Thursday, May 3, 2012

"Marvel's Avengers" Furiously Funny

By Skip Sheffield The idea of comic book super heroes has always seemed silly to me. Sure I like Superman, the grand daddy of them all, but the increasingly outlandish characters concocted by Marvel Comics don’t really interest me. So I went to “Marvel’s The Avengers” with low expectations. Surprise! It’s a ton of fun and very funny, and that’s why I enjoyed this absurd adventure. Writer-director Joss Whedon (“Serenity”) has a great sense of humor. His cast has taken a tongue-in-cheek comic approach that mocks the ridiculousness of the plot line and lame character development. There are six, count ‘em six, super heroes in “Avengers,” starting with another grand daddy figure: Captain America. Chris Evans has already starred as the mythical hero, created in 1940, in his own feature. Writer-director Whedon and Zak Penn (”The Hulk,” “X-men” 2 and 3) have provided a back story that refers to the Captain being frozen in ice. The real story is that the rah-rah all-American hero, who was the most popular comic book hero of the World War II era, was retired in the early 1960s when he went out of fashion. Evans’ America is very much stuck in the patriotic, anti-Nazi mode, but in this case the villain is not a Nazi but simply the nasty, destructive god Loki (Tom Hiddleston), who happens to be the brother of fellow god Thor (Chris Hemsworth), who wields a mean hammer. Loki is a sneering, sniveling scoundrel just born to be booed. The chief quipster on the super team is unflappable Tony Stark/Iron Man, played to deadpan perfection by Robert Downey, Jr. Giving Downey a run for his money is Mark Ruffalo as a more human, subtle Bruce Banner, who mutates into the green, giant, computer-generated Hulk every time he gets angry enough. Jeremy Renner plays the deadly archer Clint Barton, who has an endless supply of lethal arrows as Hawkeye, and Scarlett Johansson is the vaguely Russian Natasha Romanoff, aka Black Widow. Natasha is not given a whole lot to do, nor is Gwyneth Paltrow, reprising her loyal girlfriend Pepper Potts, and everyone is upstaged by spectacular CGI special effects. How many times will New York City be destroyed in these capers? It just wouldn’t be science fiction without the Chrysler Building and Empire State Building being menaced. Grand Central Station gets some good screen time too. “Avengers” goes on a bit long and there are lulls between the laughs, but it’s great fun- a lot more fun that most super hero adventures.

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