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The Avengers

When in doubt, Hulk Smash!

Banished from Asgard by brother Thor, Loki (Tom Hiddleston: The Deep Blue Sea) is a god without subjects. So he takes a page from his brother’s book, traveling to Earth. Sadly, Loki is no God of Thunder. So instead of romancing winsome astrophysicists, the God of Mischief makes a deal with an alien nation to subjugate humanity.
    All Loki has to do is steal a mysterious energy source held by the government and trade it for an alien army.
    When an alien army led by a Norse god decides it’s time to take over the Earth, what do you do?
    If you’re Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson: The Samaritan), you assemble a team of the most powerful men in the world.
    Fury and his secret government outfit S.H.I.E.L.D. track down Steve ‘Captain America’ Rogers (Chris Evans: What’s Your Number?), Tony ‘Iron Man’ Stark (Robert Downey Jr.: Sherlock Holmes) and Dr. Bruce ‘Hulk’ Banner (Mark Ruffalo: Margaret) to save the world.
    In theory, that’s a great plan. In practice, Fury experiences the super-powered version of too many cooks in the kitchen. They may be called The Avengers, but the team begins more like The Bickerers. Rogers sulks about doing right, Stark is more interested in developing super sarcasm than saving anything and Banner is desperately trying not to lose his temper.
    Thor tries to talk sense into his brother to no avail, so he then joins The Avengers. Two mortal assassins, Hawkeye and Black Widow, offer their non-super-powered butt-kicking abilities to complete the crew.
    Now the Avengers are ready for a war. But the real question is which super hero steals the show.
    Sweet and easygoing as a researcher, Dr. Banner’s alter ego is a big, green juggernaut of scene-stealing destruction. Not even the best jibes from Stark or the most soulful looks from Cap compare to a good Hulk Smash.
    Casting claims part of the credit. Ruffalo has been known for his sensitive-dude indie movies, and that persona works well for the Banner character. As a CGI Hulk, Ruffalo is largely out of the equation. But the designers have a great time letting the not-so-jolly green giant smash anything, including his teammates.
    There are problems even a Hulk can’t surpass, like scripting. The action sequences are high powered and the characters are fun. But the plot seems an afterthought.
    Director Joss Whedon (The Cabin in the Woods), known for giving familiar genres an original spin, tows the typical action line with his first blockbuster. But he infuses a bit of his wit into the dialog, and there’s a death to shock the audience into caring — a trope that has become his trademark.
    Scripting aside, the movie is a great action romp that works best when the heroes are working together.
    The Avengers is a wonderful addition to the Marvel-franchise, but I left the movie more excited for the inevitable Incredible Hulk spin-off.
    Hulk Smash!

Good Action • PG-13 • 142 mins.