Movie Review - 'Marvel's The Avengers' - Slick Summer Superheroics Marvel superheroes Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, the Hulk and more band together to save the world. NPR's Bob Mondello says the Joss Whedon-directed genre flick is enjoyably zingy, delivering zippy banter, fun effects and spectacular battle scenes.
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'The Avengers': Slick Summer Superheroics

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'The Avengers': Slick Summer Superheroics

Review

Movies

'The Avengers': Slick Summer Superheroics

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Finally, this hour, the sound of comic book superheroes smashing box office records.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "THE AVENGERS")

CORNISH: It all started last weekend when Marvel's "The Avengers" opened in 39 countries around the world, and it will likely continue when the film hits U.S. theaters tonight at midnight. Legions of fans have already bought advanced tickets. And critic Bob Mondello suspects they'll be pleased.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "THE AVENGERS")

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: Oh, spare me. Our guys have a hammer, exploding arrows, a shield, broad shoulders. How are they going to be underdogs in this fight? I mean, sure, the bad guy, Loki, has an army of aliens ready to pounce. But as Iron Man tells him, The Avengers have a not-so-jolly green giant.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "THE AVENGERS")

MONDELLO: That would be Thor.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "THE AVENGERS")

MONDELLO: Captain America.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "THE AVENGERS")

MONDELLO: Iron Man.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "THE AVENGERS")

MONDELLO: Hulk.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "THE AVENGERS")

MONDELLO: There's a problem, though. All of the folks that he just mentioned, including those world-class assassins - Hawkeye and Black Widow - don't really play well with others. So turning them into an actual team will take time, time that director Joss Whedon fills with the kind of one-on-one superhero matchups fanboys can usually only dream about. Irresistible hammer meets immovable shield.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "THE AVENGERS")

MONDELLO: Snarky billionaire taunts a guy who's trying to stay calm.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "THE AVENGERS")

MONDELLO: And who'd win a fair fight? Thor? Iron Man? Hulk? Let's go find a mountaintop and break some trees.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "THE AVENGERS")

MONDELLO: There is a plot. The Earth is at risk because our tesseract went on the fritz and got stolen. Don't sweat the details. It's a cube, and it's opening up wormholes for giant eel-like spaceships. Luckily, we've got a gizmo of our own, a nifty battleship that, I guess, you'd have to call a stealth helicarrier. Still, Whedon knows that mere gizmos do not a superhero movie makes, so he's ordered up a lot of quips - some explosive laughs, actually - and so that you can still enjoy the picture if you're over 15, he's made sure that all of his stars get to shine in moments without digital effects.

Considering what a 3-D traffic jam "The Avengers" could have been with six heroes in spandex and big-name hangers-on from Samuel L. Jackson to Gwyneth Paltrow, it's impressive that the filmmaker still found time to do things like, say, let Mark Ruffalo be understated as the latest in a line of Hulks.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "THE AVENGERS")

MONDELLO: All of this, of course, leading to a bone-crunching, skyscraper-shattering, giant-eel-eviscerating showdown that lays waste to much of Manhattan, looks really cool, and sets up what will doubtless be Marvel superhero sequels too numerous to count.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "THE AVENGERS")

MONDELLO: Can't say "The Avengers" makes me look forward to seeing any of its heroes flying solo again, but it does establish that in smaller doses, even the most annoying type A personalities can be amusing. Of course, as a just-released trailer for the last third of Christopher Nolan's "Dark Knight" trilogy reminds us, a caped crusader movie can aspire to greater things. But nobody says it has to, and Joss Whedon just wants "The Avengers" to be fun, which it is.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LIVE TO RISE")

MONDELLO: I'm Bob Mondello.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LIVE TO RISE")

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