Really, The Avengers is nothing epic. It works as a group superhero movie, but it's mostly rehashed cliches with no originality. There's little tension present: we all know that in the end, the heroes will defeat the bad guy. And they do, almost effortlessly, largely remaining confident to the point of smugness. We've all seen the invincible force invading from a portal to another dimension before, i.e. Hellboy 2, Transformers 3, and Ghostbusters 2. As mentioned elsewhere, Loki is suddenly cartoonishly evil for some contrived reasons; he used to be coolly and subtly menacing, and now he's compared to Hitler several times and written as a quasi-rapist. It's as though the writers realized he was popular and tried as hard as they could to write him as unlikeable. Very frustrating and disappointing, most of all because Loki had so much opportunity as a villain. Loki's sudden Butt Monkey status only emphasizes the Avengers' lack of challenge. Black Widow is astoundingly generic and very, very American as the token woman to a team of white American superheroes (there's a token alien/god as well). She features in a very odd scene with Loki that's clearly intended to be feminist, but it doesn't work in a number of ways. Whatever girl-power to be found there is somewhat negated by all the ass shots of Fury's main two female subordinates. Still, Widow's completely platonic relationship with Hawkeye is refreshing after several lackluster Marvel romances that suffer from the lead having much more chemistry with the other main male character than his love interest, which occurs both here and in Thor. Also, apparently it's routine for those who are adopted children to be murderers. Good to know. On a brighter note, despite some of the dumb humor and pointless dialogue, most of the characterization is done pretty well, though Tony Stark is sometimes mouthy till he's being an unlikeable jackass. The Avengers isn't brilliant or particularly inspired, though it can be a escape into a world where the lines between hero and villain are extremely visible and morality is always black and white, where the villain is clearly malevolent with absolutely no redeeming qualities, and the heroes are unshakeable. It can be mindlessly fun, but it falls short of being anything masterful.
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