The Avengers movie review
|REVIEWS - MOVIES|
The latest in comic-book adaptations is a 'marvel' to behold...
You could have cut the tension in the room with a knife as I settled into my seat to watch Avengers Assemble, renamed on these shores to avoid confusion with British spy series The Avengers and the abysmal film of the same name. Expectations have been ridiculously high, particularly with cult fave Joss Whedon in the driving seat.
Having seen all of the Marvel films leading up to this one; having sniggered at Thor's blatant attempt to introduce Jeremy Renner's Hawkeye pre-Avengers (but don't get me wrong - I really enjoyed Thor!), and having cried and laughed through seven seasons of Buffy, two seasons of Dollhouse and one season of Firefly, I confess to being more than a little excited.
So, did The Avengers measure up?
In the hands of a lesser craftsman, it could have been cheesier than that overripe brie you find languishing, forgotten, at the back of the fridge. Yet I’m pleased to say it’s all hail Joss Whedon - any niggling doubts should now be firmly assuaged. Of course, when you combine some of the world’s best-loved superheroes with a lead cast boasting no less than six Oscar nominations between them, you were always going to struggle to get it wrong. However, Joss Whedon doesn’t just avoid getting it wrong; he gets it right, so right.
Screen time is divided fairly evenly between the various team members, and it takes a while to bring everyone together, but there’s never a dull moment; and Whedon packs an awful lot into the running time which, whilst it exceeds two hours, never feels overly long.
Tom Hiddleston reprises his scene-stealing role as Thor’s wayward brother Loki, this time sporting locks which look like they haven’t been washed since Thor hit cinemas a year ago – perhaps an attempt to demonstrate visually that he is no longer just mischievous, he’s downright evil – and a cunning plan to rule over all of mankind once he’s blasted Manhattan to bits with the help of an alien army and a cube of cosmic energy.
Samuel L. Jackson gets a lot more to do this time around than just show up under contract at the end of the film, and even Clark Gregg’s Agent Coulson gets a pivotal role. Cobie Smulders (of How I Met Your Mother fame) is a capable addition as Agent Maria Hill, but her character feels a little superfluous to requirements.
Whedon’s trademark humour is most definitely in evidence, with more than a few moments deserving of not only a laugh but also a healthy dose of applause. As you would expect, Robert Downey Jr. gets a fair share of the choice one-liners, mostly directed at Chris Hemsworth’s Thor, but the funniest moments come from the Hulk, referred to throughout as “the other guy”. This time it's Mark Ruffalo's turn to go green, and his interpretation might just be the best yet. As Bruce Banner, he infuses the long-suffering scientist with a wry humour, which carries through well to his green counterpart, whose violence is softened by a more boisterous side not present in Ang Lee or Louis Leterrier’s offerings (Hulk (2003) and The Incredible Hulk (2008), starring Eric Bana and Edward Norton, respectively).
The set pieces are, as you would expect, crowd-pleasing; but, more than that, it’s an incredibly well-crafted film, and each camera angle and effects shot has clearly been agonised over. The special effects are impressive, but it’s storytelling that’s key here, which is what sets the film apart from other big budget efforts that have graced the Spring/Summer release calendars over the last few years.
However, that’s not to say Whedon’s creation is perfect. It would have been nice to have spent a bit more time with the invading alien hordes before they show up on Earth. For example, the suggestion seems to be that there is an even badder “Big Bad” than Loki, but it’s as if Joss Whedon et al simply forget about him about halfway through. Also, it never truly feels like our heroes are in genuine peril, which I suppose was always going to be the case with multiple sequels in the offing.
Still, it’s a rollicking good ride. Back-story is wisely limited, so as to avoid alienating anyone who’s been living in outer space for the last few years or simply didn’t bother seeing the previous films, but that doesn’t fetter the quality or depth of the interactions between the characters and it’s a real delight that the transition from clashing individual egos to a viable team never feels forced or unnatural.
Watch out for the usual post-credits scene, which serves up a tantalising morsel of what’s still to come in what producer Kevin Feige has referred to as ‘the saga’.
Finally, bonus points to any readers who spot the cameo appearance by one of Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse alumni!
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