Superhero crossovers – they can be great if there’s a genuine reason behind them, but simply getting a load of famous characters together isn’t enough. Just because one character works well on their own doesn’t mean they’ll work so well in an ensemble. And with the limited length of a single feature film, they could easily be left fighting for screen time. As such the announcement of an ‘Avenger’s’ movie didn’t initially excite me that much. More heroes do not equal a better story.
Since they started making their own films, Marvel have mostly been getting things right though. Using a number of unexpected cast and crew members they have succeeded wholeheartedly in bringing some of their universe to life. While their films haven’t all been perfect (the somewhat overblown ‘Iron Man 2’ springs to mind) none have been bad.
With backstories already established in these previous films, ‘The Avengers’ doesn’t need to waste any time explaining who these people are or where they came from. What it does need, is a reason for them all to come together, but give them some room to breathe.
So who’s made the cut? First we have Iron Man. Robert Downey Jr.’s nailed the part of Tony Stark since the birth of the Marvel Cinematic universe in the first ‘Iron Man’, and he’s at his absolute best here. Both when wisecracking with his team member’s (one of the highlights) and faced with serious threat, he owns the role.
Chris Hemsworth’s Thor continues his fish-out-of-water swagger that worked so well in his eponymous film, and while given a little less to do, Chris Evans still manage to convey a clear personality with his Captain America interpretation. It is a bit of a shame that we don’t get to see more of him becoming accustomed to the modern world he just arrived in though.
One of the more talked about casting decisions in the film’s early development was that of Bruce Banner, aka the Hulk, with Mark Ruffalo replacing Edward Norton. The character’s always had some problems on the big screen but Ruffalo’s is without doubt the best one yet. He has many of the film’s best moments (including its biggest laugh) and one can imagine a lot of kids coming out of the movie as new fans of the Hulk. It’s no surprise that Marvel has already started talking about another Hulk movie for a few years’ time now, having previously written off the notion.
The lesser known members of the team Hawkeye and Black Widow also have plenty to do, and Samuel L Jackson has his first chance to be Nick Fury for more than a brief moment of screen time. Special mention must be given to Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) who really has a chance to shine in his fourth Marvel movie appearance.
They’re all up against Loki, ‘Thor’s main villain, delightfully played by Tom Hiddleston, and his army of alien invaders. Unfortunately, said ‘army’ is one of the more disappointing elements. Most people probably won’t be familiar with the Chitauri (I wasn’t) but they come across as little more than mindless pawns for Loki’s attack.
‘The Avengers’ not so secret weapon though, is its humour. There are numerous moments which had the whole theatre laughing out loud. While it’ll never be billed as one, it’s funnier than most recent comedies. When put in a room together, the group doesn’t bond immediately, and the scenes of them mocking each other are just as memorable as any of the set pieces, it doesn’t disappoint on that front either though. While loyal to its source material, it gleefully acknowledges some of its more ridiculous aspects too, such as the mentions of how ludicrous Captain America’s costume is.
While writer/director Joss Whedon is very well known in geek circles, he’s never actually directed a big movie before, so it’s another choice that’s paid off handsomely for Marvel, with him proving to be just as adept at the big action scenes as the humorous banter. With its massive budget all on screen, it provides some spectacular moments. One unbroken (though CG aided) tracking shot from hero to hero during the climactic battle is jaw-dropping.
One minor complaint I couldn’t help but have was with the setting. We’ve seen New York host massive destruction on many previous occasions and maybe ‘Avengers’ would have benefited by staging its showdown somewhere slightly less familiar to viewers. There are times when its extensive battle sequence does resemble ‘Transformers 3’.
The best superhero movie yet? No, but it’s the best of Marvel’s own so far and it’s hard to imagine there being a more purely entertaining blockbuster this year.