The first part, of course, sets up the villain, Thor’s brother Loki. Loki wants to take over Earth and teach Earthlings the truth about freedom – that is we don’t really want to be free; we’d rather be ruled and told what to do. Meanwhile Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and his team of scientist are working on unlocking the secrets of the Tesseract, a cube of energy that could be the answer to all of our clean and renewable energy dreams. It isn’t just an energy source, it’s a portal between galaxies. Loki uses it to transport himself (and later his army) to Earth.
He quickly shows Nick and the S.H.I.E.L.D. team the power that the Tesseract really holds. In the process, Loki takes over the minds of Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) a S.H.I.E.L.D. assassin and archer and Professor Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard), the principal scientist on the Tesseract project. So, after Loki destroys their headquarters, Nick must call together, for the first time, The Avengers, a team that never had the opportunity to unite before the government jettisoned the project.
Natasha Romanov, The Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) goes to find scientist Bruce Banner, The Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) who is hiding out in Southeast Asia in an attempt to control his anger. Nick recruits Captain Steve Rodgers, Captain America (Chris Evans) and his Fury’s right-hand, Agent Colson (Clark Gregg) seeks the support of billionaire playboy philanthropist Tony Stark, Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr). The final member of the team is Thor, Norse demi-god who comes because it’s his half-brother Loki that needs to be stopped.
About the first quarter of the movie focuses on this exposition, where the Avengers have been, how they come together and how they are connected. For a non-comic book person, it was interesting for me to connect the dots. Tony Stark’s father was instrumental in the creation of Captain America and was the first to encounter the Tesseract. The same substance that powers the Tesseract also powers the object in Iron Man’s chest that keeps him alive. Bruce Banner was working with gamma rays which has something to do with the Tesseract as well.
The interaction between the Avengers, their banter and their chemistry, made the movie fun to watch. As an action movie, it takes its action seriously, but under the direction of Joss Whedon (who also has a wrote the screenplay), the movie itself doesn’t take itself too seriously. Downey’s Stark has most of the one-liners but the other Avengers and Loki have their moments too … most before the last quarter of the movie which is filled with non-stop, relentless action.
You know a movie is hitting the right notes when the audience laughs and gasps at the right moments. Of course, the applause is a good indication as well. However, the best news for The Avengers is satisfied moviegoers planning to see the movie again.
NOTE: As someone who was born and raised in Cleveland, I was excited to see my city featured in the film. Cleveland doubles as New York City. The wide shots are New York but the work on the ground is Cleveland. It was fun to notice some of the landmarks.
NOTE 2: Don’t get up when the credits roll, you won’t have to stay until the very end but midway through the credits you’ll get a glimpse of what could be the basis for The Avengers 2.