Thursday, May 3, 2012

Soaring Sixsome

The Avengers       WWW Score: 88%

Roughly three-quarters through 'The Avengers', Captain America - barking out the plan of attack for his five cohorts - turns to The Hulk and simply says: smash.

When the sixsome keep it strictly to that Neanderthalic level, 'The Avengers' soars higher than Tony Stark's super-slick alloy suit but alas, the fanboy king - writer/director Joss Whedon - can't quite constrain himself, nearly bludgeoning us with the arsenal of destruction at his disposal.

That sound you hear is Whedon's oh-so-loyal basement-dwelling subjects breaking out in boisterous celebration.

After a James Bond-esque open introducing us to Thor's bro, the nefarious cosmic overlord, Loki (the suddenly ubiquitous Tom Hiddleston), head honcho Nick Fury (the eye-patch wearing Samuel L. Jackson) spans the globe to assemble his pack of superhero protagonists.

From Hawkeye (the convincing Jeremy Renner) to Black Widow (the skintight-suited Scarlett Johansson) from Bruce Banner (the sluggish Mark Ruffalo) to the good Captain (the stuffed-with-faux-muscles outfitted Chris Evans) and the sledgehammer-wielding god Thor (the no-post-production-necessary Chris Hemsworth) - it's not until Stark shows up that the movie truly takes life.

Without Robert Downey Jr. delivering his witty quips in patented rat-a-tat-tat fashion, 'The Avengers' would largely be a soulless shell of a movie that could be mistaken for a Michael Bay production.

Yet when Downey is on, it's on. The action sequences are as visually stunning as anything seen on screen not featuring the word "Transformers" in the title. Mano-a-mano brawls between the super-powered circus freaks ahead of their S.H.I.E.L.D.-cemented status are electric - who doesn't want to watch Iron Man and Thor beat the crud out of each other?

Where Whedon makes missteps is in his attempts to go all 'Avatar' in extravagance - staging the mother of all battles not once but twice. First, an exhausting fracas on a flying aircraft carrier, and second, the closing clash with Loki's speeder bike-riding beasts. Both battles rage to the point of sensory enervation.

At a tush-torturing two hours and 23 minutes, the visual and aural assault could use a major edit. Countless verbal dissertations about the glowing cube of infinite power - the Tesseract - teeter on the edge on coma-inducing.

Last I checked, this wasn't a physics class at MIT.

But if it's a popcorn flick you seek, 'The Avengers' scores with all the requisite ingredients: staggering 3D effects, stratospheric explosions, and yes, an oft-slovenly narrative. Then again, this isn't meant to be rocket science - but don't tell that to Whedon.