When I was a kid my friends and I used to make a drink called a ‘suicide.” This consisted of going to a local gas station and mixing every single drink available at the fountain into one gnarly concoction. It almost always tasted horrible, as common sense will tell you too many competing flavors will leave a bad taste in your mouth. But we did it anyway because we were 12 and we were idiots.
I was really worried that “The Avengers” was going to turn out like the cinematic equivalent of a ‘suicide” by cramming an array of superheroes who had already carried their own blockbusters into one film resulting in a mindless, stomach-churning, special-effects extravaganza.
Fortunately, at the risk of taking this drink metaphor way too far, “The Avengers” was put together by a master bartender in the form of writer-director Joss Whedon who took all these different flavors and mixed us a Long Island iced tea, a cocktail that packs quite a wallop while having no business tasting as good as it does.
“The Avengers” is the culmination of several Marvel superhero films and assembles heroes Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), and The Incredible Hulk (playing his smaller, less-green, alter-ego Bruce Banner is Mark Ruffalo, who takes over for Edward Norton, who took over for Eric Bana).
Also joining the crew are the slightly-less-iconic-but-still-formidable Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner, who made a cameo in Thor) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson, who previously appeared in “Iron Man 2”).
Leading this rag-tag group is Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) who has popped up throughout the various Marvel films and is really the only guy cool enough to keep this team of misfits together.
The plot in a movie like this doesn’t really matter much; just know that the earth is threatened by an intergalactic army led by Thor’s adopted brother Loki (played with villainous efficiency by Tom Hiddleston).
Watching all of these oversized personalities play off of each other is the real treat of “The Avengers” as our heroes spend almost as much time fighting against one another as they do fighting Loki.
The biggest winner out of all this is undoubtedly Whedon, who takes the chops that gave him a devoted cult following (small-screen favs like “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Firefly”) and translates it into the wide appeal of a summer blockbuster.
His script is sharp and witty, the visuals are spectacular and he even takes the problematic volatility and uncooperative nature of the Hulk and turns it into an asset.
The cast is great throughout as Whedon manages to give each character enough space and enough to do so that no one gets shortchanged — which is really pretty impressive when you think about it.
The biggest beneficiary from Whedon’s direction is Johansson. Whedon has always done an exceptional job of writing strong women, and Black Widow gets upgraded from being a mere pretty face wrapped in spandex to a fully-realized, emotionally complex human being wrapped in spandex.
“The Avengers” is everything you would want it to be and is the ultimate summer blockbuster. The movie is thrilling and funny without requiring any intellectual heavy lifting. The 12-year-old inside of you couldn’t ask for anything more, but just to be on the safe side, try to keep him away from the soda fountain.
“The Avengers” is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action throughout, and a mild drug reference.