DIRECTOR: Joss Whedon.
CAST: Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Evans, Tom Hiddleston, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Samuel L. Jackson, Clark Gregg, Cobie Smulders, Stellan Skarsgard, Gwyneth Paltrow, Paul Bettany (voice).
SYNOPSIS: When the fate of the Earth is threatened by Loki (Hiddleston) and his alien army, Nick Fury (Jackson) and Agent Coulson (Gregg) have no choice but to form a team of superheroes whose combined powers are the only hope of saving the world from disaster.
With the anticipation and excitement circling The Avengers enough to send anyone into an Asgardian-induced coma, hopes were pinned on the master of the supernatural supersquads to rule supreme over previous Marvel outings. Writing alongside long serving comic adaptation alumni Zak Penn, Whedon weaves an impressive patchwork where every player gets their moment in the sun and feels important to those who favour them. As soon as Whedon sounds the introductory ringside bell, he doesn’t give you a chance to breathe.
Starting with a bang (a grandiose implosion, to be precise), we are reacquainted with Loki and treated to a progressive narrative rather than time being wasted playing catch-up. Loki is a far stronger and more determined force this time around, with Hiddleston’s showman a hard act to beat. Though the film momentarily lapses into cliché to provide very brief flashbacks regarding Captain America (Evans), Whedon wisely chooses to piece the rest of the puzzle together in the form of concise one-liners, ensuring those who have been following the Avengers Initiative like faithful lapdogs are not batted aside to make way for newcomers.
Trying to coax such large egos into a state of wedded bliss was never going to be an enviable task, but Agent Coulson and Nick Fury are the glue that binds the team together, Coulson (or should that be Phil?) wonderfully star struck and tongue-tied in the presence of Cap whilst ably assisted by new addition, Agent Maria Hill (Smulders).
The disharmony between the newly formed team is evident in an early tussle between Thor (Hemsworth), Rogers and Stark (Downey, Jr.), making for a thrilling introductory standoff amongst the Alpha men. These early disagreements provide some brilliant laugh-out-loud moments (thankfully a prominent feature throughout) that show just how well Whedon and Penn have created an organic and effortless repartee that gives everyone more than enough to say. And, though Black Widow (Johansson) and Hawkeye (Renner) naturally take a backseat to the other four, they always feel completely integral and share a history that longs to be delved into – Budapest, anyone?
One of the film’s biggest sources of intrigue revolved around the double-pronged question of how both Mark Ruffalo and mocap would benefit or alienate the Hulk from his troubled past. Unsurprisingly, the RuffleHulk fits perfectly into Whedon’s world, with the motion capture making way for a far more human creature whose first transformation is well worth the wait. While understandably the most quiet and untrusting member of the team, Banner is ultimately integral to the Earth’s salvation in more ways than one and surprisingly provides the majority of the film’s big laughs at the expense of his bumbling, yet undeniably brutal action.
The film’s biggest selling point was always going to be its action, and we are treated to all kinds of sumptuous scenarios that build up to the grand finale where downtown Manhattan is nothing short of obliterated. With CGI, green screens and one-on-one action all working in glorious harmony, the film’s final and epic battle is long, elaborate, dizzying and just as fun on the ground as it is in the sky. While Whedon ensures room is made for zippy, jousting dialogue during these set pieces, you needn’t worry about that hampering the crazy, no bars held excess that dominates these scenes.
Loki’s alien counterparts may start out a little Star Trek and the splattering of blood on the screen may serve as a slight distraction, but the latter proves just how fully invested you are in Whedon’s world to be even momentarily snapped out of it. Slick and exciting throughout, the action and sense of threat are only hindered by the fact we are aware of Thor 2 and Iron Man 3 going into production. Of course this is no directorial error, but it does make you wish you were a little more blissfully unaware of the state of the Marvel Universe.
With the blinkered aim of stopping Loki’s tyranny and no political undertones shoved down our throats, The Avengers will leave you giddy in the wake of its beautiful chaos. The characters feel completely revived and reinvigorated and it’s clear Team Whedon is an incredibly happy ship, with Tony Stark’s asides sharper than ever and great suffering, action and comedy fused seamlessly.
Having strung us along to this Assembly point with their post-credit carrots, Marvel (ably assisted by Agent Coulson and Nick Fury) have created a tautly executed marketing phenomenon. But it is Whedon who has created a film that fans could only have dreamed of – the best addition to the franchise so far and a great big walloping Hulk smash above the rest.