So.. after many connect the dot origin stories that have ranged from the distinctly average to the thoroughly entertaining, it is time for Marvel to deliver what they’ve always teased. A larger than life ’assembling’, triggering a spectacular superhuman smackdown for the ages.
For comicbook fans like myself, many of us never anticipated the medium of cinema to have the audacity to take on such an eclectic mix of characters. Director and writer Joss Whedon has always been deemed a safe pair of hands.. but has he brought his A game here?? YES is putting it mildly.. HULK SMASHING it out of the park is certainly more appropriate!
Whedon sets his expensive stall out early, with the vindictive Loki (Tom Hiddleston) crashing back down to Earth with the idea of antagonising the hot shots at S.H.I.E.L.D. HQ headed up by Nick Fury (Samuel L.Jackson) and Agent Coulson (Clark Clegg) playing on his mind. The key to his masterplan lies in the form of a glorious looking cube called The Tesseract. With the capability of consuming unlimited energy, he seeks to have it in his possession in order to command and conquer Earth.
With war declared and faith in the human race diminshed, it’s down to Fury to create the ‘Avengers Initative’ to help restore order. The team itself consisting of proud and primed Captain America (Chris Evans), the egotistical Tony Stark/ Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr), the Jekyll and Hyde esque Bruce Banner/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Norse thunder God Thor (Chris Hemsworth), bow and arrow lover Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and flexible Russian Natasha Romanov/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson).
Considering their love for justice, you would expect our heroic collective to be on the same page straight away. But it doesn’t take long for descension in the ranks to occur..
Whedon’s handling of the material is top notch, which is hardly surprising considering ensembles are arguably his forte. The script is tightly plotted, sharp and packed with zingy quips and intertextual nods, which certainly helps the film through its lengthy exposition phase. When he’s not relying on his star studded cast’s charisma and charm to mischeviously deliver the funny, he’s neatly applying layers underneath their colourful attire. As they continue to wrestle with their own flaws and each other, it certainly aids the emotional payoff in the film’s more bombastic and pivotal moments.
Avengers Assemble certainly doesn’t skimper in this department. The blockbuster thrills are here in abundance, delivered with overwhelming enthusiasm. Special effects heavy it may be and familiar setups it may contain, but Whedon’s orchestration of the set pieces proves to be inventive and epic in scale none more so than the relentless and gung-ho finale set in Downtown Manhattan. The $200 million budget isn’t wasted.. that’s for sure!
As far as performances go, the chief concern was Ruffalo’s take on the Hulk. Ang Lee’s arty and ultimately dreary original attempt through Eric Bana and the misguided execution of the Edward Norton/Louis Leterrier led sequel left us all bemused. But third time lucky, Ruffalo sheds the ‘it’s not easy being green’ tag and perfectly embodies the initally reserved demeanour of Banner whilst bringing a sense of fun to his monstrous counterpart.
Elsewhere, Hiddleston’s Loki is devilishly played with his facial expressions being a particular delight. Hemsworth and Evans old fashioned principles juxtapose splendidly with Downey Jr’s modern day playboy antics and unparalleled wit. Johansson seems to relish her kick ass persona and her mysterious bond with newcomer Hawkeye is particularly engaging.
The flaws are thankfully minor. The Tesseract proves to be no more than a Hitchcockian style macguffin and Loki’s extra terrestrial cronies are completely devoid of personality which occasionally holds back the levels of peril somewhat.
But it’s hard to deny.. that Avengers Assemble is the epitome of pure popcorn entertainment. Pacy and exhilarating.. what Whedon has achieved here is nothing short of remarkable!