At the Movies: Bigger is better in ‘The Avengers’ |

At the Movies: Bigger is better in ‘The Avengers’

Superheroes Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.), left, and Captain America (Chris Evans) head out for a mission in "The Avengers." The movie is a compendium of Marvel Comics characters, including Thor, the Incredible Hulk, Nick Fury and more as they face a threat to the planet

"The Avengers"

3.5 out of 4 stars

143 minutes

Starring: Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth and Mark Ruffalo.

Now playing at West Theatre in Craig and Metropolitan Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas in Steamboat Springs.

The more popular comic book movies get, the more we can expect to see.

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And, the more we see, the greater in scope each one will become until soon all the world's resources will go to supporting the process.

At this rate, perhaps the team that makes up "The Avengers" will have to save us from the future they've created. At least until then, we can enjoy the ride.

Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), director of Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division, has tangled with some unusual folks before, but with everything he's seen in the past, even he may not be prepared for the threat presented when fallen Asgardian Loki (Tom Hiddleston) attacks a SHIELD base. The disgraced demigod wastes no time stealing the agency's most dangerous and powerful tool, a mysterious cube known only as the Tesseract.

Fury and the rest of SHIELD are forced to reach out to a handful of the only people who can help against a threat like Loki.

There's genius/billionaire/walking artillery store, Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.), who's been approached in the past to lend his Iron Man armor to the fight; displaced World War II super-soldier Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), fresh off a decades-long, cryogenic nap in his Captain America costume; and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), a scientist in hiding whose credentials go beyond the laboratory despite his attempts to keep his other side under wraps.

Joined by Loki's brother, Thor (Chris Hemsworth), the Norse god of thunder, the collection of uniquely talented beings butt heads immediately on how to handle the situation, and as they squabble, their foe only gets stronger as he moves toward interdimensional war.

To save the world as they know it, these high-powered personalities will have to put aside their differences and work together in a manner befitting Earth's mightiest heroes.

Downey never fails when he's playing someone brash and bold, and that's the Tony Stark we see here. The man with a battery in his chest is at his most headstrong, more concerned with kicking butt on his own in the Iron Man suit than collaborating with anyone else.

Evans was fine playing Captain America the first time, but he's much more believable now, with the 1940s figure stuck in the modern world around people who view him as a legend, a status he's not sure he wants. But, 70 years of hibernation haven't impaired his ability to take on evil with all the prowess of the platoons he left behind.

Hemsworth also improves drastically since his initial appearance, commanding more of a regal aura as Thor, who's closer personally to the fight than anyone else in The Avengers, still believing Loki can be swayed.

He may be gullible, but at least he throws a hammer with the best of them.

Ruffalo is newest to the scene but perfectly capable as nerve-addled Banner, trying to keep his emotions in check, or else … Well, you probably know the story of the Hulk by now.

Besides being the third guy to play the gamma radiation victim in as many movies, he's the first to also have a hand in playing his big green alter ego, with the puny human becoming the rage monster through the ever-improving art of CGI.

As for the good guys who don't have metal exoskeletons, Asgardian frames or special serums coursing through their bodies, Jackson must be getting pretty used to his eyepatch by now as the monocular master of espionage commanding some pretty loyal comrades.

Some, like straight-laced Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) have been around for a while, while others, like Agent Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders), are new to us. Let's not forget SHIELD operatives Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), aka the Black Widow, and bow-wielding Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner), both quick to jump into the fray, with their roles developed from previous Marvel movies.

You'd think with so many major superheroes turning out for one big shebang, the real superpower needed would be in getting them each an equal amount of screen time.

Director/screenwriter Joss Whedon keeps a handle on the multiple character arcs without playing favorites, no matter how much we may prefer one hero over another, which would be understandable from a film based on a literary series with a rotating roster of dozens.

Besides the villain who's the catalyst that brings all these folks together in the first place, Whedon stays true to the paper origins of the super team with a style that brings the comic book trappings to life in the best way possible, something few of these movies have ever truly achieved.

The SHIELD Helicarrier, the hand-to-hand brawls between Loki and Thor, the conflicting positions among all the Avengers, there's not a single thing off for Marvel lovers, yet it's still watchable for those who might have missed a few of the entries leading up to this.

It's a long trip to the bigger-than-big battle scene, but with steady pacing and comic timing, you'll barely notice. And, if the last half-hour doesn't leave you cheering, you must simply hate fun.

"The Avengers" sets the tone for a summer well-stocked with comic book movies and prepares us for plenty more of Tony, Cap, Hulk and the gang over the next few years. If superheroes aren't your thing, you may want to find yourself a nice cave to live in until 2020 because they aren't going anywhere for a good long time.

Now playing at West Theatre in Craig and Metropolitan Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas in Steamboat Springs.

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“The Avengers”

3.5 out of 4 stars

143 minutes

Starring: Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth and Mark Ruffalo.

Now playing at West Theatre in Craig and Metropolitan Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas in Steamboat Springs.