What you should know before you go
Wednesday, May 2 — Do you want to see “The Avengers”? No, not that ill-fated
Ralph Fiennes/Uma Thurman/Sean Connery sci-fi-spy mess from many summers ago —
we’re talking about the Marvel Comics superhero mash-up that’s right up there
with “The Dark Knight Rises” and director Ridley Scott’s “Prometheus” as one of
the year’s most-anticipated movies.
Before you head to the theater, however, you might want to
do a little homework, refresh your memory and catch up on some previous epics
you might have missed. Here’s what you need to know about in order to get the
full “Avengers” experience.
Your designated super-villain is Loki: Hopefully, you saw
“Thor” last summer and you’re familiar with Thor’s insanely jealous, power-mad
adopted brother, played by Tom Hiddleston. He’s the engine of evil behind the
chaos that erupts at the start of “The Avengers.” His plan to enslave the
people of Earth — he really enjoys having people kneeling before him — relies
on the Tesseract, a cube of pure power that can create portals between
The Tesseract — have I seen that before?: You have if you
saw “Captain America; The First Avenger” last summer. It was the fabled
treasure that the sinister Red Skull, a.k.a. Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving), and
Hitler’s “deep-science division” were trying to utilize in their scheme to win
World War II. Captain America, a.k.a. Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), successfully
kept the Tesseract out of the Nazis’ clutches, but 70 years later it is once
again causing trouble.
The Hulk is back — again?: His slogan may be “Hulk smash!,”
but the Incredible Hulk has not exactly been a smashing success with
moviegoers. The 2003 “Hulk” (with Eric Bana as Dr. Bruce Banner, who
accidentally unleashes his inner monster) was such a critical and financial
disappointment that director Ang Lee apologized for it at the 2005 Toronto
International Film Festival. That led to one of Hollywood’s first franchise
“reboots,” as director Louis Leterrier took a stab at refreshing the origin
story, with Edward Norton as Banner. Lee’s “Hulk” made approximately $132
million at U.S. box offices; Leterrier’s grossed just under $135 million, so not exactly the kick in the pants the Hulk team was hoping for. Since
neither Bana nor Norton made an indelible impression on audiences, Mark Ruffalo
plays Banner in “The Avengers.” Maybe the third time will prove to be the
Who is this Hawkeye character?: You caught a brief glimpse
of Jeremy Renner as the ace archer Hawkeye in “Thor.” He gets considerably more
screen time — and some actual dialogue — in “The Avengers,” as his character is
given a substantial, surprising subplot.
What’s Scarlett Johansson doing in this movie?: More than
holding her own against some major-league teammates. Previously introduced as
the cryptic Russian beauty Natasha Romanoff in “Iron Man 2,” Johansson gets an
opportunity to fully immerse herself in the mysterious world of the Black Widow
here. Far from merely being a decorative add-on, Johansson is a key player. Who
needs super-powers anyway?
What movies are crucial to see before “The Avengers”?:
“Thor” and “Captain America” are the two that are most pivotal to the
“Avengers” plot. It certainly would not hurt to have a working knowledge of the
background of Iron Man, a.k.a. Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), although if you
only have time to watch one of his films, go for “Iron Man” over “Iron Man 2.”
The “Hulk” films are purely optional.
Is the 3D worth the extra money?: Not really. Without spoiling anything, the movie is certainly exciting (and funny) enough without the extra effects. They are fine, but if you see the "flat" version, you shouldn't feel cheated.
Should I stay through the end credits of “The Avengers”?: Do you really need to ask?
'The Avengers' opens Friday at theaters nationwide. Celebration Cinema locations are hosting a marathon of "Iron Man," "The Incredible Hulk," "Iron Man 2," "Thor," "Captain America" and "The Avengers" on Thursday. Tickets are $30. Visit the Celebration Cinema webpage for times and locations.