Avengers Assemble (2012)
April 26, 2012 13 Comments
Saved from oblivion by a race of aliens craving dominion, Loki (Tom Hiddleston) arrives on Earth in search of The Tesseract: an item of unlimited power that currently lies with S.H.I.E.L.D. When it is stolen and the world endangered, Director Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) revive the Avengers Initiative in the hope of uniting Earth’s mightiest heroes. As they reach out to Captain America (Chris Evans), Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and The Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), however, it quickly becomes clear that a vengeful former Asgardian and an army of extraterrestrial warriors might be the least of their worries.
So, here we are: After five films’ worth of build-up, four years of planning and hundreds of millions of dollars in investment, Marvel’s Avengers are finally assembled. But what of it? I mean, in this age of excess, when you can’t swing an enchanted hammer without hitting at least a few superhero franchises in the process, what is another drop in the ocean? Well, with Joss Whedon on one end of the camera and some of Hollywood’s finest actors on the other, the answer seems to be plenty indeed.
You see, it takes three things to create the perfect superhero movie, and up until this point each individual franchise has only had one or two of these cards in its deck. Iron Man and The Dark Knight had the smarts, Thor and Spider-man had the spectacle, while the likes of Hellboy, Fantastic Four and Captain America: The First Avenger were particularly rich in spirit; Avengers Assemble (or The Avengers, as it should really have been known), on the other hand, part through its franchise-broaching nature and in part due to Whedon’s own understanding of the genre, is really the first time we’ve seen all three in action at once. And the results are truly special.
Somehow managing to do each constituent franchise justice, while also spotlighting a whole host of supporting players, Whedon’s often hilarious script (“Well let me know if Real Power wants a magazine or something?”) continues to develop and enrich each character while hitting the marks that Marvel’s overarching gameplan demands of it. At once a conclusion to innumerable plot strands and character arcs, the zenith of superheroics and an origin story of its own that sets the board for the second phase of a bigger story, it is truly miraculous that The Avengers is as satisfying in its own right as it is in bridging so many individual parts. And it is satisfying – extremely, in fact. You will be smiling for days.
While it’s impossible to champion one particular character over the rest – everyone is given at least one opportunity to shine – special mention has to go to Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha Romanoff, Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner and, perhaps surprisingly, Clark Gregg’s Phil (first name Agent) Coulson. Johansson shines in a role that Iron Man 2 painted as superfluous, Whedon’s proclivity for kick-ass heroines transforming her into one of the movie’s most watchable and interesting characters. Ruffalo, meanwhile, liberates Banner from the constraints set upon him by his own solo adventures, setting the beast free to glorious effect. Whedon’s Coulson is the true revelation, however, whether he is fawning over Captain America (I, for one, love the new suit, by the way) or gossiping with new-BFF Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow).
The Avengers is not perfect, however, and like its titular superhero alliance there are teething problems before it finally gains traction. The opening act is oddly underwhelming, a televisual atmosphere reflective of Whedon’s earlier work threatening to undermine the film’s weight. That said, as the prolonged prologue concludes with a scene baring a striking resemblance to Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s finale (think the new-look Sunnydale), the director steps it up a gear and, with the exception of some truly baffling camera angles, the film finds its feet and eventually takes flight. Perhaps naturally, this marked improvement coincides somewhat with the introduction of Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark. Without ever threatening to eclipse his co-stars (did I mention how good Chris Evans is in this movie? I meant to), Stark is the catalyst Whedon’s unique talent needed. As I say, teething problems.
Bigger, better and barmier than anything that has ever come before, The Avengers is not only a fanboy’s wet-dream, but the blockbuster that mainstream audiences have been waiting for; it is the movie that they have been owed by an industry capable of great things but rarely willing to go the extra mile. Be excited, be very excited, like Star Wars before it this is a movie to inspire the next generation of popcorn addicts. The Avengers have assembled, and there’s no going back.