Monday, 30 April 2012

Avengers Assemble!

 Avengers…. Assemble!!!!!!!! 
I can’t help but think of Ron Burgundy’s news-team call to arms via conch every time I hear the title. Cheesy though it may sound, it is an apt title for this never-before-attempted project of bringing together four different movie franchises (with multiple characters featured in each) into one cohesive blockbuster. (Also so as not to be confused with THIS Avengers.)

The gamble was a great one and, after a few years in the making, we finally get to see if it paid off.
Best film ever made? Hardly. Worth a watch? Hell yes!
 You see, the potential problem with this kind of material is the too many cooks effect - with so many (and not to mention very larger than life) characters jostling for screen time surely some parties would get shortchanged or be underdeveloped. Failing that, the story would have to suffer - with no clear protagonist or adequate story arc, as there is just so much to address in order to justify each character’s existence in the movie.

And yet somehow writer/director Joss Whedon manages to pull it off. Under his watchful eye The Avengers Assemble manages not only to represent each character adequately (including returning villain Loki), but also to craft a serviceable overall story for them to all inhabit. Sure, the invading ‘aliens’ are a bit generic and forgettable an opposition - but really they are just there as fodder for when we finally get to see what a superhero team-up would actually look like kicking ass together side-by-side in the context of a blockbuster movie. This kind of thing has been going on forever in comics and animated features but here it really is brought to life.
The fact that there are so many characters does somewhat explain the long running time (2hr22mins) – not that you will notice as great characterisation and fantastic action scenes make the time fly by. The masterstroke in the story here is showing the different members of the Avengers not getting along first (thus giving them the excuse to have a few fights amongst themselves as well as one amazing squabbling scene) and then realising that they must actually work together to save the earth. And er… that’s pretty much it for the throughline.
But it doesn't matter, as the characterisation is just so rich. Each person has his/her moment to shine as well as their fair share of memorable lines. In fact this may be the first film ever that I felt may feature one too many pithy one-liners. And The Hulk getting the biggest laughs? Incredible! Whedon manages to pull it off with aplomb, adding wit and sparkle to a film where just managing to get the action and CG right would have been enough to make it a surefire hit.

All performances are great and are very consistent with previous appearances – Mark Ruffalo being the only exception as a newcomer (replacing Edward Norton, who in turn replaced Eric Bana) – who quite surprisingly is the best Bruce Banner I think I have seen in the role. His nuanced performance of an intelligent peaceful scientist constantly struggling to contain the dark beast within is a standout amongst the uniformly good cast. Tom Hiddleston as the chief antagonist Loki is also great to watch, adding further depths to his already great performance in Thor.

My only nitpicky gripe is Captain America being just a tiny bit underrepresented, especially as he was billed as ‘The First Avenger’ in his own movie and is traditionally seen as the leader of the group in the comics. Rumour has it that further scenes of him adjusting to living in a new era didn't quite make the final cut so maybe we’ll see these in an 'Extended' or 'Special Edition' if there ever is one.
The 3D also needs to be mentioned - although this was converted in post and not originally filmed in 3D, it is well implemented throughout, adding subtle depth rather than having things fly out of the screen. Definitely worth the few extra quid in case you were wondering.

So there you have it. Not a full-blown masterpiece by any means but a thoroughly fun and surprisingly balanced movie. Go watch it!

30 April 2012

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