The Avengers

Director: Joss Whedon
Starring: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Jeremy Renner, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson and Tom Hiddleston

Well, here it is.
The biggest summer blockbuster of all time has finally been released. With a budget of over 200 million dollars, and five previous films being employed to set up the premise, The Avengers has finally landed in cinemas. Undoubtedly one of the most hyped up films in cinema history. And is it a success? Breathe a collective sigh of release, because the answer is a resounding, fist-in-the-air YES!

The Set-Up:
Following the events of Thor, the God of Mischief, Loki (Hiddleston), has come to Earth to wreak havoc. He bears the Tessarect, a relic of immense power that was retrieved from the Red Skull in the 1940s. Now, he is prepared to unleash a force that threatens the entire Earth. It is up to Nick Fury (Jackson) and his special agents Hawkeye (Renner) and Black Widow (Johansson) to assemble a team to stop him. A special force made up of the Invincible Iron Man (Downey Jr.), the Mighty Thor (Chris Hemsworth), the Incredible Hulk (Ruffalo) and the First Avenger: Captain America (Evans).

The Avengers really is the ultimate summer blockbuster. It doesn’t pretend to be too clever, but it has some of the best action sequences and snappy dialogue that has been seen in cinemas in a long time. Marvel’s reasoning for setting up this film in the way that they did is abundantly clear from the beginning. No major effort has to be put into actually establishing the characters, as it is assumed that we know them already from their previous outings.

Instead, Whedon absolutely revels in bouncing these characters off of each other and letting the sparks fly! And it is clear that he has an absolute whale of a time doing it too. Thor and Tony Stark enjoy a condescending state of arrogance, while Captain America is completely out-of-place due to his naive nature and unwavering morals. And Bruce Banner is constantly on edge around other people, attempting to keep his anger issues under control. This makes the resulting chemistry notably appealing, as well as very shamelessly entertaining.

Whedon has, of course, had experience with this kind of group dynamic before, as seen in his cult TV series, Firefly, and the hugely underrated Serenity. Despite how many of his characters on-screen have the potential to completely overshadow everyone else (not least of all the charming Tony Stark), he still manages to maintain a proper balance without making his characters feel restricted. Every member of the team gets to throw their own punches, their own little set-piece that distinguishes from everyone else. Whedon never focuses for too long on any of these singular scenes, ensuring that they all flow naturally into each other.

And of course, this is before things get physical… No, not that kind of physical.  Like so many fanboys have dreamed, we finally get to see a proper knock about with some of our favorite heroes and see who comes out on top. The air is virtually filled with shields, hammers and ridiculously high-tech arrows. And while they are admittedly red herrings, these scraps are simply electrified with adrenaline! In fact, if it weren’t for the sheer epic scale of the finale, the bouts between team members would be the best bits of the film.

Downey Jr. was always going to be a problem in The Avengers because he has a knack, a natural charm, with which he can simply own a film. Amazingly, this charm remains completely intact despite his notably shorter screen time. Hemsworth, meanwhile, is as amusing as he was in his solo outing. With his Shakespearian speech and mannerisms, he is a fish out of water but he also owns some of the best action scenes in the film.

Evans establishes an interesting relationship with the members of S.H.I.E.L.D., really owning the role of a war hero. His few moments of solo screen time clearly show that there is serious potential for a Captain America sequel, one in which he can flex more muscle and have a more complex narrative. The Black Widow is fleshed out considerably here as well, far more so than she was in Iron Man 2. Her character has a surprising amount of layers and really allows for Johansson to portray her skills as an actress.

Hawkeye, meanwhile, is a bit of an oddball. Undoubtedly cool and very likable, he’s just not…there just isn’t enough of him on-screen! Unlike Johansson, Renner doesn’t seem to have many opportunities to flex his considerably creative muscles. What is even more disappointing is that, because Hawkeye doesn’t have as large a fan base as the other Avengers, the chances of him getting his own film to understand his character better are slim. As for Nick Fury, he’s Samuel L. Jackson with an eyepatch. Love it or hate it, it’s just that simple.

In the end, it is the Hulk that steals the show. After two films that received lukewarm receptions, it’s really about time that Marvel managed to nail the character right and portray him the way the fans envisioned him in the comics. Ruffalo is simply fantastic in his performance.

As the mild-mannered Bruce Banner, he is perfectly cast, more timid than even Edward Norton’s Banner was, if possible. With his placid features and mild tone, you can practically feel him trying to melt into the background. And this makes his transformation all the more shocking when it finally happens. Without spoiling anything, the Hulk is now funnier and more furious than ever before.

Of course, all of these heroes aren’t much good without a villain to fight, and here we are treated with the very talented Tom Hiddleston, who is in absolutely top form. Fully rounded since his debut inThor, Loki is now charmingly psychotic and therefore unpredictable. He has one or two decent action scenes, including an impressively dark introduction. But it is the way he confronts the Avengers when one on one, his sinister yet humorous mannerisms, that really allow him to shine.

His ultimate plan, as the trailer reveals, is to unleash an army on Earth, and it is with this plan we are treated to the mother of all battle sequences. In one beautiful tracking shot, we see all six members of the team fighting the enemy from different locations in New York city and using different tactics. It is the stuff action movies are made of, and damn exciting stuff! This lasts nearly a full half hour, and it’s an impressive feat in that you would never feel this time passing.

If there is a problem with the film, it’s the fact that it doesn’t function as well as a standalone entry to the canon. Due to the expansive roster of heroes, there is a lack of intensity for any one of the main heroes in their struggle. Also, it is difficult to dismiss the fact that Thor defeated Loki already in a previous outing all on his lonesome, as well as an army of Frost Giants, and yet somehow, he now needs help. Yes, there is an even bigger army this time around, but they are faceless fodder and don’t feel as threatening as they could.

Overall:
All that aside, this is still an awesome film, one quite unlike any that has been released before. Remember when Iron Man came out? Remember how amazing that was? Well, this film is even better than that! The Avengers is as good as the sum of its parts. It is just as funny as any of the films that preceded it and far more action packed. A film tailor-made for the cinema and a grand opening for blockbuster season. If you are a fan of action movies at all, hell, even if you’re not, go and see this film!

Rating: 8/10

There is no throne, there is no version of this where you come out on top! Maybe your army will come, maybe it’s too much for us, but it’s all on you! Because if we can’t protect the Earth, you can be damn sure we’ll avenge it!” – Tony Stark

Shamelessly Awful Facts:

  • Lou Ferrigno, who played the Hulk in the live action TV series, did the voice of the Hulk in The Avengers.
  • There was a costume competition for the audience in the screening I was at, which featured every single member of the Avengers, Loki, a military soldier and, for some reason, Deadpool.
    There were also three girls, roughly 8 years old, all dressed as the Hulk, Thor and Tony Stark. When the film ended, they attacked Loki, who screamed “Why are you hitting me?!”
    To which they quite epically replied “Because you’re hairy and evil!”
  • The producer, Kevin Feige, compares this film to Transformers: Dark of the Moon, saying: “It set a standard for that level of ZOMG-awesomeness and scale. We’re working to try to outdo that.”
    I think it’s fair to say they succeeded.
  • Mark Ruffalo describes his role as Banner/Hulk as “my generations Hamlet”. He is currently signed on for a further SIX films as the mean green machine.
  • In one scene, Tony Stark can be seen wearing a Black Sabbath t-shirt, the band that sang ‘Iron Man’, which features in the first Iron Man film.
  • Joss Whedon didn’t even have to ask the cast to return for the filming of The Avengers. He simply looked into the sky and roared “Assemble!” and they all showed up, even the canteen staff.
  • In The Avengers comics, two other founding members of the Avengers are Antman and his wife, Wasp. They are not present in this film.
  • The DVD version of The Avengers will have a further 30 minutes of footage, much of it focusing on Steve Rogers/Captain America.
  • Stay until after the first set of credits, it’s worth it.

This movie is kind of like:

  • When you see kids playing with toys and they have a Transformer fighting a giant Barbie Doll and a truck for some reason, and none of it makes sense, but for the kids, it’s the greatest battle of all time.

or

  • Quadruple chocolate flavored anything
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