In the midst of a drawn-out and noisy battle scene, the action pauses to zoom in on two characters in front of a giant poster for Disney’s Broadway production of “The Lion King.” Although this blatant cross-promotion only lasts for an instant, there are moments like these that help remind the audience that Disney's “Marvel's The Avengers” is nothing more than a mindless, cash-grabbing machine.
“The Avengers” follows Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) as he assembles the ultimate team of superheroes including Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain America (Chris Evans) and more to fight the evil Loki who threatens to take over the world as we know it. Clocking in at over two hours, there is not much to the film once you get over the initial thrill of seeing these superheroes fight alongside each other.
Every superhero is given their moment to shine, but it becomes painfully obvious whom the “better” heroes are. When you see Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) with her pistols and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) with his arrows, one cannot help but laugh at how they have nothing in comparison to Iron Man’s suit or Thor’s hammer. Even the heroes themselves joke about how the likes of Captain America are considerably outdated and unable to rival their greater abilities.
Downey Jr. as Iron Man is the highlight of the movie. His charisma and sharp wit elevate each scene he is in, and almost makes up for how remarkably bland the other heroes are portrayed. Scarlett Johansson, in particular, appears to be phoning in her performance as Black Widow. As salacious as she may look, even her role as eye-candy is not nearly up to par with her jaw-dropping action scenes in 2010’s “Iron Man 2." The pacing of the story is also a detrimental aspect of “The Avengers.” Midway through the movie, there is an extended period of time with no action whatsoever. Although it is nice to take a breather from the bad guys and explosions, these scenes lacked momentum and were bogged down by tedious dialogue.
The action sequences themselves were thrilling—largely due to the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and his hilarious destruction—but director Joss Whedon could have easily trimmed the fat. Like the “Transformers” films before it, mind-numbing action is no match for well-paced and smart storytelling.
All nit-picking aside, the movie itself was a visual feast. Although converted to 3D in postproduction, the result is surprisingly striking. Whether it is Hawkeye sliding down a rope or Iron Man zooming through the air, the various layers of each scene mirrored last year’s “Hugo” in some respects.
In the case of “The Avengers,” one merely needs to accept it for what it is. It does not aim to be anything but a brainless action movie and a faithful adaption for the comic book devotees. That being said, predecessors like the first “Iron Man” film and “Captain America” are far superior in their balance between clever narrative and blockbuster fun.
“The Avengers” is sure to kick off the summer movie season with a bang, but not without treading some all-too-familiar waters in the process.