The Avengers (2012)
Although it takes a while to hit its stride, once it does Marvel's The Avengers is a razzle-dazzle, rip-roaring entertainment.
It introduces its various characters without much panache, then they bicker, and one begins to wonder if it's going to be all it's cracked up to be.
But count on The Hulk. Once he erupts, The Avengers soars across the screen with ferocity and style.
When the Hulk hulks, it instills The Avengers with stunning power. And the best moments of humor in The Avengers are created by the raging Hulk.
One might worry that the action might lapse into redundant footage like a Transformers' flick, but although action goes to the edge, it has more purpose and more individuality.
Albeit, it's a bit incongruous when The Avengers start worrying about "civilians," given the pell-mell devastation The Avengers have furiously caused.
The dissolved Avengers Initiative is brought back together by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), the director of S.H.I.E.L.D. They are reconnected to recover the blue-cubed Tesseract, the cosmic source of "real power."
They have to fight a war with alien invaders and the nefarious Loki (Tom Hiddleston).
The intrepid Avengers are Captain America (Chris Evans), Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), archer Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson).
Evans is the most bland, perhaps because his character is the most bland - not just old school, but bland old school. Downey is his patented self as Iron Man, given to quips, about half of which have some cleverness. Hemsworth and Renner do well as characters in near-constant motion.
Scarlett Johansson's name is ironic, since she plays a character who is trying to erase "red" from her record. She brings her combination of spirit and beauty to Black Widow.
Mark Ruffalo empathetically captures the soft-spoken Bruce Banner, who undergoes the earth-shaking transformation. Ruffalo and Clark Gregg as Agent Phil Coulson bring a much-appreciated humanity to their key characters.
As Loki, Tom Hiddleston finally has discovered some gravitas, which he lacked in Thor (2011) and even as F. Scott Fitzgerald in Midnight in Paris (2011). Glowering and smirking, he makes a formidable villain.
The screenplay by director Joss Whedon (Zak Penn contributed to the story) has a few surprises and several allusions, but the dialogue is mostly generic.
Whedon knows that action in The Avengers is going to save the day and win the international box office, and he fires with deft velocity.
Loki doesn't take over the world.