Senior Editor Peter Suderman reviews The Avengers, this summer's Marvel superhero crossover extravanganza from writer-director Joss Whedon, in The Washington Times:
There's a lot riding on "The Avengers," a megabudget follow-up to four years' worth of summer superhero films. A continuation of the stories started in the Thor, Hulk, Captain America and Iron Man movies, it's comic book publisher Marvel's attempt at a superhero supergroup.
As the culmination of those cinematic legacies, "The Avengers'" mission is to be fair to each of those characters, building on their respective franchises, but combining their successes into something even more super. The movie's box office expectations are — as the villain Loki (Tom Hiddleston) declares himself when he first appears — "burdened with glorious purpose."
It's a lot to ask of a bunch of burly dudes in brightly colored spandex and shiny armor who first made their names as cheap newsprint sketches. But "The Avengers" rises to the occasion by embodying the best aspects of its big-name characters: This is a movie with the planet-shattering strength of the Hulk, the genius and wit of Iron Man, the epic nobility of Thor, and the earnestness and dedication of Captain America.
Add to that the crazy ambition of a major comic-book publisher. For decades, Marvel's comics have featured a whole universe of heroes and villains who would team up and throw down on a regular basis. For many comic fans, the appeal was in the world — the community of heroes and intersecting stories — as much as in any individual character.
With "The Avengers," Marvel gives moviegoers a world. The plot is built around a powerful cosmic cube that serves as an energy source and a portal to another dimension. But the movie is best understood as a portal to the Marvel Comics mindset.
Indeed, the purity with which the movie accesses the imaginative fantasy life of a twelve-year-old boy who is perhaps overly concerned with the fictional lives of various tights-wearing super-people is rather breathtaking. As a former childhood comic book fan, I found myself suppressing squeals of adolescent glee throughout: Without descending into impenetrable nerd-service, the movie triggers a sense of exuberant youthful escape that many summer blockbusters aspire to but few achieve.