The Avengers outdoes all the rest
Starring Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleson, Clark Gregg, Cobie Smulders, Stellan Skarsgard, Samuel L Jackson. Written and directed by Joss Whedon. 142 minutes, rated M (violence). Showing at Reading Cinemas Porirua in 3-D and 2-D (3-D was reviewed).
Ladies and gentlemen, everything until now has been a prelude to this. Well, at least as far as Marvel Studios’ recent handful of pictures are concerned; Iron Man and its sequel, The Incredible Hulk, and last year’s double-punch of Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger.
Never before have blockbuster movies had the added purpose of being a warmup, a $200 million trailer for the real thing. Needless to say, Marvel has a hell of a lot riding on The Avengers – and not just the wage demands of having multiple leading men. The future potential of superhero movies’ ability to replicate a key component of their comic-book origin – the team-up – has been left in the hands of geek darling Joss Whedon ( Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Firefly).
The folks at DC, mulling over a Justice League of America picture; or at Fox, weighing up the merits of X-men v Fantastic Four, will have eyes peeled and bean counters at the ready.
So, does The Avengers work? You can bet your Stark Industries stock on it.
Whedon has always had a knack for deftly balancing drama and action, and reaping a lot of heart and humour from the interplay between characters – he was definitely the right filmmaker for this job. The childish thrill of watching Thor, Iron Man, Captain America and Hulk bash each other up, then join forces to save the planet, is matched and enhanced by sharp banter and well-orchestrated carnage.
And don’t dismiss my endorsement as fanatical fanboy adoration. I’m a comic-book geek to be sure, but only picked up an Avengers title for the first time last
There’s rarely a dull moment when the Avengers get together. year. I thought Iron Man 2 sucked hard, and have much preferred the sombre realism of Chris Nolan’s Batman films to the more flamboyant interpretations of Marvel’s costumed freaks.
I expected The Avengers to be good, maybe as much fun as the first Iron Man but it’s actually pretty damn great.
When Norse God Loki ( Tom Hiddleson) claims Earth as his own and invites a horde of alien nasties to lay waste to humanity, Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) – the director of top secret but wellheeled security agency S.H.I.E.L.D – makes the rather risky decision to team-up ‘‘Earth’s Mightiest Heroes’’. However, at this point, they’re more cranky and mistrusting than mighty.
Tony Stark/ Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr) is a law unto himself, and his swagger and self-interest rubs the dutiful Captain America ( Chris Evans) the wrong way. Thor is bemused by the petty personality clashes of earthlings, while everyone else is trying hard not to stress out Dr Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo – the best Hulk yet), except for Stark, who wants to unleash the beast.
As Dr Banner observes, ‘‘ we’re not a team, we’re a science experiment’’.
There is so much pleasure in the character dynamics, the plot is almost irrelevant – not a bad thing given it features a lot of elements we’ve seen a dozen times before – megalomaniac after world domination, an all- powerful Mcguffin everybody is looking for, alien bad guys large in numbers but lacking in smarts.
But this is a picture that plays to its strengths and is greater than the sum of its parts.
It’s not as ambitious as Watchmen or as intense as The Dark Knight, but when the Avengers assemble – Captain America shouting orders, Thor and Iron Man soaring above a Manhattan under seige, and Hulk smashing stuff – the movie will grandly fulfil its purpose: make us all feel like 8- year- old kids opening a Marvel comic-book for the first time.