Movie Review: Marvel Avengers AssemblePosted: May 10, 2012
That title is the only time I will be using the stupid, unwieldy full title for this movie. Apparently its been done to avoid confusion with the Uma Thurman turkey The Avengers.
But it feels a tad excessive, why not just call it Avengers Assemble? That hints that its an opening chapter. Anyway, I’m only adding this part so there’s some negativity included in this review.
Because this movie is awesome, one of the best superhero movies ever made, taking its place alongside The Dark Knight, Iron Man and Superman 2.
The plot sees fallen Asgardian Loki (Tom Hiddleston) working with some mysterious aliens, who are after the Tesseract (a blue box of unfathomable power, last seen being used by the Nazis in Captain America: The First Avenger). Loki attacks a SHIELD base, taking the device from Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson).
He also uses his new magical staff to turn Clint Barton aka Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) into his slave. Loki makes his escape and Fury re-activates the Avengers Initiative, a proposed group of gifted originals who would fight to defend the Earth from threats too great for conventional forces.
SHIELD spy Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) is tasked with bringing in exiled scientist Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) who has been hiding out in India working as a doctor, in order to keep the Hulk under control. His expertise in the field of Gamma radiation means he is the best bet to track the Tesseract, although he is suspicious of Fury’s motives and fears they want to use the Hulk.
Also called up is the super soldier Captain America (Chris Evans) who is struggling to adjust to life in the 21st century, and slightly jaded by how society and the world has changed. Billionaire superhero Tony Stark aka Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr), is also recruited despite an earlier psychiatric evaluation claiming he was unsuitable for the team.
Also in the mix is Thor (Chris Hemsworth) the Norse god of thunder who has vowed to protect Earth, and wants to stop Loki, his adopted brother. Thor initially clashes with Iron Man and Captain America, but realising they are on the same side joins them.
The group’s conflicting personalities cause them to clash, but can they band together in time to defeat Loki, regain the Tesseract and stop the alien army from invading Earth?
First of all, as I said above, the movie is awesome. Joss Whedon has a proven track record for writing fantastic ensemble pieces, from the fantastic Buffy, through the short lived Firefly and his work on the Astonishing X-Men comic book. Here he does a great job of bringing together the ragtag, mismatched Avengers and once he has them together does a great job of fleshing out the fledgling team.
As Loki describes them, the group is largely made up of “lost creatures” and this makes for some interesting group dynamics.
Most notably is the personality clash between Iron Man and Captain America, with the responsible, straight-arrow Cap having problems with the swaggering, egotistical Stark. It feels totally believable, given the Captain’s sense of duty that he would struggle to deal with someone who treats everything as a joke, and he questions Stark’s commitment and dedication to fighting, and whether when its crunch time Stark will react properly.
Stark has similar problems with Fury, whom he is incredibly distrustful of and his individualism seems to make it difficult for him to deal with SHIELD’s authority.
However, there is one relationship that seems quite good from the off, between Stark and Banner. The two respect each other as scientists and spark off each other quite well, and the impulsive Stark appears to have a better read on the nature of Banner’s inner beast that the others.
Usually I like to highlight the strongest performance in a film, but here its a real struggle as everyone is at the top of their game.
RDJ, in his second (or third, if you count his cameo in The Incredible Hulk) outing as Tony Stark is as good as ever, really seeming comfortable in the role of the joking, strutting hero. He still has the cool factor, but here we see signs of him maturing slightly in his role as a hero.
Evans and Hemsworth continue the good work they did in their characters’ solo outings, and Evans really sinks his teeth into playing the time lost Cap, adding a bit of bitterness and disillusionment to the star spangled hero. I also liked how after the team’s early teething problems towards the end of the film Captain America starts to emerge as the team’s leader, with Evans capturing the character’s integrity and authority while retaining a very realistic human side.
Hemsworth I feel is rather short changed, I loved him in Thor, and he does good work here, particularly getting some genuine emotion from his attempts to reason with Loki, who he still considers his brother. But, due to this being an ensemble piece I felt that he didn’t get quite enough time to develop the character.
Mark Ruffalo makes a fantastic Bruce Banner, playing him as an awkward yet charming scientist, and the joy we see in him as he works in the lab is quite touching, as is the relationship that develops between him and Stark.
Rounding off the team as the two non-powered members of the team, Renner and Johansson both do a good job in their roles, although sadly due to Hawkeye spending much of the film as Loki’s mystical bitch, Renner doesn’t really get a chance to flesh out Barton more than giving us a sense of general badassery.
Johansson is probably the biggest shock as Black Widow, as her earlier appearance in Iron Man 2 failed to impress me, as aside from one fight scene all she was required to do was look good, which let’s face it, she did very well. Here she continues to look good but is given more room to move, and reveals this inner core of steeliness and intellegence. Whedon is known for his strong female characters and I think Black Widow fits in with that, and he does a great job in one scene of wrongfooting the audience, which I won’t ruin for you.
The relationship between Widow and Hawkeye is quite a good one, with Hawkeye having saved her from a dark past and a mutual respect existing between the two. I also liked the fact that as the two “weaker” members of the team they kind of stuck together come the final fight and also hold their own in a scrap.
The rest of the cast do their jobs very well, especially Samuel L Jackson as Fury and Tom Hiddleston as Loki. Hiddleston is a good villain, playing Loki as an almost bratty, power-mad figure who percieves his fall from grace as the fault of others. As a physical force he’s more than a match for most of the team and with his army backing him up presents a realistic threat to them.
SLJ, as ever oozes coolness from every pore, and his Fury gets some fantastic dialogue. Fury has an aura of authority throughout the film, and his toughness and lack of fear despite being out of his depth against Loki is pretty amazing, I also really liked the fact that they added shades of grey to the character, having him be secretive and manipulative in a way that made complete sense given his role.
But, of course a film like this isn’t just about the characters, you go to see this kind of film for the spectacle and it doesn’t dissapoint. Following the unwritten rule of superheroes, which is that when two meet for the first time they have to fight, there are quite a few Avenger-on-Avenger scraps, and these are handled very well, with the reasons for the fights making sense as well as giving an opportunity to show off how powerful some members of the team are.
The climactic battle, which rages across New York is sensational, and possibly the best screen realisation of comic book battles so far. The problem with films is that they tend to break down these big scale fights into a series of smaller encounters, but here Whedon’s knowledge of comics must surely have played a part as the action constantly shifts.
As the Avengers fly, leap and shoot in all directions the camera follows them, chasing one for a time and then switching focus as they pass a teammate, ensuring that you never lose the sense that all this is happening at the same time, and that its a truly epic struggle. Splitting it into smaller face-offs would have robbed it of this feeling, and its the most similar to the way that big fights are often handled in comics.
Best of all is the Hulk. I quite enjoyed the last Hulk movie, but this is definitely the best screen version of him yet (Sorry, Lou Ferrigno). The raw, animalistic power is there, but Whedon also uses the rampaging Hulk for some quite nice comedic moments, and there’s a humanity to the character which is sometimes lost.
The quiet moments are just as good and there are countless nice touches, my particular favourites being when an unarmoured Stark faces off and threatens Loki, displaying a toughness in the character we haven’t yet seen, and a funny, sweet moment where Captain America reacts with complete glee at having understood a pop culture reference Nick Fury makes, its quite a nice moment as Cap’s joy is fully understandable as in an incredibly changed world he encounters something that is familiar to him.
There’s also a great scene between Black Widow and Loki, which I thought was brilliantly written and wonderfully performed by Scarlett Johansson.
Frankly, this is probably as good as a superhero team movie can get- the characters, the script, the action is all handled superbly. Joss Whedon has knocked it out of the park, and the geek-baiting end credits teaser ensured that this particular geek left the cinema already adding Avengers 2 to his “Films I really want to see list”.
It also doesn’t hurt that with RDJ, Thor, Renner and SLJ its man-crush mania.
Verdict: An instant classic, Joss Whedon does exceptionally well bringing Earth’s Mightiest Heroes to the big screen and crafts a charming, exciting film. The cast, to a man, or on top form and it never lets you down. 9/10
(Note: You might think its weird that after the rave review I only gave this flick 9, not the full 10 but I’ve always been a firm believer that the 100% score should be reserved for the exceptionally brilliant, meaning that there are probably only a handful of movies I’d give 10/10 to. Maybe if this flick holds up on repeat viewings it will join that list)
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO