Cast your mind back to 2008 and arguably the best of the solo Marvel superhero movies, Iron Man. Robert Downey Jr nailed the character of Tony Stark and people began to believe that super hero films could be cool again. During the movie we were introduced to Agent Coulson and the people he worked for, Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division, or S.H.I.E.L.D for short. The fanboys had a nice little chuckle to themselves at the nod to the bigger Marvel universe. And then came the little bit after the credits where Samuel L Jackson first appeared as Nick Fury and asks to speak to Tony Stark about something bigger. The fanboys had a full on nerdgasm.
Jump forward to present day and Marvel have brought the Hulk, Thor and Captain America to the silver screen as well as a second outing for Iron Man and introduced more characters in Hawkeye and Black Widow. Now they are all together in what must be one of the most eagerly anticipated cinematic events in years. Frankly, if the fanboy community went doolally at the post credit teaser on Iron Man, I fear lives may be in danger when they watch Marvel Avengers Assemble.
Or to give it its proper name, The Avengers. Due to some marketing stupidity, shortly before its release the movie’s moniker was changed for European audiences. I’ve no idea why. It’s not like anyone’s going to sit through this wondering where Emma Peel is. But I digress. On to the review proper. This is exactly what a summer blockbuster movie should be. It’s big and brash and bold, yet it’s clever, funny, exciting and two and a bit hours of sheer joyful entertainment. And I’m not just saying that because I’m one of those aforementioned fanboys.
Considering most of our assembled heroes have their own origin movies, it actually takes a little longer to get up and running than I would have expected. To an extent The Avengers is like a best of compilation of the previous hero outings. The primary protagonist is Thor’s brother, the trickster god Loki, and like Captain America: The First Super Soldier, the maguffin for this celluloid event is the Tesseract, a potential source of unlimited clean energy. It’s pretty much essential to have seen these films at the least before watching this one or you’ll be left wondering who half these folk are and where the glowy blue cube came from. The good thing is they’re both really good films so as far as doing your research goes you could be in for a much worse time.
Plot is probably the thinnest part of the film as it really is more or less an excuse to get all these heroes together and make loads of cash, but it would be unfair to say that it’s poor by any means. It’s a mixture of Marvel universes and if you’re a comic fan you’ll notice the clear influence of Mark Millar and Brian Hitch’s The Ultimates comic book in the use of the Chitauri aliens and the choice of big Sam as Nick Fury. Luckily, acting is great with all the leads from the origin films reprising their roles with the exception of Dr. Banner/The Hulk being played here by Mark Ruffalo. The aforementioned Agent Coulson returns too and has an important role in this movie, though I confess I found him still a little too much comic relief than ‘proper’ character.
Dialogue is sharp with lots of great exchanges between the big guns as they bicker and snark at each other throughout. I’d expect this mainly due to the director and writer Joss Whedon, a master of the ensemble cast mechanic. On TV shows Buffy, Angel, Firefly and Dollhouse he’s always managed to bring out the best in actors in relatively small scenarios and he’s definitely managed this on what may be the biggest job of his career. Whedon injects some great humour too with The Hulk unexpectedly stealing some of the finest moments of the movie. There are laughs aplenty while staying within the boundaries of realism (such as it is).
Few people are going along for the wit and snappy one-liners though, so luckily there’s twice as much action as there is cheeky banter. Largely moving from visually beguiling set piece to set piece, once it gets running the overall pace of the movie is tremendous and it doesn’t feel like over two hours at all. Some of the best battles are between the heroes themselves for reasons I won’t go into to avoid any plot spoilers, but suffice to say you’ll be glued to the big screen and loving every bit of huge green punching, star spangled shielding, repulsor blasting, hammer smashing action. The final battle is absolutely tremendous and I can promise will have you utterly hooked.
Although I’ve been fairly unimpressed in the past, I went to see this in 3D, and I can report that it’s we’ll worth it. It’s the best use of 3D in a movie I’ve seen since Avatar in that it’s more about the depth of the scenes rather than chucking things at the audience. Battle scenes are great but subtler use in places such as the helicarrier bridge are what really bring it to life. I’d highly recommend paying the extra pennies to see it in 3D and that’s something I don’t think you’ll hear me say very often at all.
Marvel Avengers Assemble is great. Simple. You should definitely take the time to see this in the cinema rather than wait for home release. Oh, and if like me you’re one of those fanboys, don’t be too eager to get up from your chair when the credits begin to roll for a tiny glimpse of a potential (and probably inevitable) sequel.