Avengers Assemble (Cert 12)
1 Disc (Distributor: Paramount Pictures) Running Time: 137 minutes approx
When an alien power source called the Tesseract is stolen by Asgardian god Loki (Tom Hiddleston) from under the nose of S.H.I.E.L.D director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), the only course of action to counter the imminent alien invasion Loki has threatened to destroy the human race is to employ the combined abilities of well known superheroes under the “Avengers Initiative” – Tony Stark aka Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr), Bruce Banner aka The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Clint Barton aka Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Steve Rogers aka Captain America (Chris Evans).
After all the little post credits teases of the individual film outings for the comic book icons, in which Nick Fury attempted to encourage each hero to join the cause, whet the appetites (and possibly the underpants) of comic book fans worldwide, Avengers Assemble (renamed here in the UK to avoid confusion with classic TV show The Avengers) finally arrives via the ambitious visions of Buffy The Vampire Slayer creator Joss Whedon.
Unsurprisingly it was THE big summer blockbuster – until The Dark Knight Rises arrived to spoil the party – with the long awaited big screen amalgamation of some of Marvel Comics most popular superheroes being enough of a attraction to make this the third highest grossing film of all time (behind Titanic & Avatar)!
For what one expects from the superhero genre this film delivers just that. With no pretensions of being anything but a bombastic, frenetic special effects laden chunk of hokum, Whedon ensures the salivating audience is not disappointed. Without the burden of being an “origin” tale, since most of the heroes are already well established via their own movies, the story isn’t bogged down with unnecessary exposition and tedious backstories.
However, as this is the first outing for this seemingly disparate group there is the feeling out process as they are introduced to each other, with the alliance initially being an uneasy one with the egos and temperaments involved. The only Avenger not afforded the luxury of familiarity is Hawkeye, who is the least featured of the heroes anyway, despite playing a fairly significant role early on.
The story is unable to avoid all of the familiar superhero movie formulae but the genre doesn’t lend itself to anything beyond people with powers fighting people who abuse power. Loki is in collaboration with an alien race known as the Chitauri, promising them the power of the Tesseract. Having compromised physicist Dr. Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) and Hawkeye, Loki makes off with the Tesseract and begins work on opening a giant portal to allow the Chitauri army entry to earth.
With the Avengers brought together from various locations around the world, Loki is captured but this is far from the end of the story as the brainwashed Hawkeye leads a rescue mission which uncovers S.H.I.E.L.D’s hidden agenda involving the Tesseract, finally creating a bond between the Avengers. Once the Chitauri arrive it is balls to the wall mayhem with their giant whale like spacecraft laying waste to Manhattan with our motley crew of superheroes to save the day.
Whedon’s script, co-written with Incredible Hulk writer Zak Penn, is intelligent and witty, grounded far more in reality than expected, whilst also ensuring the characters retain their personalities and foibles as explored in their own outings, and enough references to each of their previous adventures to make this a comfortable return for each hero. The action scenes may not be as plentiful as you imagine but neither are they contrived or spurious. Whedon has cleverly constructed the plot so that even an inconsequential detail will have some import later on.
With only Mark Ruffalo as the only actor not resuming a previous role, the heroes are easily accepted by the audience and the union is a more palatable and convincing one. Staying with Ruffalo, since he has yet to establish himself as Bruce Banner, his interpretation of the fated scientist is different – he is more assured and quick witted than his predecessors whilst carrying a quiet and sad resignation about his indestructible other self (the “other guy” as he refers to the Hulk). With the rest of the cast, you know what to expect.
With a budget of $220 million one would expect the special effects to be pretty good and they are. The whale shaped Chitauri are quite interesting concept wise which is fully exploited in the climactic battle royale. The mayhem is non-stop for over twenty minutes taking in cues from all of the previous films with some of its own ideas thrown in for good measure although a comparison between this and Transformers can be made, but on a superficial level only. The action here is far easier to follow, much more fun and better laid out. Whedon 1 Bay 0.
Avengers Assemble could have easily been an indulgent, ill-thought mess, spoiled by the interference of the suits and not a project by a film maker and a clear comic book fan. Thankfully the latter got his way and the end result is an enjoyable, if slightly over long (137 minutes) exercise in intelligent escapism with heart and awareness.
English Subtitles for the hearing impaired
A Visual Journey
Rating – ****
Man In Black