Review: The Avengers

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The first weekend of May typically marks the opening of the summer movie season. Normally, this time of year is when the first of many films begin their theatrical release in hopes of reaching that blockbuster status. Not this year. As of Friday, May 4, no other major summer theatrical release (The Dark Knight Rises perhaps not withstanding) will be able of reach the same level of sheer epic awesomeness that is The Avengers.

Ordinarily, I hate adding to a film's hype. I find it raises other's expectations higher than a film can deliver and taints all first impressions. But here, I have zero problems joining Marvel/Disney's hype machine for The Avengers because it lives up to everything it claims to be and so much more. For 4 years now, since that secret scene at the end of Iron Man, fans have been teased with anticipation for this film, and the wait has paid off. Oh, has it ever.

For those non-geek moviegoers out there, The Avengers is not just the culmination of every comic book lover's dream, but an unprecedented multi-franchise team film. Stemming back to 2008's Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk reboot, Marvel entered the studio arena for the first time with every intention of someday joining their standalone character film franchises into one major movie experience. Few believed that this idea was even possible, considering the massive scale and star power behind a single film, yet that day has arrived with The Avengers, and silences any previous naysayer out there.

The Avengers is everything and anything audiences go to the movies for. It is a character drama, a laugh-out-loud comedy, a variable action-adventure juggernaut, all within the sci-fi comic book genre from which the original source material originates. Sure, audiences will have a better understanding of The Avengers and its characters if they have watch edMarvel's previous five films leading up to it, but it still works brilliantly as a standalone feature. Just short of Ang Lee (The Hulk)'s comic book framing-style editing, The Avengers' director Joss Whedon manages to give the film that page-turning feel, moving almost effortlessly between characters, settings, and alternative storylines as if it was the natural progression while reading a comic book come to life. Whedon not only directed the film, but wrote the screenplay and co-wrote the story, making sure each character gets their due without focusing on one more than the other.

Now, I could go through, actor by actor, and praise them for each of their outstanding performances. Or, I could highlight the many amazing moments and scenes that gave the geek and film lover in me goosebumps all over. But I'm not going to do either of those things because (a) it would take way too long; and (b) so much of what makes this film incredible is the element of surprise. The less you know the better. Just trust me when I say The Avengers has many of those iconic moments fans have been waiting for, and for once, the trailers didn't give away any major plot points. Win/win.

One thing I will give away -- and don't worry, it's not much of a spoiler -- is there are 2 secret scenes at the end of The Avengers. I won't say what they are, but trust me, if you can stay and sit through the lengthy credits, you won't regret it.

The Avengers had all the potential to be an absolute catastrophe with so many different franchises on the line, but now has all the potential to be considered a once-in-a-generation calibre film. Most audience members will be enticed by the film's mind-blowing visual effects, which may even have some buying a second ticket in case they blinked and missed something the first time around, but its fantastic comedy elements will catch most by surprise. Comical without being campy, dramatic without taking itself too serious, Whedon finds the right mix for any audience member while still blowing everything up in sight. I don't know how else to put it, other than to use one of those cliché critic taglines: The Avengers is the absolute must-see movie of the summer. When a movie ends and the entire theatre of people all give it thundering applause, it's a sign that what you just witnessed was pretty damn amazing.

Just buy your ticket, go see The Avengers (maybe even two or three times), and then (weather permitting) go straight to the beach -- because this summer is over, movie-wise.

Tags: Joss Whedon, Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Mark Ruffalo, Cobie Smulders, Avengers

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Andrew Burns loves film and comics, and can be found writing about when those worlds converge. You can follow him on Twitter at @myAndrewBurns.

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