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'The Avengers': Superhero fun for many critics, and Fury for one

May 3, 2012 |  6:18 pm

The Avengers
You'd think a tough guy like super-spy Nick Fury, the ringleader of the titular all-star superhero team in "The Avengers," would have pretty thick skin. But it turns out Fury, or at least the actor who plays him, Samuel L. Jackson, took exception to the New York Times' mixed review of the Marvel comic adaptation, in which A.O. Scott wrote that the film's "failures are significant and dispiriting." Scott added that the film is dragged down by "grinding, hectic emptiness" and "bloated cynicism."

In response, Jackson wrote the following tweet: "#Avengers fans, NY Times critic AO Scott needs a new job! Let's help him find one! One he can ACTUALLY do!"

Jackson needn't get too worked up, as many critics are finding "The Avengers" to be an entertaining comic book romp. The Times' own Kenneth Turan writes that "this film just might make a believer of you" — even if you've been frustrated by previous Marvel adaptations or generally uninterested in them. Turan says writer-director Joss Whedon "is the key reason why this $220-million behemoth of a movie is smartly thought out and executed with verve and precision. It may be overly long at two hours, 23 minutes, but so much is going on you might not even notice." The action scenes are "crisply done," the dialogue is often "genuinely funny," and the chemistry is "pleasantly convincing."

USA Today's Claudia Puig calls "The Avengers" "a splashy superhero mash-up that should please breathless fanboys" and "also has a broader appeal for mass audiences with its fast-paced comic banter and exhilarating action sequences." Chris Evans is "pitch-perfectly" earnest as Captain America, Robert Downey Jr. provides the comic relief as Iron Man, and Mark Ruffalo "pulls off some of the best physical gags" as the Hulk.

The Boston Globe's Wesley Morris lets his inner fanboy out, writing, "there's almost nothing to dislike; it's as close as a movie can come to the fantastical reality of a good comic book." "The Avengers," he says, is full of "OMG set pieces," and you needn't be a comics fan to enjoy them. (If you are one, so much the better.) In the end, Morris says, "I might not remember any of the sequences in 'The Avengers,' but I'll remember the rush. I don't need anything else."

Chicago Tribune movie critic Michael Phillips calls the film "143 minutes of stylish mayhem," even if it's "more solid and satisfying than terrific." Seeing the film in 3-D, Phillips says, provides "that little extra something," and cinematographer Seamus McGarvey's work is well suited to the extra dimension.

Like A.O. Scott, however, the Wall Street Journal's Joe Morgenstern finds "The Avengers" only "fitfully enjoyable." It offers, he says "a slow start, a single star performance [Downey's] surrounded by indifferent acting and an onslaught of computer effects that range from seen-it-all-in-'Transformers' to a whole sky full of spectacular stuff in the midtown Manhattan climax." Then again, Morgenstern also affixes an asterisk to his review, noting that his malfunctioning 3-D glasses may have hampered his enjoyment of the film and skewed his opinion.

Perhaps that disclaimer will spare him the wrath of Nick Fury. If not, watch out.


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— Oliver Gettell

Photo: Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain America (Chris Evans), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and the Hulk (who's played in his human Bruce Banner form by Mark Ruffalo) in "The Avengers." Credit: Marvel