After years of build-up, Marvel’s superhero film to end all superhero films is finally here, and it is amazing. It all began with “Iron Man”, back in 2007, continuing with origin stories and sequels, “The Incredible Hulk”, “Thor”, “Iron Man 2” and “Captain America: The First Avenger“. There have been actor changes, a wide bunch of villains and support characters but everything has been leading up to this: “The Avengers” or “Avengers Assemble” here in the UK. The film combines all the previous heroes of the aforementioned films, Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr) and the Hulk (played by new man Mark Ruffalo), along with a couple of able-bodied human assassins in Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), along with the man who brought them all together, Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson). In addition to all these heroes we have returning cameos from support characters from the various films, Tony Stark’s trustworthy aide Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), ‘Thor’ scientist, Dr Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard) and the great evil villain of the film, and Thor’s brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston).
The film’s entire plot revolves around a blue cube called the Tesseract, and how Loki cannot get control of it, otherwise he will bring a huge army of his alien friends down to Earth and kill all humans. To tell you the truth, it’s a pretty non-sensical and boring plotline, a simple excuse to bring all these heroes together, and something that didn’t really interest me. The faceless Chitauri alien race that Loki is in leagues with, are very generic and literally could’ve been any alien iteration that you’ve ever seen in any ‘save the world from alien invasion’ film. That being said, the film wasn’t ruined by the plotline, merely thrown off balance, and an excuse for the real plot for the “Avengers” to take place.
No, the real plot of “Avengers”, is seeing how these lone men and women combine together as a team. They go through their early, teething process, and the first hour or so of the film shows them coming together and gently forming closer bonds, not perfect bonds but they gradually learn to trust and work with one another. It was at this stage that things could’ve taken a turn for the worse, as there were a lot of ‘talky’ scenes, not something many of the paying audience would’ve wanted to see ahead of the expected explosion-after-explosion. However, director/writer Joss Whedon really comes into his own here, with his brand of witty, self-aware dialogue, that at times levels out the film, enabling it not to become quite a parody of itself, but never becomes the serious mess that action films like “Cowboys & Aliens” and “Transformers” have offered in the past. With characters like Iron Man, part of the fun of it is Tony Stark’s smugness and how he interacts with others around him. It was here where Whedon’s skills really shone, and upped the quality of the film, transforming it from your standard comic-book film to something special.
The ensemble “Avengers” has to offer is obviously its major selling point, and is the best cast of any superhero film ever made. Without a doubt. Seeing these characters on-screen together is brilliant, and one does wonder if audiences can be completely satisfied by the planned single films for each, with “Iron Man 3” and “Thor 2” and schedule for next year already! Iron Man is probably the ‘lead’ hero, as he is the most well-established amongst audiences, so it’s only natural really. Downey Jr gives as an assured performance as ever as Stark, although you do get the feeling he may just be beginning to tire of playing the billionaire playboy. For now though his Stark/Iron Man is a good one, and drives the film along at slower points. Thor is of next importance, given that his new colleagues are battling his evil brother, and he is portrayed as a much calmer demi-god than the one that began his own inclusive film. Chris Hemsworth has made the character his own, and although there may not be a lot of emotional development, Thor is becoming more and more a great action character.
Captain America was the biggest disappointment. In comparison to his fellow heroes he seemed much more vulnerable and under threat, and had less of backstory, that was perhaps needed after his arrival into the modern day world at the end of his own film. This is perhaps the only real gripe of cutting that the film had to make to bring it down from its original 3 hours plus running time, to its present 2 and a half hour length. Perhaps there was going to be more Cap, but I suppose we’ll have to wait till the DVD! The Hulk was the other end of the scale: surprisingly brilliant. With Mark Ruffalo being the third man in three films to tackle Dr Banner and his big green alter-ego, the role was a bit of an unknown as to what was expected. Banner is a ultra-intelligent man who struggles on a daily basis to keep his anger-fuelled secret at bay, but Ruffalo plays him with a bit of wit too, not to the same extent as Stark, but it is still there and he was my second-favourite Avenger.
Hawkeye and Black Widow obviously have the least screen-time, but are still integral characters to the film’s running, and have their own time to shine. Renner boosts his action credentials even further, and will perhaps be one of Hollywood’s biggest action stars when he takes on the lead role in “The Bourne Legacy”, at the end of the summer. Johansson is another example of Whedon’s influence, with his history full of strong female heroes, in the TV series “Buffy”, which he created. She’s strong, beautiful and intelligent, getting by with her strength moreso than her looks, a positive female role in a big blockbuster. And finally, Loki. He is a brilliant villain! The audience hate him from as soon as he enters the fray, and never even consider a speck of sympathy for him. He’s a truly awful person, and Tom Hiddleston plays the role to perfection, going all out from the subdued role he played in “Thor”, and becoming the true ‘God of Mischief’. He was also important as the main figurehead villain, and was required, as just the generic aliens would’ve been pretty disappointing as the main villain.
Despite the aforementioned 2 and a half hour running time, the film never feels overly long or boring. It has saggy spots where more action would’ve been appreciated, but overall it does well to combine the fine range of characters and acting talent that are onboard, giving each enough screentime to satisfy even the biggest comic-book nerds out there. The concluding third of the film delivers the promise that had threatened to arrive, with the fight sequence to end all fight sequences. Shots that latch onto hero after hero will leave the audience grinning from ear-to-ear. It’s where we finally see our heroes working together too, Thor and Captain America teaming up, along with Hawkeye and Black Widow combining, it is brilliant. The ever-present after-credit scene also sets up a potential “Avengers” sequel, which with a better plot, would be wanted by myself.
I’m not wholly sure if “The Avengers”, truly beats “The Dark Knight”, as the best superhero film of all time, the are both wildly different films, but it runs it close. Simply seeing all these characters together is brilliant! It’s a must-see for comic-book fans, action fans, anyone!