The Avengers (12a)
Directed By: Joss Whedon
Starring: Robert Downey Jnr, Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston, Clark Gregg and Samuel L Jackson
Running time: 142mins
When the earth comes under threat from a god and an alien race, there’s only one thing to do… call on our mightiest heroes to save the day.
Boy, this is a tough one to review. Not because I don’t know how I feel about it – I totally do – but because I really don’t want to spoil anything for you guys. You deserve to go into this as if there were no such thing as the internet… remember, like when you first saw Donner’s Superman or even Burton’s Batman and you went in knowing a bit about the characters but none of the spoilers? That is how this movie needs to be seen, so I promise to avoid spoilers as much as possible.
First a few ground rules: I refuse to call it Marvel’s Avengers Assemble (as the title appears before the movie here in the UK) because that’s a stupid title. Secondly, I must assume that most of you have seen Iron Man, Incredible Hulk, Iron Man2, Captain America and Thor. If you haven’t it’s ok because there’s a brief re-intro to all the characters, however having seen the others will illuminate some of the nods, jokes and references and enrich the whole world that exists here.
I must also point out that I am a massive Joss Whedon fan, from the days of Buffy and right up to and including The Cabin in the Woods (if you haven’t seen it, go as soon as you read this). So I am a little bias, however, I’m grown up and well enough versed in movie reviewing to be honest.
Joss Whedon was born to direct this movie. No-one working in Hollywood understands ensemble (should that be assemble?) casts like he does. Right from the days of Buffy, and later Firefly, he relished large casts, creating characters you cared about and giving them all their fair share of time in front of the camera, a tradition he magnificently upholds here… Iron Man (Downey Jnr), Thor (Hemsworth), Captain America (Evans), Hulk (Ruffalo), Hawkeye (Renner), Black Widow (Johansson), Nick Fury (Jackson) and Loki (Hiddleston) all shine so brightly it’s a stunning accomplishment on its own, with not an ego in sight, this cast understands that they are a team and work as one throughout.
True Whedon fans will know that he works by a set of rules: The first is, as above, everyone is important. The second, his dialogue crackles and here it is first rate – amid the fantastic fight scenes, you yearn for the scenes shared around tables or in labs and especially when there’s disagreements. Thirdly, and most importantly for Whedonites (it’s why we love AND hate him soooo much), no-one is safe. I’m not going to say if everyone makes it but there is certainly the sense that everyone could go – Serenity fans, dry those eyes… we all still miss him.
Now, while certain directors take superhero movies to a new level – Donner’s Superman, Burton’s Batman, Singer’s X-Men and Nolan’s Batman Begins – a movie of this scale has not been tried with so many heroes and actors scrambling for screen time.
Bryan Singer is the only one to really come close, especially with X-Men 2 and there, like Whedon here, he succeeds because the origins part is over and done. Though again, while Singer does a wonderful job, his X-Men does come off as a ‘Wolverine and friends’ movie .
But what of the plot? The action? Well, I’m saying very little about the plot except that the trailers tell you (more than) enough, yet the movie you think you’re going to see isn’t really accurate.
The action was a concern at first because – gasp – the movie isn’t perfect. Like Captain America, it lags a bit at the start and actually starts a little ropily, with the first action scene being almost clumsily handled. I was concerned to be honest. But at roughly 30mins in your pulse rate is gonna rise and I warn you, it’s going to stay that way for the next two hours.
Whedon shows that, as a director, he is confident and has a great eye – a camera angle within an exploding taxi is beautiful; you’ll know it if you see it – and every so often there’s a bit that you’ll think is the movie’s money shot, then it’ll be outdone, then again, then again… it’s full of moments that will just make you realise how lucky you are to see this movie made so well because, let’s be honest, the build-up movies, overall, average out at ‘ok’ – but they all benefit from repeat viewings as the Marvel Universe clicks into place.
I only wish Marvel owned X-men, Daredevil, Spider-Man etc because it would have been great to see a cameo here and there, fleshing the universe out even more. But that’s hopefully the end goal for Marvel and Disney, and we’re already spoiled with this one.
So, in conclusion, as someone who gets sucked in by hype too much, finally a movie lived up to it. It’s crazy exciting, hilarious – Hulk gets at least two of the biggest laughs in the movie – the performances are spot on (Whedon’s love of strong women action characters is especially obvious here with Black Widow) and, most importantly, it’s fun. So much fun. With every scene topping the last this is what popcorn/big budget cinema is all about when done with love, care and attention. Clever, well written and completely confident.
Are there ANY negative points? Well, yes. As mentioned earlier, it takes a while to kick off and is a little clumsy at first, but quickly finds its feet. The alien army is not at all fleshed out and their motives are sketchy at best, although Loki is the focal point here and Hiddleston oozes sneaky menace in (almost) every scene. Also, the after credits scene is a little disappointing, but if you know your Marvel lore then you’ll have an idea what’s coming.
But these are minor complaints. The movie is breakneck and has some of the best action scenes, dialogue and great characters throughout. Whedon has waited a long time for this. Combined with the embarrassingly fun The Cabin in the Woods releashed a couple of weeks ago, it looks like Hollywood may have finally seen him for the genius he is. It’s about time.