Review: The Avengers (Avengers Assemble)

The seed was sewn back in 2008 with Jon Favreau’s Iron Man. Samuel L. Jackson’s cameo appearance as Nick Fury at the end of the film. The Avenger Initiative, he said. The very mention sent a quiver of excitement down the spines of every comic book loving geek the world over. Would Marvel Studios really bring all their heroes (licensing willing) together in one movie? Could they? Four years and four films laying the groundwork (The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor, and Captain America: The First Avenger), and we arrive at the big moment – The Avengers. And my gosh, are we ready for it.

Loki (Tom Hiddleston), the God of Mischief from Norse legend, returns from his disappearance/exile at the end of Thor to wreak his revenge on Earth. Loki’s plan is to use the Tesseract, an ancient artefact of immense power (last wielded by the Red Skull in Captain America: The First Avenger), to open a gateway to an alien world where he has amassed an army ready to aid him in his bid to conquer and rule the planet. The only thing standing in his way is a team of dysfunctional superheroes – man out of time Captain America (Chris Evans), billionaire egomaniac Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Loki’s big brother and God of Thunder Thor (Chris Hemsworth), and giant green rage monster The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). Together they may just be able to save the Earth, if they can stop fighting each other first…

Marvel Studios entrusted the culmination of all their years of hard work to nerddom’s favourite writer/director/geek Joss Whedon. It was a fan-pleasing choice, but it was also risky. Whedon’s worked a lot in TV, but has only directed one feature – 2005’s Serenity. Could he handle a film of this size and scale? The answer is a resounding YES. His work with the ensemble casts of Buffy/Angel/Firefly stood him in good stead. He juggles the big personalities and giant egos of The Avengers wonderfully, allowing nearly every character a decent amount of screen time and, more importantly, something to do.

Whedon’s wit and gift for dialogue is a delight too. The film is full of chuckles and is certainly funnier than most comedies you’ll see on the big screen. Tom Hiddleston’s Loki is allowed to spit a horribly venomous line that shall surely go down in supervillain history. And special credit must be given to Robert Downey Jr. who positively revels in the wonderful lines he’s given. It’s almost a film-stealing turn if not for a certain other hero, but more on that later. Ultimately, though, it’s Whedon’s love and respect for these superheroes that shines through. Whedon realises that all the explosions in the world do not matter unless we have an affinity for the characters (pay close attention Michael Bay and your Transformers), so the film has many little set ups and pay offs – Steve Rogers challenging Tony Stark, or the kinship between super assassins Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner). It’s funny that we should even to mention these basics of storytelling, but this is a measure of how far removed modern blockbusters have become.

There are some niggles, though. The film sags slightly (only slightly) in the middle. Loki’s army, that we have all be so excited about/speculating about their identity and such, are a bit of a non-entity, disappointingly generic, and clone-ish. They exist solely to get punched and explode. And for all the set up with The Tesseract in the previous movies, it turns out to be the biggest McGuffin that ever McGuffined McGuffin. By which I mean it feels like nothing more than an excuse, not a genuine reason to get all these superheroes together in one movie.

Enough with the niggles, back to the fun. And what fun! I challenge you not to spend the entire film with a giant smile plastered across your face. There are so many fan-pleasing moments – cameos, the helicarrier lifting into the air, Hulk Vs. Thor, Tony’s constant wisecracking, and the final battle where each character struggles but somehow finds the strength to carry on. It’s real comic book hero stuff brought to life. And it’s The Hulk who brings the biggest smile of all. His wanton destruction is thrilling as he leaps, claws, thrashes, punches, and tears apart anyone and anything in his path. It’s this CGI performance that steals the flick from Downey Jr.’s clutches.

The Avengers is JOYOUS. It is Hollywood blockbuster filmmaking at its finest. You may think that it damning with feint praise, but I mean it. It saddens, stupefies, delights and excites all in equal measure. See it. SEE IT NOW.

The Avengers is out in the UK and hits US screens on the 4th May.

More Reviews:

Ghost Rider – Spirit Of Vengeance

The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Drive

Haywire

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

Melancholia

Coriolanus

Troll Hunter

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2011)

Captain America: The First Avenger

Tron

The Girl With Dragon Tattoo (2009)

Hackers

WarGames

Super 8

The Parallax View

Cowboys And Aliens

Swamp Thing

X-Men First Class

The Human Centipede

Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen

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