A newbie's belated review of The Avengers

I did not queue up opening weekend to see The Avengers. I saw it a few days later. And I did not read the comics, follow the rumors and blogs, or wait in anticipation at all. In fact, I wasn't sure whether I even wanted to see it. But Suzanne told me I should, so off I went.

And I'm very glad I did. And therefore, I can say, if you are like me -- if you do not read comics, if you don't always enjoy excess violence, if you think that action movies have to have a heart -- you will like this movie anyway.

The main reason? It was written by Joss Whedon. And in case that isn't reason enough for you, I'll expound: Joss does things right. I may not have seen even half the things that he's famous for, but I know that much.

And one of the things he does best is clever, whip-snapping, funny dialogue. It's practically a Whedon requirement. And here Tony Stark gets most of it, and of course delivers it brilliantly, with the requisite amount of sass and sarcasm. There are also great visual gigs -- from Grand Central station getting destroyed and no one seeming to care, to the Hulk punching Thor's hammer, to the fantastically awkward post-credits scene. Not being familiar with source material, I don't know what this movie would have been in different hands. But one thing is clear -- that when Joss came on board and grabbed the script to do an unrestrained rewrite, things got exponentially better.

Personally, I need my movies to have heart. A lot of superhero movies fail in this regard -- I can't seem to summon the desire to care about the problems of the guy who has the ability to fix it all. And this movie absolutely had heart. Each character had a struggle, and each struggle felt authentic and real (except for Thor. What was his struggle, really?). Captain America's perpetual displacement was clear every time you looked at his face. The torture that Bruce Banner has put himself through is heartbreaking. Tony Stark's vulnerability, which he manages to hide so well behind the wisecracks, really gets a chance to come out. Black Widow and Hawkeye are both aware that they are minor players on a larger stage, and almost have to justify their struggles. Even Agents Shield and Coulson feel human.

And true to Joss Whedon, this movie never feels safe. Beloved characters are killed, others almost so. And though you know that the Avengers have to save the world, until they all arrive in New York, there's never a guarantee that they all will put aside their own differences to work together. And that conflict is what makes the movie so good. Because for all it's long running time (143 minutes), it never lags. Characters are built up, and struggles are engaged. Scenes never fall flat. Dialogue is fantastic, action is snappy, and gags are always present.

A few particular shout-outs. To Chris Evans, for making a distant olden character present and relatable. To Mark Ruffalo, the guy everyone's talking about, for a fantastically mild-mannered Bruce Banner. To Scarlett Johansson, for being the most kick-ass female superhero -- without superpowers. Sure, she's sexy and can kick ass, but she's also got brains, humor, and feelings of her own. Her opening scene was phenomenal.

And of course, to Joss Whedon. You made this movie infinitely more enjoyable.