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.
Earth’s Mightiest Heroes assemble to protect the Earth from Loki and his army of alien invaders.
[Warning... Here Be Spoilers]
The Avengers is not a great film. It is at best an average summer blockbuster. I want to make my opinions clear from the very beginning of this review because I know there are many, many people who will disagree with most or all of the criticism I have for the film. This is my personal opinion and I will back up my criticisms where possible.
Firstly, I love films based on comic book characters and I enjoy many summer blockbusters, so I cannot complain that I wasn’t part of The Avengers’ target audience. Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2, Batman, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, X-2, X-Men: First Class, Superman Returns (yes, that’s right) and the greatest superhero film of them all, Superman: The Movie, all range from very enjoyable to truly outstanding in my opinion. It’s interesting to note that all but one of these were released before 2008 when Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk were made and paved the road to The Avengers. Moreover, it is this group of films – Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor – which were so poor (Iron Man 2 and Thor made my ‘worst of’ list for 2010 and 2011 respectively) and so rushed in order to get to The Avengers, that The Avengers ultimately suffers for it. The exception being Captain America: The First Avenger, for reasons I will explain later.
My main gripe with the film is the lack of excitement the action scenes generated. Just having these iconic characters on screen is not enough to warrant a free pass from criticism; the final battle in New York is no better than anything in the universally-panned Transformers series, borrowing inspiration from Michael Bay’s Armageddon along the way. For all their charisma and comic timing, Robert Downey Jr. and Mark Ruffalo offer nothing to the action scenes involving Iron Man and Hulk, reducing their scenes to that akin of watching someone play a computer game. The film shows us a series of fights between the characters, all of which seem to be there to tick boxes off a ‘fan boy’ wish list, but add nothing to the development of the story. Iron Man v Thor, Thor v Hulk, Hulk v Black Widow, Black Widow v Hawkeye… It just becomes tiresome and predictable. The only character which doesn’t bore me when they’re in costume is Captain America, because his lack of super powers means that we get to watch Chris Evans run and jump around rather than a special effects team showing off – this is the very reason I enjoyed the 2011 film so much and am highly anticipating the sequel on April 4th, 2014. Hawkeye, however, as character without his own film, does precisely nothing until – surprise surprise – the script calls for the all-action finale and he fires a few arrows and is involved in the weakest effect shot in the whole film.
Tom Hiddleston as the villain, Loki, delivers the film’s best performance by a long way and is the only believable character, stealing each and every scene when he is on screen. If it were not for him, The Avengers could have been a woeful affair. Yet, despite the undeniably funny scene where Hulk throws Loki around like a rag doll, I thought this completely undermined his menace and hinders the film’s already tired final act. Moreover, the lack of real threat is confounded when Loki’s army, barely seen in the 90 minutes beforehand, descend on New York for no other purpose than being cannon fodder for a shield, hammer, repulsor ray, arrow, bullet, or giant green fist. Again, there is no excitement here, nor does it come across as heroic.
There are three scenes which are just terrible. Firstly the cameo from Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts with Robert Downey Jr. is like a bad sitcom pilot destined never to be picked up for a full season. Secondly, the scene in ‘Stuttgart’ is clearly a set and with $220m budget they should have either set the scene in America, or actually gone to Stuttgart on location. Not that it matters that it’s Stuttgart – it could have been Sunderland and would have had just as much impact. The (I assume) Jewish man who stands up and answers back to Loki as if he were Hitler is woeful in its attempts to say something about dictatorships.
The film isn’t without its merits, of course. The production value is excellent, the effect are mostly good and writer/director Joss Whedon has done a very good job of putting this mammoth task together, making it family-friendly entertainment for younger audiences who haven’t seen New York get destroyed before, and who may have enjoyed the previous films. The plot is simple, the action starts quickly and is non-stop for the 140 minutes, so no one can complain about a lack of action, but I just expected so much more from a film four years in the making, with over $2.3 billion in accumulated franchise ticket sales. The film, so anticipated, felt too rushed to me and a better story and action set-pieces may have lifted it up to the standard set by Bryan Singer’s outstanding X-2, but less than a year after Thor and Captain America is just too soon and the lack of originality in the output shows.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★