Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Joss Whedon
Stars: Robert Downey jr, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L Jackson, Clark Gregg, Jeremy Renner, Stellan Skarsgard, Gwyneth Paltrow.
This big budget special effects driven blockbuster from the Marvel studios brings together four of their best known superheroes – Captain America (Chris Evans), Iron Man (Robert Downey jr), Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and The Hulk – for one huge smack down. This is the film that the comic book fanboys have been waiting for.
And who better to bring it to the screen than the ultimate fanboy himself, Joss Whedon (Buffy The Vampire Slayer and the short-lived Firefly, etc), a life-long fan of the Marvel comics. A veteran of horror and sci-fi, Whedon certainly knows the tropes of the genre well, and he has a lot of fun with them. He has created an impressive spectacle filled with action, humour, and charm that doesn’t disappoint. Since the backstories for each of the characters has already been explored on screen, The Avengers wastes little time in getting down to action. And it delivers with a couple of standout individual sequences.
The film follows on from where the recent Thor finished. In a remote and heavily protected facility, scientists under the leadership of Dr. Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard) are studying the Tesseract, an energy source of unknown potential, from Thor’s home planet of Asgard. But the villainous and power hungry Loki (Tom Hiddleston) manages to steal the Tessaract, planning to use it to summon the Chitauri, an alien race seeking to conquer the galaxy.
Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) is the director of SHIELD, an international peace keeping agency, and he has been a constant, if somewhat fleeting presence throughout the series of Marvel superhero films. He re-activates the defunct Avengers Initiative, and with his trusted offsider Phil Coulson (Gregg Clark) rounds up our four heroes from various corners of the world.
Captain America is the conflicted hero still trying to find his place in a strange new world he doesn’t understand. The vengeful Thor is wrestling with his issues with his evil half-brother and still trying to adjust to this world. Iron Man and his egotistical alter ego Tony Stark, the genius playboy billionaire philanthropist, doesn’t play nice with others. And Bruce Banner is hiding away in India, where he is working at trying to keep his alter ego The Hulk suppressed.
At first Loki uses his powers to divide and conquer, pitting the four heroes against each other. But when they finally manage to bury their rivalry and co-operate they became a cohesive fighting force able to face off against the malevolent threat against the planet. The climactic showdown sees the alien invaders wreak wide spread havoc and destruction on the streets of New York in scenes that recall the level of chaos Michael Bay wreaked on Chicago in the recent bloated Transformers 3.
The film’s reputed $200 million budget can be seen on the screen with superbly integrated CGI effects and impressive visuals from Irish cinematographer Seamus McGarvey. Like so many other big budget movies at the moment, The Avengers also comes in a 3D version, and the process adds to the overall experience.
Whedon handles the large cast of characters with the same sense of flair and panache that Bryan Singer brought to the first couple of X-Men films and its similar large gallery of characters. Each of the main characters gets plenty of screen time to strut their stuff, although Downey stands out and brings plenty of humour to the film. He also gets the bulk of the best lines.
Following in the footsteps of Eric Bana and Edward Norton, Mark Ruffalo steps into the role of Bruce Banner, the scientist who turns into the massive Hulk, but he brings a more human touch and depth to the character. And the motion capture technology and CGI that brings the Hulk to life is also impressive.
Scarlett Johansson gets into the thick of the action as the SHIELD assassin known as Black Widow and brings a touch of sex appeal to the testosterone-fuelled action. The very busy Hiddleston (Midnight In Paris, The Deep Blue Sea, etc) brings plenty of malice to his performance as Loki, but he also finds some humour in the role. He is a much more interesting character here than he was in Thor. And Jeremy Renner’s rogue archer Hawkeye adds another level of intrigue to the ensemble.
There is a brief, tantalising post-credit sequence that sets the scene for the inevitable sequel. But unlike many other big action movies, The Avengers is one superhero movie that actually does deserve a sequel!