After five films, a few post-credits sequences and a couple of short vignettes hidden in various DVDs, one of the most ambitious superhero movies to come out in recent years is here. Thanks to a stellar cast, and marvellous direction and writing from Joss Whedon, Avengers Assemble more than lives up to expectations.
Make no mistake though: it’s a comic book movie through and through, and this is nowhere more apparent than in the story. After fiddling around with forces that they don’t understand in the form of a glowing blue cube called a “Tesseract”, the international security agency known as S.H.I.E.L.D, headed by Director Nick Fury (played ably by Samuel L. Jackson), open up a portal to release everybody’s favourite Norse God of mischief, Loki (TomHiddleston). If that’s not enough, the fiend is planning to summon an alien invasion from across space and time to subjugate the Earth.
It’s up to Director Fury to summon the world’s greatest heroes – Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), a recently unfrozen Captain America (Chris Evans), Bruce Banner/the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) as well as super spy Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and expert marksman Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) – in order to save the day. Before that, though, they have to start getting along with each other; not an easy task as almost all of the characters shouldn’t even be left in the same room together, let alone battle on the same side.
This is where Joss Whedon’s gift for taking advantage of tried and tested genres really kicks in. Although the plot is generic, the dynamics that the script develops between the different characters make the overarching story almost irrelevant. Tony Stark and Bruce Banner’s budding bromance, long time S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Phil Coulson’s (Clark Gregg) fanboy admiration of Captain America and the epic sibling rivalry between Thor and Loki (“He’s adopted” is the thunder god’s explanation for his brother’s villainous tendencies) are the reasons this film is so brilliant. Special mention should go to Mark Ruffalo, who’s the third actor to play the part of Banner/the Hulk and definitely the best so far. He brings an air of calm and earnest self-loathing to the role that makes you wish he had been cast for the previous Hulk films as well.
Even the lengthy action sequences (these are superheroes after all) barely ever stray from being heart-pounding to tedious. It would, in fact, be spoiling to give you specifics, but the battle royale in New York City gives the heroes moments to shine in a way that they never did before, even the ones who previously had their own films.
This summer is a relatively big one for comic book movies, with both The Amazing Spider-Man and The Dark Knight Rises close on the horizon. Avengers Assemble, however, has set the bar high, and it’s most definitely going to be a hard one for the competition to beat.