Director: Joss Whedon Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans & Scarlett Johansson Synopsis: Earth’s mightiest heroes must come together and learn to fight as a team if they are to stop the mischievous Loki and his alien army from enslaving humanity Rating: 12A Run time: 143 minutes
Back in April 2012, Joss Whedon had a hand in creating two of the best films of the year. One was The Cabin in the Woods, while the other was the superhero ensemble Avengers: Assemble. It was the latter that was perhaps the bigger gamble, and the one that really had no right to work.
Director Joss Whedon, up until this point, was best known for his work on TV shows Firefly, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. His fans are adoring and committed, and had been waiting for the day he would be given a film big enough to showcase his talents to a wider audience.
Of course, Avengers: Assemble was no sure fire hit. The opening weekend was always likely to be big, but the weekends after that could’ve dropped significantly if the film failed to live up to audience expectations. Fortunately, Marvel’s, then, biggest gamble had everything fans wanted.
All Marvel had done since 2008, had led up to this. From Iron Man all the way through to Captain America: The First Avenger, every film was essentially another piece of the puzzle. It was a unique proposal at the time and one that has been copied by nearly every studio with the rights to superheroes ever since.
Having five films build up to one bombastic conclusion was never going to be a simple task, either for Marvel or Whedon. The very idea that audiences would need four years of back-story to comprehend events here is daunting, maybe even for the most devout of fans.
Yet Whedon somehow managed to create a film that was not only a huge pay-off for the fans who had been there from the beginning, but also for anyone who was not so well endowed in Marvel folklore. The ensuing result was over two hours of sheer rollercoaster entertainment.
Heroes are re-introduced to us, while the uninitiated are given enough info in the first 15 minutes or so minutes to understand who the multiple cast members are. However, this initial period is also the films slowest. Taking the time to build up the story and who’s who was necessary, but also meant things felt a little disjointed at this point.
This means little though, as the next two hours are some of the most enjoyable you will spend with a film. Whedon knows how to work with a large cast, and makes sure that everyone gets their due here. The big stars get their big moments, while even smaller characters like Cobie Smulders’ Agent Hill have theirs, albeit early on in the film.
As for the Avengers themselves, their characters are nailed on here, with Whedon making the most of his vast comic book knowledge. Captain America remains noble and heroic, while never being the stiff he could be. Thor is labelled “Shakespeare in the park” and overcomes the theatrics that surround his character. While Iron Man is a lot less annoying than he was in Iron Man 2 and has some great scenes with Mark Ruffalo’s Incredible Hulk.
It may have taken Marvel three attempts to get the character right, but finally they have found the right man to play Bruce Banner. As Banner, Ruffalo has the sensitivity of man who knows how dangerous he can become, while his transformation into the Hulk is simply scene stealing.
With that, a films heroes are only ever as good as their villain, and here Tom Hiddleston revels in stealing the show as Loki. Hiddleston is having the time of his life here, and makes the Avengers lives hell while delivering a real Hans Gruber esque performance.
Of course, the film is not without its issues. The pace early on does lag, while the plot is as routine as they come and the ending does fall into the same trap as most recent blockbusters. Yet, the characters and the script remain sharp, making sure any discrepancies are forgiven, especially in a film as much fun as this.
In summary: Avengers: Assemble is the go to model for how superhero films should be made now. Mixing a cast of characters so unique was no mean feat, but it was handled with aplomb by all involved. Highly recommended.