Film review: Avengers AssembleBy Kim Francis
May 02, 2012
Joss Whedon is the man of the moment.
Having scripted genre-bending indie horror Cabin in the Woods, currently in cinemas, and having shown previous form on the small screen with television hits Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel and cult sci-fi series Firefly, Whedon has turned his talents to one of Hollywood’s biggest franchises, scripting and directing Avengers Assemble.
Bringing together Marvel characters from films we’ve already seen – namely Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr), Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Captain America (Chris Evans), the film throws in a few more, including a brand new Hulk (prepare for a Hulk reboot starring the latest actor to take on the role of Bruce Banner, Mark Ruffalo), and two superpower-less but super-skilled additions in Black Widow (Scarlett Johannson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner).
When evil adversary Loki (Tom Hiddleston) gets his hands on the Cosmic Cube with the intention of harnessing its awesome power and using it to achieve his nefarious aims, it is up to S.H.I.E.L.D operative Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and colleague Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) to convince the disparate band of superheroes to team up in order to defeat Loki and thwart the threat he poses to the universe. So far, so superherotastic.
But with a running time falling just short of two-and-a-half hours, you’ll need some stamina to endure the film’s action set pieces in the first half.
To start with, and for an hour or more, Avengers Assemble is a passive viewing experience and you really need to have seen the other films in the franchise to make sense of motivations, and whip up any dormant passion for these characters.
And even then, dull and disorientating action sequences continually juxtaposed with low-key scenes of expositional dialogue are a mind-numbing fast-track to boresville.
The engagement builds, however, as it edges towards the finale and you become more emotionally involved as it intersperses the action with interaction between the characters and humorous one-liners, quips and visual gags.
It certainly can’t be easy to assimilate so many sources, keep everybody happy and make a coherent, entertaining movie – there are comic books and the other films in the Marvel stable to take into account, as well as several main protagonists to weave seamlessly into the story. And Whedon manages pretty well, given the obstacles.
Pick of the bunch in terms of watchable performances is Robert Downey Jr as Iron Man, in a role that seems tailor-made for him but Ruffalo makes a decent mild-mannered Bruce Banner, and Johannson is strong and sexy as the kick-ass Black Widow.
On this evidence and taking note of its success to date, the Marvel universe looks set to expand further, with spin off movies for both Hawkeye and Black Widow mooted alongside a second Iron Man sequel and the previously mentioned Hulk reboot – which should please comic book fans and a certain segment of cinemagoers alike, even if some of us remain less than impressed.