Avengers Assemble Banner

Earlier this week I was fortunate enough to see perhaps the most hyped film of the year (dismissing Prometheus and Dark Knight Rises of course), Marvel‘s Avengers Assemble. Never has a film review been so necessary – I promise to make it as spoiler-free as possible.

Marvel film releases have been at best a mixed bag in the past. There are some great successes, Jon Favreau’s celebrated Iron man series perhaps the most obvious of late, but some horrendous failures too; Sam Raimi’s Spiderman trilogy is particularly offensive on many levels. Bloody emo Spidey. Roll on Marc Webb‘s Amazing Spiderman I say!

Yet, with this rather volatile back catalogue, Avengers Assemble has been eagerly anticipated across the board, receiving rave reviews.

I was as excited to see it as everyone else, but had a number of concerns:

– Being a big budget comic book adaptation, will it deliver more substance than the conventionally expected visual competence using CGI?

– With six hero protagonists, will it manage to spread screen time evenly, treating all with necessary significance?

– Will Chris EvansCaptain America be as uninspiring and one-dimensional as in his solo film?

Wow… boy did it deliver! Multiple Thorgasm!

Avengers Assemble Cast

One of these things is not like the others, one of these things just doesn’t belong…

Rarely do you come out of a film with a desire to watch the whole thing again immediately… you do with Avengers Assemble. I get the impression that it’s one of those films you could watch endlessly without it becoming tiresome.

Perhaps the greatest success of Avengers Assemble is that it manages the difficult task of dividing screen time between the many protagonists, doing exactly what Spiderman 3 couldn’t. Raimi’s third instalment introduced two villains, Venom and Sandman, resulting in a poorly conceived and lengthy plot that somehow manages to skim over each of their respective stories. Avengers on the other hand, takes double the amount of characters and delivers a generous helping of each, satisfying both cinema and comic book aficionados alike. Though little individual narrative is developed throughout the film for each hero, there is just enough of their personal back stories to introduce them, ensuring that the viewer is not lost.

Obviously Joss Whedon was helped by the fact that the heroes in Avengers Assemble are all interacting in one concise narrative, whereas Venom and Sandman featured in entirely separate storylines. In this respect, being an ensemble film, there is fortunately no real need for a developed examination of each character’s origins. Furthermore, for the most part they have been all been introduced already in other Marvel films, with the exception of the new Hulk and Hawkeye.

To remedy this, Whedon’s introduction of Hawkeye as a villain (I shall say no more..) works as an effective replacement for a back story, giving the viewer an insight into his abilities and an immediate sense of recognition.

Avengers Assemble Hulk

Ho ho ho… Green giant.

The cast of Avengers Assemble is absolutely wonderful. There are top performances across the board, paying particular attention to Robert Downey Jr’s familiar role as gloriously narcissistic inventor Tony Stark/Iron Man, and a surprise new appearance by Marc Ruffalo as Dr Bruce Banner/Hulk. Ruffalo’s performance is especially memorable, portraying the duality of a calm, collected intellectual subduing a beastly, undiscriminating aggressor. As a new hero on the scene (let’s ignore the poor adaptations by Ang Lee and Louis Leterrier), he stands out massively, with a role as huge and menacing as the green giant himself.  This effectively explains why Ruffalo has been signed for 6 Marvel films as the Hulk. On a less significant note, there is also a nice cameo from Cobie Smulders, forming a well-needed departure from the turd pile that is How I Met Your Mother.

Avengers Assemble Iron Man

Iron Man, the Swiss Army Knife of super heroes.

An impressive script sees each character playing off the others, providing some genuine moments of hilarity. Tony Stark is clearly king here… but unexpectedly, Viking god Thor manages to throw down too! At its heart, Avengers Assemble is a high energy action flick, proficiently mixing composition, acting and CGI. However, one of the greater triumphs is its comedic execution. From the taunts of Downey Jr, to the incredibly funny confrontation between Loki and Hulk (you’ll know what I’m talking about when you see it), the film captures the fists and the funny bones, ensuring that there is a level of accessibility for those being dragged to the cinema by their sons/boyfriends/husbands.

One criticism of Avengers Assemble is that perhaps there is not enough substance there, beyond the heavyweight action and sporadic comedy, to satisfy those uninterested in comics or action films – though, if you fall into this camp I don’t know why you would go to see the film anyway; it’d be like a fan of Scorsese going to see the latest Twilight banality. The plot is incredibly simple, sacrificed entirely for balls-to-the-wall action. This is certainly a necessity however; a more complex, layered film would have made the ensemble casting impossible to achieve successfully. I have to admit though, seeing this film without prior knowledge about the Avengers comic history, or at very least having seen a few of the characters solo films, may leave you a little puzzled at times, and certainly have a reduced appreciation for everything that’s happening. The subtle introductions of each hero make this pre-knowledge key to an understanding of how characters relate to each other, although the amazing action sequences and comedic rivalries can be appreciated regardless of this.

Avengers Assemble. It’s non-stop action from start to finish.

It’s constantly moving forward, without even a minute of lag or waffle. That explains why the two and a half hours felt like just fifty minutes. Wish I could say the same about more Marvel films…

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