(Published in Issue 9 of my publication In Retrospect)
Written and directed by Joss Whedon, Avengers Assemble centres around the Director of the international peacekeeping agency known as S.H.I.E.L.D., Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson)’s, need for a superhero team. Uniting Captain America (Chris Evans), Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), The Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), The Avengers are brought together to face Thor’s Godly brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and his Chitauri alien army as they declare war on Earth.
Continuing on from the epic big-screen adventures from the Marvel comics that have already begun with Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger, Avengers Assemble has already grossed more in its first week than all of these Marvel films together in the same time period. And it’s not surprising really, as Marvel has done an amazing job of getting us ready and excited for this assemble. Most of us have seen at least one of these superhero films, if not all of them, and have had time to invest in these characters; now, with these characters joining forces for the very first time, everyone has something different to look forward to. So whether you’ve gone to see Iron Man for Robert Downey Jr’s witty charm, or Thor for Chris Hemsworth’s brilliant accent, or even if just for Scarlett Johansson in a black skin-tight jumpsuit, you’re sure to leave the cinema satisfied.
Set around the premise of war and an alien invasion, Avengers Assemble is all about the action, but at the beginning of the film when it is very heavy on scenes of mass gun shootings and big explosions, at first it comes off as a lot less light-hearted than most would hope. As you get into the film, however, you see that this is just to make an impact at the start and that as the film goes on these excessive scenes of fighting begin to blend better with other aspects of the film. Whilst there is an awful lot of action, the use of big explosions doesn’t come off as an unnecessary use of a big budget here, but it rather strengthens the film from Whedon showing us how to use big budget action scenes in the right way.
From the film’s trailer, I was worried that the mechanical machines flying through the New York City looked very Michael Bay and it was only too easy to conjure up fears of the film looking like another Transformers movie. Fortunately, this isn’t the case at all, and these robotic mechanisms are actually pretty cool. The CGI and 3D enhancements were some of the best I have seen (3D will always be an unnecessary addition to a film but there were parts where it really worked). There was no blurriness in the fighting scenes, which was of the greatest advantages as you have a genuine interest in these characters; whilst a lot of action films avoid any focus in these battle scenes to speed through having to give any focus, with The Avengers you wanted to know who is fighting who and how they are each using each of their unique weapons of choice to do so, which was a big plus.
Whilst Avengers Assemble is by no means a comedy, it is also one of the funniest films I have seen in a long time. Whedon’s writing is pure genius here, often diverting from the seriousness of the situation with some hilarious one-liners or by using distractions in some almost predictable scenarios. The comedy isn’t in your face as if the jokes are purposefully put in places to make you laugh, but are rather fitted in well all over the place which came off as very organic humour. Occasionally giving the threat that not everyone is going to make it, as well, Whedon also manages to make the audience fall silent. His contrasting use of fear and humour in his writing is what’s so incredible about this film, and it’s this great script that you constantly notice throughout.
The biggest focus in the film is on the character development, which is the most important aspect of the film as the team meet each other – with a couple of exceptions – for the first time. Without focusing too much on their back stories, only using a couple of flash backs to remind us of a couple of necessary points, the emphasis is on the characters attempting to work together as a team.
Most of us will already have a favourite character so it’s likely that we all wanted more from each of them, but with so many characters, of course there are some aspects of their personalities that aren’t fully developed. Everyone may have had their time to shine, but the one criticism I would have to give is that a better introduction was needed for Hawkeye for those of us that haven’t read the comics. It wasn’t completely obvious as to why he was good enough to be in The Avengers, but the fact that we got to see a different side of his character as well, played extremely well by Jeremy Renner, helped to rebalance this. Other than that his character was played up really well, with some amazing camera shots of him firing his arrows; the moment that laser shines in your eyes as he flies in front of the screen was quite a memorable one.
Another character I felt the film didn’t handle very well was Black Widow. We’ve met her before in the last Iron Man film, but whilst she has her moments, and whilst Scarlett Johansson is undeniably sexy and her character powerful, she doesn’t have a lot else going for her. It was hard to glamourise her role as only being able to shoot one alien at a time whilst others were smashing through hundreds. Yes, she can easily get her legs around a man’s head to break his neck, but against the other characters hers often seemed a little out of place.
The character that everyone will be talking about, however, is Mark Ruffalo for the re-casting of The Hulk. We’ve seen The Hulk before portrayed by Edward Norton, but whilst he is a great actor, he had no sensitive side to his character. Ruffalo in The Avengers, however, was much easier to feel sympathy for and his character, therefore, built up a big fan base this time around. The CGI also allowed Ruffalo to play The Hulk via motion capture which worked brilliantly, further allowing the audience to see the connection between Bruce Banner and the beast he is constantly cautious of becoming, and it’s because of his place in a team that we were able to see his character flourish.
For me though, it was Tom Hiddleston as Loki that stood out. Not so much a fan of his character in the Thor film, his role has progressively strengthened to reach the high level of power his character emanates here. Hiddleston is great in the role and quite surprisingly, only because of his unburdened accent and quite dainty composure, he makes a brilliant antagonist. His acting was solid and he has definitely made a name for himself, more so than before, through this role here.
But despite certain flaws or qualities in individual characters, as a group their assembling was brilliant. Beginning with different duels between each character and then having the team finally coming together after – without giving any spoilers – finding something to avenge was the best development, and by the end of the film the team have a great chemistry.
Despite a 140 minute running time you don’t find yourself checking your watch to see how long is left. Avengers Assemble is constantly brilliant. Of course, there were certain aspects of the film that were missed out, the most disappointing revolving around Thor’s arrival (which if you have seen the film then you will know what I mean), but there wasn’t anything left out that would leave the audience questioning.
You may not believe that the film will actually be this good – it’s often easy to become sceptical with everyone giving such huge praise – but it really is all that. It is undoubtedly one of the biggest blockbuster movies you will see and it is definitely my favourite film of the year so far. All we have to do now is see if The Dark Knight Rises can top this in the summer.