JUSSAYIN’ – Earth’s mightiest heroes: together at last

A.C. “Mac” MacKenzie, Opinion Editor

Marvel’s “The Avengers” will finally assemble on the big screen at midnight. I’ve argued before that the term “blockbuster” is thrown around too loosely nowadays, but “The Avengers” is a bona-fide example of a motion picture that is sure to bust the block.

Attendees should have high expectations. “The Avengers” feels somewhat like a $60.00 movie ticket, as it’s taken five other superpowered big screen romps to get here.

Since being introduced to Robert Downey Jr.’s infectious take on Tony Stark in 2008’s “Iron Man,” fans have waited patiently movie after movie, through scrolling lines of credits, just to glean how each new character’s story contributes to the all-uniting Avengers initiative.

Now, “The Avengers” faces a unique predicament. Fans anticipate it to be a true sum of its parts, the sequel to five interconnected films and the springboard to future projects. So much relies on the success of Joss Whedon’s assembly.

Before heading off to the midnight premiere of this blockbuster half a decade in the making, I wanted to review the movies from which the heroes “The Avengers” are culled.

“Iron Man,” 2008 — Easily the best film of the bunch; Robert Downey Jr. commands as Tony Stark. Jeff Bridges’ character pulls a 180 midway through the film and serves as the only compelling villain in the Marvel canon until Tom Hiddleston’s Loki in “Thor.” Likewise, despite being another superhero origin story, “Iron Man” never chugs tired as so many of its fellow etiological tales do. Plus it introduced an entire generation of kids to the music of AC/DC and it indulged in flawless product placement of Burger King. Bravo!

“The Incredible Hulk,” 2008 — For being the least appreciated entry in Marvel’s movie canon, I’ve got quite the soft spot for 2008’s “Hulk” movie. Edward Norton is an unexpectedly strong match for “mild mannered Bruce Banner.” Despite already being called a “highlight” of “The Avengers,” Mark Ruffalo’s interpretation of the character has a lot to live up to. Right off the bat, “The Incredible Hulk” isn’t an origin story, which wins it big points in my book. Unfortunately, Tim Roth kicks off a series’ trend of strong actors not bringing their ‘A’-game to the villainous role, Roth’s Emil Blonsky/The Abomination is boring and predictable. Thankfully, “The Incredible Hulk” features the strongest final confrontation of these films with a satisfyingly grand battle between The Hulk and The Abomination down the streets of Harlem. Another excellent set piece pits The Hulk against military tanks on a college campus. Seriously, what was people’s problem with this movie?

“Iron Man 2,” 2010 — Whereas the first “Iron Man” was the best of these five pictures, “Iron Man 2” was easily the weakest. It’s great fun to watch Downey as Tony Stark, his bad boy charisma makes every woman want him (see also: Han Solo, Captain Jack Sparrow) while his wealth, womanizing and tech wizardry make every man want to be him. However, beyond this, “Iron Man 2” falls flat. The studio was too preoccupied with squeezing Scarlett Johansson into her skintight outfit for the movie and not concerned enough with crafting an effective villain or a satisfying final confrontation with him. Iron Man and War Machine’s fight with Mickey Rourke’s “Whiplash” (c’mon, he’s the Crimson Dynamo, guys) is exceptionally short and underwhelming, not to mention a distraction from the movie’s much more interesting toe-to-metal armored toe rivalry between Tony Stark and Sam Rockwell’s Justin Hammer.

“Thor,” 2011 “Casting Shakespearean-trained actor Tom Hiddleston as Loki, the Norse god of mischief, for Asgard’s big screen debut was the best decision that Marvel has made throughout the journey to “The Avengers.” Relative newbies Hiddleston and Chris Hemsworth (Thor) impress when sharing scenes of familial strife with the intimidating cinematic giant Anthony Hopkins (Odin). Unfortunately, I wasn’t invested in Thor’s defense of a tiny New Mexican town or a planet of Frost Giants, as cliché as saving a big city like New York or Gotham is, at least the audience has something big to root for. Without coming near “Iron Man,” this is the second best of the lot… If you ask me, Thor’s the only hero who necessitates a full film to tell origin story.

“Captain America: The First Avenger,” 2011 — This flick had everything going for it, an in-demand character, a talented cast, and the distinction of being the harbinger of a true teaser trailer for “The Avengers” after its credits. Why then, was it so… bland? Chris Evans brings plenty of charm to his role as Steve Rogers both as a CGI-aided pipsqueak runt and as the titular super-soldier.

However, beyond some fun bits with actor Dominic Cooper as Tony Stark’s industrialist father, Howard Stark, Evans goes relatively unsupported. Neither Tommy Lee Jones nor female lead Hayley Atwell impress in their roles in this superhero “period piece,” while the traditionally impeccable Hugo Weaving underwhelms as villain Red Skull. Likewise, “Captain America” relies all too much on montage sequences to showcase the Cap’s superheroics and the movie features too few set pieces that viewers had been conditioned to expect rather lending more time to humor and an extensive origin story.

Will “The Avengers” rise to the occasion or die trying? And, can this please usher in an age where every superhero movie isn’t another arbitrary origin story… Jussayin’.