On paper The Avengers should not work. Movies like X-Men have shown when it comes to superhero ensembles, it can be near impossible bringing together so many larger than superheroes and make it work. If anyone could make it work however, it was writer/director Joss Whedon, whose ability for strong characterisation had long been established on the likes of Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Astonishing X-Men. Needless to say Whedon pulls of the impossible. Avengers (or Avengers Assemble for UK viewers) is without a doubt one of the best comic book movies ever made, and a fresh relief from the over cynical cinema we’re so used to.
Whedon’s script is exciting, action packed, tense and hilariously funny. The Avengers is a film that doesn’t try and take itself too seriously. The banter between characters really encapsulates what the Avengers are about. These are heroes with huge egos and flaws, on paper they shouldn’t work together, yet Whedon makes it work brilliantly. The film’s climax is an action packed extravaganza, with one glorious set piece after another. Another important aspect Whedon brings the film is how he manages to avoid falling into comic book cliché. Just when you think you have the film guessed out, Whedon thrusts you into a different direction. It’s a ridiculously fun movie, one I watched with a huge grin on my face.
Performance wise, for me Chris Evans as Captain America is the standout performer. It takes a real challenge to wear such a bright patriotic costume, and not make it silly. For those worried this film would be more like Iron Man and his Avenging Friends, rest assured, Captain America is the true leader here. In contrast Robert Downey Jr. is on scene stealing form as Tony Stark, though he gets notably more balanced screen-time with his armoured alter ego in comparison to his previous movies.
Whedon works his magic with developing strong female characters with Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow. Her performance here adds context to her disappointing outing in Iron Man 2, but completely outshines it at the same time. Critics will argue a female superhero armed with guns fighting aliens amongst monsters and gods looks silly, but Whedon makes it work. Chris Hemsworth delivers a solid performance as Thor, though I did miss the rash, arrogant god of thunder from the beginning of his previous movie.
Much praise has been given to Tom Hiddleston for his portrayal of Loki. While Hiddleston delivers a charismatic evil performance, without seeing the Thor film it’s difficult to comprehend what’s made him tick. Then again, there’s only so much you can fit in one movie. Jeremy Renner draws the short stick as Clint Barton/Haweye. While he provides some impressive action scenes towards the end of the movie, his relationship with Black Widow is never fully explored and he goes missing for far too much of the beginning act. With a career in the Bourne films shaping up, I hope this isn’t the last we see of Renner as Hawkeye in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. A hero I would like to see more of is Bruce Banner/The Incredible Hulk. In his first Marvel outing, Mark Rufallo hits the ground running as Bruce Banner, giving us a Banner that’s more comfortable with himself, as opposed to the tortured interpretation we’ve seen before. It’s his monstrous alter ego that practically reinvents himself on screen, with the Incredible Hulk providing some of the best humorous moments as well as action sequences.
The supporting cast all turn in great performances with the exception of maybe Samuel L. Jackson. His Performance feels slightly phoned in compared to the delightful Clark Gregg playing Agent Coulson. Whedon certainly gives Coulson his moment to shine, with his charming humour providing a fantastic contract to all the larger than life superheroes. His SHIELD colleague Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) has her importance, but we don’t get to see the extremely confident and strict character from the comics just yet.
If I have any serious complaints, it’s the lack of focus the film takes on Steve Rogers/Captain America’s position coming to terms with a 21st century world. During filming, Whedon was quoted as saying how the film is shown through Steve Roger’s point of view. While that’s certainly true for the first half of the film, towards the end the focus shifts towards Nick Fury/SHIELD and the whole man out of time aspect is lost. I guess this is something that can be developed in a Cap sequel though. While others have certainly criticised the inclusion of the Chitauri for being nothing more than intergalactic canon fodder, I would rather Whedon spent time developing the Avengers rather than focusing on building up the alien race.
Special effects wise, ILM deserve an Oscar nod for their work creating the Incredible Hulk. All of the action sequences also look fantastic on screen, with only a few minor flaws with the effects on the Chitauri. I saw it in IMAX and it definitely enriched the experience.
It’s going to be hard going back to solo movies for Marvel now. The Avengers sets the bar so high; will audiences be satisfied with just solo origin movies for the next few years? That’s not a complaint; it’s a testament to how good The Avengers is. Whedon is about to become the most sought out man in Hollywood, for his Avengers is a masterpiece…
Ohh and if the post-credit teaser is anything to go by, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is about to get a lot more intense…