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, Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Clark Gregg, Cobie Smulders, Stellan Skarsgård, Gwyneth Paltrow and Paul Bettany.
When the world comes under threat, S.H.I.E.L.D. assembles a team consisting of Earth's Mightiest Heroes.
Having laid the foundations with five well-received solo movies between 2008 and 2011, Marvel Studios finally brings together their cinematic universe with the release of the hugely ambitious superhero epic The Avengers (or Avengers Assemble, as it's known here in the UK). Merging the worlds of Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Thor and Captain America was always going to be a daunting task, so it's testament to the skills of writer-director Joss Whedon and everyone involved with the film that The Avengers manages to exceed its lofty expectations. It captures everything that’s great about the Marvel Universe, delivering a hugely entertaining blockbuster that's bound to delight anyone who's ever found even a modicum of enjoyment from within the pages of a Marvel comic book.
The plot itself is fairly straight-forward and sees Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) forced into resurrecting the abandoned Avengers Initiative when Loki (Tom Hiddleston) arrives on Earth and steals the Tesseract (a.k.a. the Cosmic Cube), before threatening to unleash war upon the planet with an army of extra-terrestrial invaders. Of course, much like Robert Downey Jr’s Tony Stark, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes don’t seem to play well with others and the God of Mischief soon has Stark, Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain America (Chris Evans) and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) at each other’s throats. However, with war looming, the heroes must put aside their differences and join forces with S.H.I.E.L.D. agents Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) and Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) to thwart Loki’s plans for world domination.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock this past week or so, chances are you’ll have already read numerous reviews showering the film with just about every superlative under the sun. Often when that happens, there’s a danger you can go into a film with unrealistic expectations, but that’s simply not the case here and the praise The Avengers has been receiving is thoroughly deserved. Seeing the likes of Iron Man, Cap, Thor and The Incredible Hulk together makes for a genuine spectacle, but Whedon also ensures that every character – from the main heroes through to supporting players such as Black Widow, Hawkeye, Fury and Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) – are given their moment in the spotlight. It works every time, providing a near-perfect blend of edge-of-your-seat action and laugh-out-loud humour, which builds towards one of the most exciting action sequences I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing on screen.
And so, we come to the $64,000 question: where does The Avengers stand in the pantheon of comic book movies - or more specifically, is it better than The Dark Knight? For me, the short answer has to be no, but in truth it’s a difficult question. I've always considered The Dark Knight to be more 'crime epic' than 'comic book caper', but The Avengers lacks the same depth of story as Christopher Nolan’s acclaimed Batman sequel and despite the fact that Tom Hiddleston delivers a suitably menacing performance as Loki, I felt it would have benefited from the addition of a second villain, especially one that we’d not seen before. Nevertheless, The Avengers really is a fantastic accomplishment, made all the more impressive considering that this is only Whedon’s second feature film as director after 2005’s Serenity. For sheer entertainment value, I’d have to say The Avengers has the edge over The Dark Knight and in terms of 2012’s cinematic superhero showdown, both The Amazing Spider-Man and The Dark Knight Rises will need to be something very special indeed if they’re to have any chance of surpassing Marvel's marvellous effort.
Flickering Myth Rating: Film ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie ★ ★ ★ ★ ★