There are many ways to build anticipation for a brand new movie in the cinema industry. Trailers, posters, guerrilla marketing… however Marvel Comics have taken the novel approach of delivering FIVE full length feature films in the lead up to the biggest comic book movie of the summer – Avengers Assemble.
Bringing together plot strands, heroes and villains from the two Iron Mans, Captain America, Thor and The Incredible Hulk, Avengers Assemble gives us the tale of the Norse god of mischief, Loki (Tom Hiddleston, War Horse), hunting for the Tesseract (a magical cube which can transcend space and time) as he aims to bring about the arrival of an alien army; the Chitauri. To stop the impending alien force, it’s up to the four titular superheroes and spy agency S.H.I.E.L.D. members Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson, Lost In Translation), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker) and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson, Coach Carter) to stop Loki and save New York!
Co-writer Zak Penn deserves a lot of credit for bringing all the parts together from the build-up films without treading on or ruining pre-established legacies, and having previously worked on The Incredible Hulk, I was more than happy to see the amount of humour from that film which has bled through to The Avengers and made the film more believable when dealing with these massive, other-worldly, personalities. The clashes between ‘man out of time’ Captain America (Chris Evans, Fantastic Four) and ‘turning heroics into celebrity’ Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr., Sherlock Holmes) drives the union of the team of heroes forward, and is helped by the Norse god of thunder Thor’s (Chris Hemsworth, Thor) quest to avenge his evil brother loki’s wrongdoings.
What I enjoy the most about Avengers Assemble is that everything is given enough time to develop without outstaying it’s welcome or becoming boring; it would have been so easy for there to be a glaring plot point, or have a rushed feeling, when you’re working in characters and storylines from four different franchises (with only a few crew members working across the board). I was more than apprehensive with the announcement of Joss Whedon (Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Firefly, Serenity) writing and directing this overly ambitious project when he hasn’t been associated with any of the Marvel movies until now; given his record with writing the absolutely dreadful Alien Resurrection (with which an established film franchise was severely set back – until this year’s upcoming Prometheus); however with the care he’s given all the characters, his love of this project has shone through and produced a grade-A slice of quality entertainment and escapism. It should also raise his stock; after it’s been on a slide with the middling The Cabin In The Woods.
If you’ve been following the Marvel Comics “cinematic universe” so far, you shouldn’t be expecting a great change from the cast; as they’ve all shown what they can do as the characters already; except for Mark Ruffalo (Zodiac), who replaces Edward Norton as Bruce Banner/The Incredible Hulk. For me, Ruffalo is the best actor to portray Banner since the current wave of comic book films have hit our screens; whilst Eric Bana was a generic slab of an actor who didn’t live up to his namesake, and Norton couldn’t nail the character down fully, Ruffalo portrays himself as a sweaty neurotic who’s constantly on the edge; and he’s actually believable as a scientist for the minimal amount of scenes where him and Downey have to trade scientific jargon.
One of the bonuses with Whedon being a part of this film is that Johansson’s Black Widow is also given a lot of time to breathe. She was treated as an afterthought in Iron Man 2, but Whedon’s track record of strong female leads almost places Johansson as the major cog driving the team forward through the trials and tribulations of gathering together The Avengers. I also enjoyed how Avengers Assemble is pretty worldly; whilst the majority of action does take place in New York and in the skies of the USA, there are missions in Eastern Europe, Germany, and India; creating a sense of scale and emphasising that it’s not just certain locations in the United States that matter in the Marvel Universe.
Hugely entertaining with massive dollops of characterisation, action, and humour, Avengers Assemble is something for the Marvel fanboys to really shout about considering it hasn’t taken terribly long for their comic company to pull off a great team-of-heroes movie with their own characters (compared to DC, across the road, who could do it tomorrow if they wanted to); due to the various rights issues with Avengers Assemble, there was some assembly required – but all the parts fitted together perfectly.