The Road to the Avengers comes to an end as Luke Owen reviews Marvel's Avengers Assemble...
The Avengers (a.k.a. Avengers Assemble), 2012.
Written and Directed by Joss Whedon.
Starring Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Samuel L. Jackson, Tom Hiddleston, Clark Gregg, Cobie Smulders, Stellan Skarsgård, Gwyneth Paltrow and Paul Bettany.
Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D are working on harnessing the power of the Tesseract, discovered by Howard Stark during the search for Steve Rogers, when Loki emerges and steals it, promising a war on Earth. With few options available, Fury has to bring back the abandoned Avengers Initiative and assemble a team of heroes to take Loki and his army of Chitauri down. Unfortunately, these heroes aren’t really getting along and would rather fight amongst themselves than fight as a team.
I’m going to try and keep this review as spoiler free as possible as the best way to view it is to go in without knowing too much. It’s a credit to Marvel that they’ve managed to keep the race of Loki’s army a secret until recently. If I was you and you haven’t already, steer clear of spoiler reviews or the clips that Disney have put out. Trust me, you will enjoy the movie more.
If you’ve been following my thoughts on Twitter, then you will have probably already guessed that I absolutely loved this movie. Avengers Assemble is easily the best comic book movie ever made and for several reasons.
Firstly, this is not a movie about a team of heroes fighting aliens with big flashy effects. While that is the basic premise of the film, 85% is actually spent developing the characters and the relationships between these forces (to the point where the name of the aliens is only mentioned twice, and I’m thankful Whedon told us who they were beforehand because I didn’t write it down). Whedon and Zak Penn have really tapped into what made the early Avengers comics (and subsequent runs too) so successful and engaging – on paper they are a team, but teams don’t always get along. Whedon said, “these people shouldn't be in the same room let alone on the same team - and that is the definition of family.” His script and dialogue are amazing and the interaction between the characters is so good that at times you’ll find yourself wanting more of them sitting around talking rather than going out fighting.
There is no question that Whedon was the correct choice to take on this movie as writer / director. It would have been so easy to just stick these characters on screen and have them fight things but instead he has made a beautifully crafted character piece that oozes charisma and charm. Many times in the past a director, writer or actor has taken on a comic book that they want to adapt for screen and missed the mark. Whedon, on the other hand, is not just a comic book fan - he is a comic book writer, and as a comic book writer, he gets who these characters are and what they're all about.
Secondly, the action is fantastic. While the majority of the film is spent on the characters, the action sequences themselves are breath-taking. Each fight scene feels unique and comes with its own set of rules. Unlike, say Michael Bay’s Transformers franchise, each action scene in Avengers Assemble is there for a reason and to move the story along, rather than an excuse to blow things up for some quick kicks. Events are character-driven, not just there to link scenes. From the forest fight sequence between Iron Man and Thor (previews are available – but don’t do it justice) to the final battle against the Chitauri, Whedon doesn’t take a step wrong. A lot of the fight scenes are there to build on the characters and the relationships between them. Make no bones about it; this is a film about characters - which is what makes it so good.
Thirdly, everyone, and I mean everyone, pulls out an amazing performance in the movie. For the first few scenes, it felt like Downey Jr. was phoning in his performance, but he was amazing by the end of it. Chris Hemsworth is phenomenal as Thor and brings to life his internal struggle as these “petty people” as he calls them attempt to destroy his brother. I would have liked to have seen more of Evans as the ‘fish out of time’ character, but I feel that would be better left to the Captain America sequel to be released in a couple of years. For what he had to do in this movie, he does a great job. Jeremy Renner and Scarlett Johansson are great as the S.H.I.E.L.D assassins that haven’t been given enough screen time, with Renner pulling out a career-best performance as Hawkeye. And - while he may have only been a background fixture throughout the previous Marvel Studios movies - Clark Gregg’s Agent Coulson finally gets to take centre stage and shines from it.
One of the big questions about the film was always going to be whether Mark Ruffalo could step into the rather large shoes of Edward Norton. Luckily for Ruffalo, I think enough time has passed since Norton’s performance that he shouldn’t get too many comparisons. But even if he does, he can rest assured that he knocks this role out of the park. I don’t think there has ever been a more convincing Bruce Banner on screen in the character’s illustrious history and the mo-cap work he did for The Hulk himself makes for the best Hulk appearance we've seen. Ruffalo almost steals the show in this huge ensemble piece against some big guns and was the subject of a lot of the applause the film received in the screening I attended.
While Tom Hiddleston was the starring piece of Thor, he knocks his performance up into a higher gear for Avengers Assemble, establishing himself as a comic book villain to be feared by many. While I’m sure Marvel has got big plans in store for any Avengers sequels, they will be hard pressed to find a villain that is as good as Hiddleston's Loki. The way he commands the screen is fantastic and his dialogue delivery when interacting with the people he is trying to destroy is masterful.
I loved all the little nods to the films that had come before it. Even if it was just mentions of characters like Jane Foster or appearances from Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts and Stellen Skarsgard as Erik Selvig. Alan Silvestri’s score even makes reference to the scores from the previous movies, incorporating them into his own. It’s these little touches that make this more than just a money-grabbing ensemble piece - this is a film that is rewarding the fans who have watched and invested time in the previous movies.
What surprised me (but probably won’t surprise die-hard Whedon fans) is just how funny the film is. Certain lines of dialogue or character actions erupted huge laughter from the audience for all the right reasons. This film had more funny moments in it than the majority of comedies from the last five years. This is not a criticism; this really lifted the film and proved how good the writing is. The movie managed to illicit every reaction it wanted from its audience at all the right moments.
I must admit that there were times when I questioned the movie's logic over some character actions, but 90% of them were explained. There are a couple of plot holes that you could possibly argue but to point them out would be nitpicking and petty. I think my only real complaint about the movie is that, unlike his solo movie, Captain America’s suit looks a bit goofy (which I feared it might). When Evans has the hood off, the suit looks great, but with the helmet on, it does look a bit silly. The only other problem with Avengers Assemble is not to do with the film itself but with the marketing. At times the film does suffer from the “I’ve seen that in the trailer” syndrome, which does have a detrimental effect on the impact that certain moments or lines of dialogue could have had.
Now you may read this review and think, “well this guy is clearly just a comic book fan and he was always going to love it because he was excited for it to begin with.” If you do think that, then you are foolish. Of all the people to comment on comic book movies, comic book fans are the harshest of critics. And the fact that I was incredibly excited to see it just shows how good the movie is, not only meeting my high expectations but exceeding them. To be honest, I’m not even a big fan of Whedon’s work (I happen to think that Firefly is incredibly overrated,) but this is a movie that may have turned me on him as a writer and filmmaker. He has made an exceptional movie with Avengers Assemble. I make no qualms when I say this is easily the greatest comic book movie ever made and it will take something pretty spectacular to beat it.
Marvel’s Avengers Assemble has everything. It has great characters, a wonderful story, awe-inspiring action sequences, superb acting and great dialogue. Not one minute of the runtime is wasted and every frame feels designed for a reason. If you’ve invested time into the previous Marvel movies, you owe it to yourself to see this film. And if you haven’t, you will still enjoy the hell out of it. This is the ‘summer blockbuster’ movie of the year without a shadow of a doubt.
Oh, and remember to stay for the credits – the scene comes midway through and gives us a good indication for what to expect for The Avengers 2. I won’t say anything more than that, but it’s the best reveal since Samuel L. Jackson walked on screen as Nick Fury in Iron Man.
Flickering Myth Rating - Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Luke Owen is a freelance copywriter working for Europe’s biggest golf holiday provider as their web content executive.