The superhero movie to end all superhero movies, The Avengers is some five films in the making and the culmination of Marvel’s ambitious plan to bring a handful of their biggest names together on the silver screen.
To date the Avengers’ own films have been a mixed bag. Iron Man was the great success that kicked this whole thing off, with fans falling in love with Downey Jr.’s cocky Tony Stark and Jon Favreau’s glossy, bombastic visuals, but since then it’s been nearly all down hill. With the unsatisfactory taste of The Incredible Hulk still in our mouths, Iron Man 2 proved hollow fun two years later before another mixed bag in 2011. Captain America: The First Avenger’s WWII setting offered great potential though meant he had to be literally frozen into the modern day, final piece of the puzzle Thor, however, was our biggest worry for the overarching franchise. A languid, misdirected, badly written adventure, our negative review caused quite the uproar online, and I’m sorry fanboys, we hated this one too.
With scientist Erik Selvig (Skarsgård) performing purportedly secret experiments on an all-powerful object known as the Tesseract, S.H.I.E.L.D.’s defences are breached as controlled by Loki, he opens a portal to Asgard before they make off with the cube.
With an object of limitless power now in the hands of the most dangerous man on or off the planet, S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury (Jackson) is left with no option but to put together a ragtag team of superheroes to try and save our world from total and utter destruction.
Much of the talk surrounding The Avengers was how the crew and their stars would handle being on set together, sharing the limelight with so many other big names and egos, and not taking the lead in a franchise like they’re used to. But on the whole, they all perform well. Downey Jr. is slick as Iron Man/Tony Stark, packing a bunch of new toys on his suit and in a new home, Chris Evans is calm and collected as Captain America, Chris Hemsworth improves on his performance in Thor and Jeremy Renner, Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson and Cobie Smulders all provide able backing away from the fore. Mark Ruffalo struggles as the recast Bruce Banner(/Hulk) – his timid approach never really works – though let out on a much longer leash, a confident Tom Hiddleston shows real chops as the fearsome Loki, not the tallest in stature, but there’s real anger behind his eyes and he isn’t afraid to show it.
That people were worried about the actors bickering on-set was a massive red herring, in fact the thing that brings down The Avengers, is how their characters all interact on-screen.
In a movie where most of the characters have a film in their pockets, the on-screen identities have egos of their own too. It was right the Avengers shouldn’t gel right at once, but how that get-to-know-you period is played out in the script gets massively out of hand.
In each other’s faces non-stop, while disagreements very rarely came to blows, the constant tussle for control carries on and on, all at the narrative’s expense. The minute the movie starts to pick up any sort of momentum someone else butts in and we have to follow their train of thought for 30 seconds before they’re interrupted yet again. This isn’t the fault of the actors, they do of all what they’re asked, but Joss Whedon’s script is found severely lacking.
It’s a pity because elsewhere on the screenplay, the Buffy creator has done sterling work. If you enjoyed the snippets of comedy in the two Iron Mans to date, you’ll have a field day with the sense of humour on show here. A couple of Tourette’s-esque physical outbursts from Hulk and a scene where Stark mocks the “Shakespeare” dialogue of brothers Loki and Thor will have you in tears. Whedon handles the action set-pieces well too, the (very) extended closing face-off has you on the edge of your seat with CGI detail reminiscent of Transformers 3. It’s a pity that by then it never build up an emotional involvement and you won’t really care who comes out on top.
The Avengers isn’t terrible and fanboys will (at least tell you they) love it, but it’s all just so generic by now, just like just another whizz-bang Marvel superhero movie, it’s hard not to feel disappointed. Without any real gusto I struggled to be swept along, the film stuttering endlessly thanks to stop-start conversation until the action finally kicks in. Marvel better hope it makes a lot of money, because on a filmmaking level, they didn’t really succeed.