Posted May 21, 2013 by Becky Hall in Comics

Comic Book Movie Review: Avengers Assemble

©Marvel/ Paramount Pictures

Director: Joss Whedon

Release year: 2012

Starring: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jnr., Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Renner, Coby Smulders

Six films on and we come to the conclusion, the climax, the explosive end to Phase One: Avengers Assemble. Or The Avengers to our friends across the Pond (the Atlantic, not Amy). I don’t think I’ve ever been as excited about the release of a movie as I was about this one. There were TV Spots here, there and everywhere. A new trailer was released every few weeks. Every Marvel fan was fairly foaming at the mouth by the time we were within a fortnight of the release date. The build up was terrifying and exhilarating in equal measure but did the film measure up to the ridiculous amount of hype that preceded it?

Well… yes. Yes it did.

I can be horrendously cynical about movies that are based on comics/books/games etc. So often they receive a massive hype and then flop like a badly tossed pancake. Case in point: Daredevil, Elektra, and Hulk (*shudder*). So the fact that Marvel have been able to continually churn out a series of superhero movies that have not only captured but held the interest of a large portion of the cinema-going public is a bit miraculous. Avengers Assemble had a build up that was, quite frankly, playing with fire. It was make or break for the MCU – if Avengers flopped, the franchise would lose a massive fraction of its fan-base.

“Steve, tell me this doesn’t smell a little funky to you?” ©Marvel/ Paramount Pictures

Thankfully, Marvel had the sense to put Joss Whedon in charge. Best decision they could possibly have made. Whedon has a large and dedicated fan-base and for good reason. Not only is he hailed as the King of Geeks, he is also known for his strong, independent female characters. A very good choice then, for a comic book superhero franchise that is dominated by buff male protagonists. Not that buff male protagonists are a bad thing, it would just be nice to see some more females superheroes in the mix.

For one reason or another, Ed Norton did not return as our favourite huge, green, rage monster. Instead, Mark Ruffalo stepped into the role of the tormented physicist. Up until Avengers Assemble, one actor played Banner and another played the Hulk, but this time Ruffalo suited up with the rest of the team. Admittedly his suit wasn’t quite as cool as the others, but it allowed the Hulk to be an extension of the Banner character in a way that it simply hadn’t been before. Thankfully, Ruffalo was the only recast. The rest of the cast remained the same from the previous movies, a blessing seeing as all of them, superheroes, supervillains and government agents alike seem to embody their respective characters.

“I got him.” ©Marvel/ Paramount Pictures

What I also loved about Avenger’s Assemble, is that it is in it’s very essence a team movie and as a result we see much, much more of Agent Coulson (oh god, Coulson…) and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson). It’s also great to see the characters of Agents Barton (Jeremy Renner) and Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) expanded on as well, although possibly not as much as we hoped. Barton we saw for the first time in Thor – he appeared for only a few minutes to watch while Thor wrestled a big SHIELD guard in the mud while at full draw but Jeremy Renner plays him with such brooding sass that he became an instant and firm fan favourite. Romanoff, on the other hand, is the most underrated character in the movie. As usual Scarlett Johansson had her down, but a large number of the audience seemed to miss how vital a character she was. Don’t forget, Romanoff manipulated the God of Mischief into revealing his play. You see the look on Loki’s face at the end? To put Loki on the back foot is in no way a mean feat – the Black Widow deserves far more credit than she receives.

©Marvel/ Paramount Pictures

What I can’t decide is if the fans were more looking forward to the return of Agent Coulson (played by the ridiculously awesome Clark Gregg) or Machiavellian supervillain Loki (Tom Hiddleston). Despite having had only secondary parts in previous Phase One movies (Iron Man 12 and Thor), Clark Gregg had, by the release of the Avengers, gained such epic popularity that when Coulson was murdered by the rogue Asgardian, the fan-base exploded in a mess of tears and rage and demanded his safe return onto the screens. Not gonna lie, I was right there with them and Gregg needs some serious respect for that. As for Loki, not even invading Earth with an army of purple lizard men and brutally “killing” Agent Coulson was enough to turn the tide of his popularity. Because Hiddleston manages to portray Loki with such humanity and because we’ve witnessed Loki’s downward spiral for ourselves, it’s almost impossible not to really sympathise or empathise with him on some level, which is probably the main reason why he’s accumulated such loyal fans. Once again, I have to say major kudos to Tom Hiddleston for creating a remarkably memorable villain.  Not an easy task in sci-fi films generally, let alone in the superhero sub-genre.

“There’s no stopping it. There is only… the war.” ©Marvel/ Paramount Pictures

What was interesting about Loki’s return is that it seemed to make little sense in the context of the MCU character (putting aside what we know of Loki from the comics). Loki wanted to rule Asgard, why would he settle for Earth as a second best option? I’ve read a variety of theories on why Loki decided to try and invade our planet and most of them agree that ruling Earth was not Loki’s endgame plan. I have to agree; we really haven’t seen the true extent of Loki’s schemes and manipulations and I really hope we see the character fully expanded on in future films. As a villain he really has so much potential and it would be such an awful shame to waste such a talented actor and such a complex character by reducing him to a 2D baddie at this point.

Quite apart from the actors and the plots, a large part of what made the Avengers so successful was the level of detail that went into the CGI. Despite the fact that much of the final fight scene was filmed in a studio with green screen, it all looks fabulously realistic. That tracking shot in the final fight scene is one of the most cracking pieces of cinematography I’ve ever seen, an inspired way of unifying the fight into a single event, rather than several different events taking place at the same time. It must be so strange, as an actor, to do your lines and scenes in a room almost completely filled with green screen or in a fetching grey onesie and then to see the end product as something almost completely different from what you experienced. It must seem rather surreal and fantastic to watch the world you have been creating come to life on the big screen after you’ve finished your part.

I could go on for hours about all the different ways in which Avengers Assemble is a fantastic movie but I have only so many words. The fact that it is now the 3rd highest grossing movie of all time definitely speaks volumes. Otherwise some key words might be : aliens, explosions, flying cyborg space whales, complicated villains, super awesome superheroes, gold titanium alloy suits and a team that is way cooler than the Justice League could ever hope to be. Congrats Marvel, you’ve kept us hooked for the next phase of the journey. But you have set the bar rather high; I hope for your sake that you can maintain this momentum you’ve gathered.

“If it’s all the same to you… I’ll have that drink now.” ©Marvel/ Paramount Pictures

Superhero rating: 9.5/10

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