the front end of “The Avengers” allowed so much time for exposition and character development, the non-stop action at the back end seems all the more purposeful and satisfying.
“The Avengers” is a dream come true for all those who love these superhero characters. I am not sure how the next movie of this kind will be able to top this one.
When the film’s end credits begin to roll, be sure to stick around for a couple of surprises.
DVD RELEASE UPDATE
The popular detective drama starring Robert Urich as cool private eye Dan Tanna gets another DVD release with “Vega$: The Third Season, Volume 1.”
This 3-disc set features action-packed episodes centered on the detective who drives around Sin City in a vintage bright red Thunderbird, solving cases with the help of his loyal staff.
I don’t much care for how the entire season is broken up into volumes. We may have to wait a few months for Volume 2 of the Third Season, but at least for now there are 12 episodes to enjoy.
Until a package arrived in the mail, I had no idea that the “regular guy” spy story of “Chuck” had come to an end.
You too can catch all 13 episodes from Season 5, plus over 3 hours of never-before-seen bonus features, in the DVD release of “Chuck: The Complete Fifth and Final Season.”
The bonus features include 6 all-new featurettes, 2 full-length commentaries, deleted scenes, gag reel and an extended version of the series finale episode.
Tim Riley writes film and television reviews for Lake County News.