Dude, it's summer-movie time! Things are exploding! Aliens are landing! Actors are wearing superhero spandex! All the blockbuster boxes are checked off for this kick-off to the summer movie season. But "The Avengers" offers nothing that doesn't feel as though it was already done better elsewhere. (And if you think that expecting more than that is unrealistic: last summer's "Mission Impossible" proved that filmmakers can goose a franchise with cool new ideas.) The first half of "Avengers" is talky; every actor speaks somberly about his or her character's past. The second half is all battling otherworldly creatures through and above the streets of New York City. Thank goodness for Robert Downey Jr., who, as Tony Stark/Iron Man, adds some zip every time he turns up and spouts a sarcastic one-liner.
- KRISTINA DORSEY