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Monday, July 23, 2018

Heroes Inc

Despite its obvious capacity to absorb destruction come every summer blockbuster,the world is really too small for six superheroes and one demi-god villain with a puny frame and a giant ego.

Written by Shalini Langer | Published: April 28, 2012 12:19:55 am

THE AVENGERS

DIRECTOR: Joss Whedon

Cast: Robert Downey Jr,Chris Evans,Mark Ruffalo,Scarlett Johansson,Jeremy Runner,Chris Hemsworth,Samuel L Jackson,Tom Hiddleston

Rating: ***

Despite its obvious capacity to absorb destruction come every summer blockbuster,the world is really too small for six superheroes and one demi-god villain with a puny frame and a giant ego.

This villain Loki (Hiddleston),from a distant planet,wants to “free Earth from freedom” and reduce it to its “natural state of subjugation”. Otherwise,there is “always race for power”. He doesn’t waste much time on talk after that.

Loki begins by taking possession of “tesseract” — an endless source of energy that has ostensibly some connection to his planet Asgard. He needs it,ostensibly,to open a portal in the skies through which to bring in his soldiers from outer space. He goes after the superheroes,ostensibly,to break the Earth’s spirit. He gets caught,ostensibly,because he likes jeering from inside a glass cage. And he hates his brother Thor (Hemsworth),ostensibly,for being the less favoured son.

That’s a lot of ostensibly-s,but who can blame the greasy black-haired,wiry Loki for resenting his bulky,brawny,blond elder sibling?

When Loki goes straight for the “Warren” — the headquarters of the SHIELD,an organisation to keep peace on the globe,run by Nick Fury (Jackson) — the latter calls in the superheroes.

It’s here that the fun starts. Disney,having bought the rights to Marvel comics,has the unenviable task here of juggling several superheroes with varying powers,almost all of them quite used to saving the world and delivering a hit film or two on their own. The advantage,of course,is that each has a recall value,very cleverly built up with the Iron Man and the Hulk films,and ending with last year’s Captain America: The First Avenger.

Even so,director Whedon,also a co-scriptwriter,manages to etch each one of them — Tony Stark (Iron Man,played by Downey Jr),Steve Rogers (Captain America,Evans),Bruce Banner (the Hulk,Ruffalo),Natasha Romanoff (Black Widow,Johansson),Clint Barton (Hawkeye,Renner) and Thor — as distinct characters with peculiarities and problems,and not quite up to working as a team even if it’s to save the world. They are testy about each other and as they argue over spandex suits and experiments gone wrong,Loki’s men strike.

A lot falls in this film — from the “Warren” to a SHIELD airship designed to “vanish” in the sky,to almost all the buildings,roads and cars in Manhattan,without any post-9/11 hand-wringing over the psychological impact of a collapsing tower. There is little need for chatter as the impressive special effects first wow and then bludgeon you into numb acceptance. Amid all this though,Johansson registers as a woman with a dark past who knows how to use secrets and how much to give out. Downey Jr gets to be his cocky,self-derisive self but the film nicely juxtaposes him against the earnest Evans. Renner and Hemsworth do their stuff in the background.

It’s the quiet,unassuming Ruffalo as Bruce Banner who steals the show. Reluctantly brought on board the “Avengers Inc”,he is the only one who seems to realise the cost of a fight. He has greying hair,lined eyes and a sad smile. Plus his Hulk,when it appears,gets to do one thing you have always wanted super villains to suffer — and it’s too delicious for me to let out.

You forgive him for everything then,even the fact that,when approached by SHIELD,he is the resident benefactor in a Kolkata slum full of ailing people,picked straight out of City of Joy.

And that’s the “stress-free” life Banner has chosen — ostensibly — to keep the Hulk at bay.

shalini.langer@expressindia.com

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