Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

A Marvel-ous comic book opus

Avengers is an action-packed ensemble of super-heroes. And it's pretty funny, too

  • Print

About this time last year, we witnessed Transformers Dark of the Moon, a blockbuster that would be the second highest-grossing film of 2011. It delivered impressive digital vistas of destruction, but it was still a dispiritingly stupid movie in the dismal template of director Michael Bay, with lots of flag-waving and horrible humour thrown in to leaven the clanking cacophony of battling robots.

Truth be told, the highly anticipated multi-comic book franchise The Avengers actually seems to borrow a few key plot points from Transformers 3 regarding an alien-invasion-via-space-portal.

But we'll let that pass. For one thing, the plot of The Avengers was set in motion in 2011 with the movies Thor (The Avengers' villain is Thor's brother Loki) and Captain America (The Avengers' MacGuffin is the Tesseract, an energy cube disc the Cap had to pry from Nazi über-villain The Red Skull.)

But more importantly, The Avengers works. Unlike Bay, screenwriter-director Joss Whedon actually has a sense of humour, and the movie is elegantly punctuated with knee-slapping moments, whether a deft one liner from Robert Downey's cynical Tony Stark/Iron Man or a hilarious bit of comic book slapstick courtesy of The Hulk.

Whedon actually pulls off an impressive orchestration here, assembling the heroes of no less than four existing Marvel franchises and putting together a comic book symphony, allowing each character their theme, but layering them all together in a satisfying comic book opus.

On screen, the guy who puts the band together is Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), an eye-patched spymaster in charge of the "Avengers Initiative," a secret strategy of pooling the resources of extraordinary superheroes in the event of emergency.

That emergency arrives in the person of Loki (Tom Hiddleston), a trickster demi-god from Thor's mythical realm of Asgard. He steals the Tesseract from Fury's top-secret facility, and threatens to employ it to transport an alien army from across the universe. Fury enlists Tony Stark and Hulk alter-ego Dr. Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo, taking over the role from Edward Norton) to use their scientific acumen to track the cube while unleashing the recently thawed Second World War hero Captain America (Chris Evans) and his super-soldier abilities to harness Loki.

Employing the kinky reasoning that all superhero movies benefit from a woman in form-fitting leather, Whedon gives us two: Scarlett Johansson's feline superspy Black Widow and Cobie Smulders' can-do Agent Maria Hill. Smulders provides a sexier counterpoint to Clark Gregg's droll Agent Coulson, whose participation in all the franchise entries comes to a kind of fruition here.

Where some filmmakers, like Bay and The Green Lantern's Martin Campbell don't seem to understand the comic book genre, Whedon gets it. He stages individual battles (Thor vs. Iron Man) with an admirable understanding of comic book dynamics, but he gives each character the benefit of a distinctive human personality, be it Tony Stark's arrogance or Bruce Banner's rage issues.

Whedon does spectacle really well too, staging a sustained battle finale with great flair. Like Bay movies, the action is fast and furious, but unlike Bay movies, you can actually understand what's going on.

And what's going on here? Only the best comic book movie since The Dark Knight.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 4, 2012 D1

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


Andrew Ladd talks about his injury

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Aerial view of Portage and Main, The Esplanade Riel, Provencher Bridge over the Red River, The Canadian Museum for Human Rights and The Forks near the Assiniboine River, October 21st, 2011. (TREVOR HAGAN/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS) CMHR
  • Marc Gallant / Winnipeg Free Press. Local- Deer in Canola field near Elma, Manitoba. 060706.

View More Gallery Photos

About Randall King

In a way, Randall King was born into the entertainment beat.

His dad was Winnipeg musician Jimmy King, a one-time columnist for the Winnipeg Free Press. One of his brothers is a playwright. Another is a singer-songwriter.

Randall has been content to cover the entertainment beat in one capacity or another since 1990.

His beat is film, and the job has placed him in the same room as diverse talents, from Martin Scorsese to Martin Short, from Julie Christie to Julia Styles. He has met three James Bonds (four if you count Woody Allen), and director Russ Meyer once told him: "I like your style."

He really likes his job.


Are you concerned about the number of homicides so far this year?

View Results

Ads by Google