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‘Avengers’ a movie to marvel

5/10/2012 - West Side Leader
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By Craig Marks

From left, Jeremy Renner, Chris Evans and Scarlett Johansson star in “The Avengers.”
Photo courtesy of MVLFF LLC
Before the screening of “The Avengers,” the kid sitting next to me wanted to trade his Captain America 3-D glasses for my Hulk 3-D glasses. I readily agreed. The sleek, blue Captain America glasses were more appropriate for someone of a, um, mature age than the bulky green Hulk frames.

Not that it really mattered. Once the thrill-ride of a movie starts, every grownup in the theater becomes 12 years old again. “The Avengers” isn’t deep and won’t cause philosophy professors to amend their study guides, but it’s a blast to watch thanks to a great cast, terrific action scenes and smart dialogue.

And after the movie, feel free to discuss who is the coolest superhero. Is it the brilliant, sardonic Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.)? Or David Banner (Mark Ruffalo), aka The Hulk, who carries a look of bemusement that seems to say, “This is not going to end well?” Or maybe Captain America (Chris Evans), whose achievements are so legendary that even government agents save his bubble gum cards?

The debate igniting “Avengers” was written and directed by Joss Whedon, whose gift for combining humor and action was honed in TV shows such as “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” Now within a bigger sandbox to play in, he creates a classic superhero movie, one that gives you a little bit of everything — including the destruction of Downtown Cleveland.

At the beginning of the movie, we are told of a great energy source, one that can be a boon to mankind but would cause a calamity if it fell into the wrong hands. Those hands would belong to Loki (Tom Hiddleston), the villain from the “Thor” movie. Loki has big, sinister dreams about universal domination and the ability to endure punishment that would make Daffy Duck wince.

It’s up to the mysterious Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), leader of a world-protection organization called S.H.I.E.L.D., to recruit a team that can defeat Loki. Fortunately, his rolodex contains suitable candidates: along with Iron Man, Captain American and the Hulk, he recruits Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), a tough spy whose fighting skills recall a certain vampire slayer. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) will be drafted in later rounds.

Whedon masterfully divvies up the screen time between the heroes, often pairing them off in verbal or physical duals as they get to know each other. Super friends they are not — between them there are jealousies and distrust, with some of the distrust traceable to Hulk’s tendency to get angry and crush anything in his sight. I’m not sure how Hulk’s brain works — sometimes he destroys things randomly and other times acts with a purpose. All I know is that in the climax — filmed in Downtown Cleveland that was made to look like the Big Apple — the Hulk is responsible for the movie’s most crowd-pleasing moment.

That is why Hulk is the coolest; end of discussion.

The movie, which is currently in theaters, is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action throughout, and a mild drug reference.

***-1/2 (out of four)

Craig Marks is a cartoonist and editorial, sports and entertainment writer for the West Side Leader.

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