It is no secret that I absolutely love this movie. Granted I haven’t given you a lot of justification to continue to read this review by basically projecting my opinion straight out, but I do promise that this will be a fun read. I saw Avengers Assemble when it was first released back in April on opening night, wearing a Captain America T-Shirt (of course) and then I saw it again a week later (as you do). Now here I am, having just seen the film for a third time following its first screening at The Alderney Cinema (once again donning a Captain America T-Shirt), and the effect has not waned. Therefore, why not finally write a full review? It is no annoying fluke (like any Michael Bay movie) that this movie has collected over a billion dollars and become the third highest grossing movie of all-time, it more than earned that position, being quite literally the ultimate crowd-pleaser. It was no safe bet; a large ensemble superhero movie has never been tried on this scale before, what with the numerous build-up movies that came before it. Marvel were taking quite a big risk. So, how did something that could have gone so wrong, go so fantastically right?
The answer to that is rather easy, to be honest. The success of this film can be attributed to one man; Joss Whedon. Whedon, the man behind such cult fan favourite’s as Firefly, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and co-writer of this year’s exceptional meta-horror The Cabin In The Woods, is the scribe and the director of these proceedings. What he keeps things very simple, plot-wise, to allow the character’s to flourish within the 2 hour and 45 minute time frame. Thor’s (Chris Hemsworth) evil brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) has gotten hold of the powerful Tesseract, and intends on using it to bring an alien army, known as the Chitari, to Earth to conquer all of mankind. This leaves Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) with no other choice but to initiate the Avengers Initiative; a plan to bring together the world’s most powerful heroes as Earth’s last line of defense. However, that doesn’t prove to be an easy task, what with the conflicting personalities of the team. We have Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans), a man out of his time; Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jnr.) an egotistical self-centered narcissist; the demi-God Thor, and then there’s Bruce Banner/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), a brilliant scientist with some rather troublesome anger issues. Together, with two highly trained assassins (Scarlett Johansson & Jeremy Renner), they will form The Avengers, if they can learn to work together that is.
Whedon’s script lays down a very simple framework for the action to take place in; bad guy bent on world domination, must stop him. But, as with anything that Whedon puts his name to, it is within the dialogue and relationships between the characters that the movie truly shines. That’s not to say the action is not exciting; there are some incredible sequences that are happily exciting and coherent, it is merely that the movie is that much more entertaining when all the heroes are together and are fighting against each other, both physically or verbally. It is truly to Whedon’s credit that he manages to juggle all these massive personalities and still find a way to make the humanity in each of these characters shine, allowing all of them to have a personal arc among-st all the comic-book action. Some characters have a much better arc within this ensemble movie than they did in their own solo outings.
Whedon has a firm grasp on who these characters are and how they should be presented, and its an energy the cast share. Mark Ruffalo is easily the best Bruce Banner we’ve seen to date, and Whedon is the first director to let The Hulk simply be The Hulk, through an impressive employment of motion-capture animation. Ruffalo injects Banner with a modest charm, funny yet filled with nervous tics, never allowing us to forget that a beast lies within him. He had the most to prove out of all the actors in this ensemble, and he is the one that shines. Tom Hiddleston also benefits from Whedon’s script, as Whedon clearly had a great deal of fun writing Loki as a deceptively evil bastard. After the moody, mis-understood Loki we were given in Kenneth Branagh’s Thor, it is refreshing to see Loki finally embrace his Godly title; the God of Mischief. He gets some of the best dialogue over the course of the movie (‘mewling quim’ anyone?). Evans is brilliantly earnest and good-natured as Cap, and proves his worth as the leader of The Avengers, getting a much better chance to display his strategic military mind. Robert Downey Jnr. is, well, Robert Downey Jnr. Once again, his screen charisma is strong, undeniably arrogant, but also in his own way as earnest as Cap. Stark is who he is and embraces it, much to the irritation of Cap. But he is a character who not only surprises us, but also himself, with his actions. Hemsworth once again revels in the fish-out-of-water aspect of his character; his old English dialogue once again being subject of many of the jokes within the film. He is also perhaps the most personally conflicted hero out of the bunch, as he knows he must fight Loki to put a stop to his madness, yet never gives up hope that Loki may see reason and once again become the brother that he used to know (do I sense potential for an Avengers-themed Goyte parody here?). Johansson and Renner do not get quite as much time to shine, but both of their characters, Natasha Romanov and Clint Barton impress with their respective skills and are a welcome addition to the ranks of The Avengers. And just check out her ass.
I am now going to make a rather bold statement. I think that Marvel’s Avengers Assemble is the best comic-book movie that I have seen. What about The Dark Knight, I hear you cry? Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies (I am at this point still yet to see The Dark Knight Rises) have always aspired to be more than just comic-book movies; they portray their hero with a strong sense of realism, The Dark Knight particularly delves into the psyche of its tortured hero as well as developing itself as an engrossing crime epic. And they are rather dark (not that I am complaining). Avengers Assemble feels much more like a comic-book movie. Whedon constructs an infectious kinetic energy into the proceedings, allowing the action scenes (the Helicarrier and final battle sequences are thoroughly exhilarating) to feel as if they have been taken straight out of the pages of a comic-book. And the sheer joy that you feel seeing all of these characters working together against an evil alien force is just un-paralleled. Be it the first time round or the third time round, the hairs of the back of my neck have always raised on cue, turning me into such a giddy mess that it may be impossible for me to effectively critique this film. God bless my fan-boy spirit. The carefully placed humour, the surprising plot developments, Alan Silvestri’s stirring score and the majesty of Whedon’s dialogue and creativeness as director (the fluid long shot through the streets of New York showing all our heroes’ fighting alongside each other is simply perfect comic-book nirvana) makes Avengers Assemble one of the best Hollywood blockbusters in recent years. Once again, a film that could have gone so wrong, went so brilliantly right. Bring on Phase Two!