Marvel Studios Assembles its much-loved Superheroes in latest movie “The Avengers” (or “Marvel’s Avengers Assemble” if you like that sort of thing), but can these stars-in-their-own-right work as a team?
Captain America (Chris Evans, Captain America: The First Avenger, The Losers), Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr., Iron Man, Iron Man 2), Thor (Chris Hemsworth, Thor, The Cabin In The Woods), The Black Widow (Scarlett Johannson, Iron Man 2, We Bought a Zoo) and The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo, Shutter Island, The Kids Are Alright) are brought together by super-spy Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson, Iron Man 2, Django Unchained) to prevent evil Asgardian Loki (Tom Hiddleston, Thor, Midnight In Paris) and his army of reptilian-Aliens "The Chitauri" from unleashing the power of the Tesseract. Are you keeping up?
The movie opens with a very Bond-esque pre-titles sequence. What I enjoyed most about this was that it didn’t feature any of the Superheroes and instead focused on the inner-workings of shady Government Agency SHIELD. The scene leaped straight into the action and showed us just how high the stakes were, you genuinely believe they have no other choice but to round up the big guns.
The first act is all introductions. Cap and Iron Man’s introductions are quick and to the point, our introduction to the Black Widow does more for her character than the entirety of Iron Man 2 ever did and within five minutes of meeting Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner he seems more complex and believable than Edward Norton’s take. I think out of all the super-characters in the movie it is Black Widow and Bruce Banner/The Hulk who get the best treatment in terms of character development; they are the real heart of the whole piece. The first act ends with the capture of villainous Loki, and a battle between “The Big Three” Thor, Captain America and Iron Man that shows everybody just why Cap should be boss.
Act 2 slows things down, focusing on character and plot. This paranoia/Psychological Thriller vibe may not sit too well with those audience members who just came for the “Hulk Smash”, but the tension between the uneasy group scintillates and a marvellous action sequence at the climax should win everybody over. Fans of Agent Coulson will be pleased to see him get in on the action, as his importance to the mythology is ramped-up to heroic status.
The third act is pure, pant-wetting action. Visually stunning and unrelenting, it grips you to the end. I saw this movie in 2D, but the loveliness of this action-packed act did have me tempted to go back and watch in 3-Dimensions, headache be damned! All of the characters are given equal screen-time and importance, even the previously short-changed Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol) holds his own amongst the big-boys. The ending is suitably upbeat and cheesy and definitely leaves you wanting more from these characters, both individually and as the Avengers.
The entire cast is stellar, but the standout star is clearly Writer/Director Joss Whedon. Given the impossible task of squeezing a bunch of Larger-Than-Life characters into one Two-and-a-bit-hour story, Whedon manages masterfully. His storytelling strengths lie in his depiction of strong women and being able to keep an ensemble cast in check with a great balance of character-driven moments and a razor-sharp wit, and his fingerprints are all over this movie. You are never more than two minutes from a real, gut-tensing laugh and you will leave genuinely caring about all of the characters, even the ones for whom you previously didn’t.
There are plenty of Easter Eggs for Keen-eyed fans of the Comic books (is that the Stark Resilient Repulsor-Car Tony takes off in?) but this may occasionally work to the film’s detriment, particularly in the post-credits scene. Thankfully you only have to sit through a couple of minutes of credits before you are treated to a taste of what “Avengers 2” may have to offer but, unless you are knowledgeable about the comic book universe, you may come away feeling a little under-whelmed.
“The Avengers” is bigger, better, funnier and more emotionally resonant than anything that has come before, and has definitely raised the standard of Superhero Blockbusters to a whole new level. Most importantly it is proof that you can maintain the sense of fun and unbelievability of the source material without compromising the quality.
Best Line: THOR: What do you think this is?
IRON MAN: Shakespeare in the Park?
(Gesturing to Thor’s cape)
“Doth Mother know thou weareth her drapes?
The Comics: Whedon borrows from many different sources within the comics, but clearly the biggest influence is Mark Millar’s 21st take on the Super-Team “The Ultimates”. Millar wrote two volumes: