Captain America. Iron Man. Hulk. Thor. Most of them created in the 60s, these popular Marvel comic characters have made their rounds appearing in solo movies groomed for a mass build up geek-plosion in the form of The Avengers, a movie based on one of the earliest and most popular superhero mega teams. Though these characters have been around for years, it wasn’t until the late 80s when Batman raked in a huge amount of dollars that Hollywood began to take superhero movies seriously. Of the four, Hulk was the first to debut, and each of the superheroes have seen success at the box office. It made sense to build up to a huge event — an aggregated ensemble cast made up of some of the most famous actors in a special effects laden summer blockbuster. The formula may very well bring in a ton of money, but it’s a taller order to create something worth the price of admission.
The world is in danger of being consumed by war started by Loki who appears through a gateway created by the Tesseract, an energy source of immense power. Using a staff gifted to him by a mysterious alien who is working for another mysterious persona, Loki takes the Tesseract and some of Nick Fury’s best people by bending their wills. Fury sees fit to restart the Avengers Inititiave, a plan to gather some of Earth’s mightiest, and dysfunctional, heroes tasked with taking down problems like global enslavement. The team struggles as the personalities clash — each of the heroes has a conflict exploited by Loki whose mastermind plot is designed to tear apart the group from within.
If things sound a little cliche, it’s because it sort of is. And that’s sort of the problem with The Avengers. It’s good, but it’s not great. It’s middle of the road storytelling that spikes irregularly, and though it”s worth seeing in the theater, it doesn’t leave you in awe. It has plenty of well-regarded surprises that stand out from the entertaining but lackluster lull of the rest of the film. As an origin story, it takes a while to set up, and it doesn’t seem to really get going. Even as it tries to throw twists and turns, there’s a lack of real tension. Acting is wooden in parts when it seems like the actors are struggling to keep a straight face, and it feels so unoriginal — compare The Avengers to Transformers 2. And yet there are moments that make it so worth it to see this movie. Hulk is fearful as an uncontrollable behemoth whose strength is a sight to behold, and Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) — it’s the human side of Iron Man that’s more compelling — has the best lines. Tom Hiddleston is great as Loki, but did each scene have to be punctuated with him grinning? Joss Whedon is a strong presence in Hollywood because he’s creative and good at what he does. Yet, The Avengers, as good as it is, feels like it could have been so much better. It’s as if something so much bigger and greater is waiting in the wings, and The Avengers is another step in Marvel Studios’ plan to get there.