The summer blockbuster season has truly gotten underway with the launching of The Avengers onto local screens. A fairly mundane plot-line is helped along immeasurably by 3-D, now availably locally for the first time.

The film has been much awaited by Marvel comics aficionados, and has been breaking all box office records, with a return above the $2 billion mark in its first few weeks.

It’s an opportunity for most of the Marvel constellation of superheroes to be featured in one spectacular vehicle, and as such it certainly lives up to expectations.

What’s missing is some semblance of originality, but that doesn’t seem to have bothered most fans of the genre.

The film’s plot involves the unleashing of a super weapon—a glowing blue cube called a tesseract—upon an unsuspecting humanity, and the return of the Norse thunder-god Thor’s evil brother, Loki, to threaten all mankind with its devastating use.

Loki comes to us courtesy of the opening of a time-space portal, through which he can transport himself from the halls of Asgard to midtown Manhattan, which is fairly well devastated by film’s end.

All of the superheroes are played well by their regular on-screen alter egos, with particularly strong performances from Scarlett Johanssen as the Black Widow, Samuel Jackson as team leader Nick Fury, and Robert Downing Jr. as Iron Man/Tony Stark.

Cobie Smulders and Chris Hemsworth in The Avengers PHOTO: courtesy of IMDb.com

Of them all, Stark plays the best. He’s the only one with an obvious romantic attachment going for him, in the form of Gwyneth Paltrowplaying his erstwhile secretary, Pepper Potts. And he does have the best lines.

The strategy of having the superheroes each take pokes at each other, in the form of verbal repartee, in addition to physical fisticuffs by some, serves to humanize them.

Captain America is derided for being a wartime relic, and Thor for his long hair. But while the others are careening around in the air above Manhattan, the Captain is on the ground rescuing passengers trapped in a bus.

In all fairness, the film clips along well during its two-and-a-half hours plus, and proves that, properly applied, 3-D is the perfect accompaniment for a decently-shot action film.

Reportedly, the film was converted to 3-D in post-production. If this is so, it has to stand out as quite possibly the best conversion yet.

This being said, for all of director Josh Weiden’s attempts to give the pantheon of superheroes human faces and human foibles, they are still comic-book characters, with all the limitations of their medium.

Their dominance has ushered in an era where a surfeit of comic-book heroes has almost taken the place of real actors in real dramatic situations.

The Avengers does what it does very well, but the real drama is still strictly in the battle scenes.

The Avengers plays at the Yukon Theatre at 6:45 and 9:45 p.m., and is rated PG for violence, not recommended for younger children.

Brian Eaton is a cinema buff who reviews current films and writes on other film-related topics on a regular basis.