By Scott Cox
It's a pretty rare event when things that are heavily advertised live up to the hype. Rarer still is the product that exceeds the hype. "The Avengers" is a perfect example of how it can be done.
I'd heard about this movie for six months solid, with the last couple of months being what seemed like a barrage of trailers, all of which did their job, which was make me want to go see it. After the last week or two, enough was enough. Stop the hype, and bring on the film. Guess what? "The Avengers" is actually better than the trailers could have suggested.
Keep in mind that I'm a reformed comic book nerd. And that all those classic Marvel characters were my favorites. Captain America, Thor, Iron Man -- all great comic characters that were turned into really good movies. (I exclude the Hulk, because, while great comics, the movies fell well short).
So I went into the theater with high hopes and a bad attitude. Ten minutes into "The Avengers," my attitude was exponentially better. I mean the entire film is just fantastic: the story, the acting, the special effects -- everything. One of the tricks of telling a story featuring multiple heroes is folding them into the plot in a plausible way, and that's one of the amazing things about "The Avengers." They don't just drop all the good guys into the story in the first five minutes. The story progresses, and each member of the Avengers shows up when it seems to make the most sense. Better still, writer Joss Whedon does a truly excellent job of providing the interaction between these bigger-than-life characters. Like any other group of people used to getting things done their way, there's plenty of friction to go around. That's what makes it so cool when they all predictably band together for the common good.
And all the Avengers maintain their established personas. Tony Stark (Iron Man) is glib and self-centered, Thor is super-serious and committed to the laws of his own world. Captain America is still all about justice, fair play and the ideals that made America great. Bruce Banner (The Hulk) is predictably careful about keeping his alter ego at bay, yet manages to have a sense of humor about it at the same time. Even the master assassins, Black Widow and Hawkeye, have their all-business attitudes most of the time. All this attitude makes it that much better when the heroes get to say and do genuinely funny stuff. I don't want to give away any of the plot, but I will say that this is a movie that mixes action, emotion, excitement and humor.
That's not easy to do, but this film does it perfectly. Better still, they do all this with a story that, while comic-book hyperbolic, still makes sense, which keeps you interested throughout the film and makes all the other cool stuff like special effects seem like a bonus.
Speaking of special effects, "The Avengers" is available in two versions: regular, and 3-D, the format I saw first before experiencing the movie in 2-D. I have to say that it was just as good without the extra "D," and I think that's a big compliment to the film. All the stuff flying out of the screen was fun but didn't really add much to my enjoyment of the movie.
Here's another reason to run out and see "The Avengers": It is nearly devoid of anything that you don't want your kids to see. There are a couple of incidents of bad language, but they aren't anything I wouldn't say around my mom, and in the context of the story, seem tame. And there is no sexual content of any kind, although based on some of the sounds the lady behind me was making during Thor's scenes, I'm guessing that might me a letdown for some people.
Yes, "The Avengers" does contain some violence. Actually, it has a ton of it. But let's face it: This is a movie where a handful of the baddest people in the universe have to save the Earth from evil aliens bent on its destruction, and diplomacy wasn't an option. Plus, I think that a lot of the bad guys were robots anyway. Either way, it's fun to watch the Hulk bust them up. And violence always seems more palatable when it's being used by implausibly attractive people, which this movie is chock full of.
If you haven't been to the movies in a while, let "The Avengers" be your reason to go back. Take the family, get some popcorn and enjoy an honest-to-goodness example of epic moviemaking. The crowds will have died down by the time you read this. And I do mean crowds. "The Avengers" is setting all kinds of box office records. But this is one of those rare occasions where it totally makes sense.
These are the opinions of Scott Cox, not necessarily those of The Californian. Catch his radio show at 3 p.m. weekdays on KERN-AM, 1180.