I’ll admit that the only comic books I’ve ever read are a couple of Care Bears issues from the early 1990s. I know that there are a lot of passionate comic book fans out there, but also there’s a lot of us who just go to the movies without the extensive background knowledge of the characters. That said, the basic premise of The Avengers struck me as a bit ridiculous, even for a comic book movie.

In the film, S.H.I.E.L.D., an international peace keeping agency is in the process of using a blue cube called the Tesseract to harness unlimited sustainable energy from outer-space when exiled demi-god Loki (Tom Hiddleston) emerges from a portal the Tesseract opened, putting scientists and agents, including Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), under a mind-controlling spell, stealing the Tesseract, and unfolding a plan for world domination. To prevent Loki from developing a portal big enough to bring in his army, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) assembles a team of heroes including the Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Captain America (Chris Evans), Bruce Banner/The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), and Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.). Not long after, Loki’s brother Thor (Chris Hemsworth) arrives and eventually joins the fight. Unfortunately, as they work around the clock to locate the Tesseract, the team’s egos clash, threatening to sabotage the entire mission. Will they be able to stick together when Earth needs them the most?

For the most part, the plot of the movie itself isn’t that interesting. In fact, Loki and his soldiers from outer-space very strongly reminded me of villains I saw on Power Rangers as a kid. Some of the fight scenes, such as the battle between Thor and Iron Man seem totally unnecessary. The action is solid comic book fare, but it was mindlessly entertaining. The real treat of this movie comes in the scenes when the Avengers are not suited up, but are just being their normal selves with one another. Mark Ruffalo and Robert Downey Jr. have great chemistry and I enjoyed watching them bond as super geniuses. Similarly, the clash between humble, hunky Captain America and narcissistic Iron Man was funny and interesting as they developed a grudging respect for one another. Agent Phil Coulson’s (Clark Gregg) admiration and fan-boy reaction to Captain America was pretty fun as well.

The dialogue between the characters is often quippy and charming. People in my theater were laughing out loud. Largely, though, the screenplay is uneven and stilted. In the first half hour, I was distracted by trying to memorize all the terrible lines. The worst comes in the first conversation between Nick Fury and Loki. Loki asserts that if he can free the world of freedom people will be better off and will find peace of mind. Fury responds, “You say peace, but I think you mean the other thing.” The line is so vague that I kept wondering, “what other thing?” and the delivery was as flat as the writing. It exemplifies about 30 percent of the dialogue throughout the film.

Despite the weak script, the actors do a wonderful job embodying their characters. Those scenes I loved showing the conflict between the band of misfits wouldn’t have been possible if the actors couldn’t bring their characters to life outside the superhero costumes. Robert Downey Jr. pretty much steals every scene he’s in, but Mark Ruffalo is charming as a calm and controlled Bruce Banner. As Loki, Tom Hiddleston’s performance starts off a little too-hammy, but by the end of the film he was completely creepy. Chris Evans is an all-American dreamboat. There aren’t many women in the film (Gwyneth Paltrow shows up in three short scenes and Colbie Smulders’s Agent Hill is more of a plot device than a character.), but Scarlett Johansson holds her own, especially in a chilling scene with Hiddleston. I don’t usually like her, so that’s no empty compliment.
Although the bad parts are really lame, The Avengers still features a fantastic cast, interesting character interactions, and a pretty cool final battle. For these reasons, I rate it 3.5/5 stars

The Avengers was directed and written by Joss Whedon based on the comic books by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. It runs 142 minutes and is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action throughout, and a mild drug reference.