Thursday, 26 April 2012

Film Review: The Avengers

Marvel's plan to unite four separate super-hero franchises into one gigantic movie has been an ambitious and risky undertaking, and it could have very easily turned out to have been a whopping big mistake. Thankfully, it most certainty hasn't been a whopper; The Avengers is a fantastic film that does a great job of balancing it's extensive ensemble cast and also raising the bar for future super-hero films. Justice League who?

With Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury as its starting point, the Avengers ties together Iron Man (Robert Downey Jnr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain America (Chris Evans), The Hulk (newcomer Mark Ruffalo), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) for one huge super-hero smack-down against Loki (the magnificently cunning and devious Tom Hiddleston), it is easy to see how the plot could have easily drifted into being cluttered. Tying in the enormous amount of back-story that has been poured into the Avengers since Iron Man burst onto cinemas in 2008 can't have been easy for the head honchos at Marvel.

Thankfully, the trick up their sleeve is director Joss Whedon. Whedon, creator of TV shows such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly, weaves his magic here yet again, somehow managing not to sideline any one of his sprawling cast. They are all given ample screen-time and plot devices; minor characters like Renner's Hawkeye are all integral to the film and don't get blurred into the background to make way for Iron Man.

That being said, one of the stand-out characters for me was definitely Downey Jnr.'s Iron Man/Tony Stark. When he is on screen, he's certainty hard to ignore, being handed 90% of the zinging one-liners that litter the script. The opening banter between himself and Gwenyth Paltrow's Pepper Potts is brilliantly witty, as is Stark referring to Thor as "Shakespeare in the park".

The rest of the cast also get chance to add a dash of humour as well, with Captain America and Thor's "fish-out-of-water" shtick being played up. The script really dazzles when "Earth's Mightiest Heroes" are at each others throats and vying for the position of top-dog in the first 90 minutes.

Another stand-out for me was Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner/The Hulk. Ruffalo steps into the role vacated by Edward Norton and Eric Bana seemingly with ease. His battle with his angry, green alter-ego (or "the other guy") is done well and helps drive the plot throughout the film's first half. Banner's budding friendship with Stark is an entertaining dynamic that Whedon plays on as well.

It's when the action starts to ramp up in the film's final hour that the Avenger's only failing comes to light. The fairly elongated Michael Bay-esque action sequence is certainty visually impressive (one extended shot that follows every Avenger has that "wow" factor), but it doesn't try anything new and, as a result, feels tried and tested. How many times can we sit through a large urban metropolis being reduced to rubble? Also, whilst Tom Hiddleston is on top form as Loki, his alien army feel a bit generic that could have been expanded on more. It is somewhat ironic that the film works best when Whedon's cast are allowed to riff off one another and show their vulnerability, not when smashing hordes of nasties to pieces.

These however are minor quibbles that hardly dampen what is, without a doubt, one of the best comic book films. Whedon and Marvel have done a fantastic job of uniting all the separate strands of the characters and it has far exceeded the expectations I held going in. You don't want to miss this, it's comic book movie perfection.

I give The Avengers: 10 out of 10.

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