When the world gets pummeled by the paranormal, we call the Ghostbusters. When the world is about to be destroyed by an evil demi-god and his alien army, we assemble the Avengers.
In order to stop Loki from diminishing Earth into crispy, charred bits, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) summons an all-star lineup of superheroes to save humanity.
But bringing Captain America, Thor, the Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, the Black Widow and Hawkeye together isn't an easy task -- and that's what takes up quite a large chunk of the film's first hour. Thor, Loki's brother, isn't even on the same planet when the team starts coming together.
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The Avengers aren't a team of best buds. Far from it. Their personalities and egos clash in so many ways that they truly resemble an over-the-top dysfunctional family. They squabble like family, tease each other like family and, most importantly, come together like family when they really need to.
Although the Avengers try to plug Loki's plans, a wormhole opens and his brood of spaceling baddies find themselves screeching into New York City ready for war.
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The result is a symphony of explosions, fire, fights and everything else fanboys and fangirls drool over.
While the filmmakers needed to tie in multiple major characters to tell this story smoothly, the flick does run a tad too long. The 142-minute runtime is filled with plenty of fun, action-packed moments, but it's also drawn out beyond what's necessary in several spots.
Despite the length of the film, it is an overall fun ride from start to finish. It's a lean-back-in-your-seat, summer-style, forget-everyday-life, popcorn-snackworthy action movie. Even if you're not a Marvel maven, the story is energetic, exciting and laugh-out-loud funny.
Guide: Spotting Cleveland in the 'Avengers'
Those seeing it in 3-D will notice the effect is not hokey whatsoever. There's nothing ridiculously flying at the screen for the sole purpose of enhancing the 3-D. Instead, the third dimension does simply that -- create depth. Do you need to see it in 3-D? Not really. The extra dimension really isn't as captivating as we've seen in other movies like "Avatar." If you do see it in 3-D, take off your specs sporadically throughout the movie and you'll notice you can see the film without much blur at all. That goes to show you there are many scenes where the 3-D doesn't even matter.
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As far as the superheroes, they each share a fair portion of screen time, but the Hulk and Iron Man are easily the stand-out stars of the squad.
Unlike his recent incarnations, the Hulk is actually fun to watch in this movie. Mark Ruffalo's mild-mannered portrayal of tech genius Bruce Banner is the best we've seen in years. Different from the others among him who are ego maniacs when it comes to their abilities, Banner is clearly ashamed of his green alter-ego, which he constantly refers to as the "other guy." His struggles to subdue that "other guy" from erupting actually makes you want to see him transform even more -- and when it happens, his time on screen is worth every moment. His intensity is palpable and his anger off the charts, but there's also a welcomed sense of humor in that big, green guy who delivers some of the best (literal) punchlines in the movie.
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With Iron Man, there is nobody better to play billionaire Tony Stark than Robert Downey Jr. The arrogance that oozes out of his character creates a quick-witted, sharp-minded comic relief at times in the movie when it's least expected. And when it comes to egos, Stark's may be the biggest. He often acts as if he's better than the rest of the superheroes, but admires the Hulk and strives to see his fury unleashed.
Finally, Tom Hiddleston is superb as Loki. His snarky smirk showcases his supervillain status better than any vile verbiage that flows off his tongue. Possibly the best performance in the entire picture.
One hint, stick around through the credits. There's a surprise for the hardcore comic fans about midway through and a comical scene at the very end for those who decided to stay around long enough to see it.
Through it all, one thing is certain. Whether you think this movie is super or stale, there is not enough power in any superhero to stop fan forces from filling the box office with mountains of cash.