The Avengers

Directed By: Joss Whedon

Starring: Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston, and Samuel L. Jackson

"There was an idea to bring together a group of remarkable people, so when we needed them, they could fight the battles that we never could... "
-Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson)

2011 was a good year for comic book movies, but 2012 is the year of the superhero movie.  If movies were people, last year's comic book flicks would go sit at the kids' table at dinner time.  2012 is grown folks' business.  The big boys are here this year!  The Dark Knight will rise to conclude the epic legend of Batman.  Our friendly neighborhood Spidey will simply be amazing as he slings through the streets of New York.  The Avengers will finally assemble in the most epic collaboration of superheroes ever on the big screen.  With Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain America (Chris Evans), and Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), you simply can't go wrong.  Finally, I can say it after years of waiting.  The Avengers are here.  They're kicking ass and taking names.

After Captain America sacrificed himself in a plane crash to save the world from the destructive force introduced by the Red Skull, the energy source known as the Tesseract was lost until Howard Stark discovered it at the bottom of the ocean.  In the present day, Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D. work tirelessly to develop weaponry similar to what was built by Johann Schmidt during World War II.  They are almost ready to implement phase 2 of their research until Loki (Tom Hiddleston) arrives.

After the events of Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger, Loki is in exile.  He meets the Other (Alexis Denisof) and is tasked with retrieving the Tesseract.  In return, Loki will be able to lay waste to Earth with an army of Chitauri.  With this in mind, Loki raids the remote S.H.I.E.L.D. facility where the Tesseract is hidden and takes the prized energy source by force.  In the process, he kills quite a few people and takes over the minds of Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and physicist Dr. Erik Selvig (Stella Skarsgard).  In the chaos, the S.H.I.E.L.D. Facility is destroyed.

With Director Fury raising the threat level to the highest level (level 7), he calls on Agents Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) and Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) to recruit Bruce Banner/Hulk and Tony Stark/Iron Man respectively to help stop Loki.  Meanwhile, he brings Steve Rogers/Captain America up to speed on what's happened over the last 70 years.  With all three heroes in one place, Director Fury hopes to kick off the Avengers Initiative and put an end to Loki's treacherous scheming.  When Loki's brother Thor arrives, the fun really begins and hell breaks loose between these superheroes, which keeps them from dealing with the mission at hand to save the world.

The Avengers lived up to every single expectation I could have ever had as a moviegoer…and then some.  Joss Whedon has turned the concept of the Marvel Cinematic Universe into a jaw-dropping reality.  He really stepped up his game as a director and took it to new levels with this flick.  This two and a half hour superhero epic is packed with plenty of action and lots of laughs.  While teamwork is the big theme of The Avengers, every hero stands out in his or her own way.

Genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist Tony Stark played by Robert Downey, Jr. Is definitely the comedian of the group.  Downey Jr.'s wit is extra sharp and he delivers big laughs throughout the film.  He has something to say for everything and everybody.  Whatever he says is absolutely hilarious.  Without him, the film would have had a considerably darker tone.

Captain America, portrayed by Chris Evans, really steps up to the plate as a leader in The Avengers.  His character is really the moral compass of the team.  Evans plays the traditional superhero well.  As his character tries to get acclimated to the world today, comedy definitely ensues.  Knowing that something runs on electricity is not enough to get you by these days, or to save the world for that matter.

Likewise, Chris Hemsworth plays another fairly traditional hero that brings comedy simply because he's not from Earth.  His focus on his family issues with Loki make him a fool's hero.  The unbelievably badass Loki takes advantage of his brother's stupidity.  Much like in Thor, Hemsworth gives a good performance as the Norse god.  His lack of familiarity with Earth brings quite a few laughs as well.  There is one additional thing about Thor worth noting.  Thor seems to be a major part of every superhero deathmatch on screen.  He's a feisty one.

The real standout of the film is Mark Ruffalo's Hulk.  He's the avenger of whom we get the least time on screen.  Nonetheless, he's the avenger who gives us the most he's got in the time he has.  Destroying aircrafts, leaping like there's no tomorrow, and beating the living hell out of anything and everything in his way are all Hulk needs to do.  Ruffalo's Hulk gets green on some folks and unleashes the beast.  Finally, the big green menace gets his due on the big screen.  All we ever wanted was for him to get mad, and he does plenty of that during the movie.

The Avengers is the culmination of years of filmmaking and sets a new bar for the ensemble superhero picture.  I couldn't have dreamed of a better film.  Bringing these beloved superheroes together in grand style to kick some alien ass is a great way to start the summer.  Marvel continues its dominance of the early part of the summer blockbuster season.  It's something they've done for years.  Most may not remember this, but this weekend marks the tenth anniversary of the release of Sam Raimi's Spider-Man.  If we couldn't have a Spider-Man film this weekend, The Avengers is certainly one hell of an awesome way to start the summer.  The Avengers gets a sober rating.  You don't need a thing during this flick.  Sit back and enjoy.  Stick around until the end of the credits for two post-credits scenes.