MOVIE REVIEW: The Avengers

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Film: The Avengers
Director: Joss Whedon

We come to it at last. The great cinematic moment of our time. Take a deep breath in, for nerdvana is here. The Avengers (or, as it’s hilariously titled in my neck of the woods, Marvel’s Avengers Assemble) have finally come together on the world stage, realising that utopian vision first hinted at in Iron Man and built upon in a litany of post-credit sequences since. And, without further ado and token sentences about fanboy expectations and comic aficionado Joss Whedon as captain of the potentially troublesome ship, let me say straight out that The Avengers is terrific.

It’s almost a novelty to have such a heavily anticipated film live up to most of its expectations. It was never going to satisfy every tiny whim that fans had projected upon it, but it is a tremendously entertaining and very, very satisfying adaptation of a much-loved comic series. The writing is smart and accomplished, the performances sublime, and the impressive effects are the icing on the cake – rather than the focal point, as they are in so many blockbusters these days. “In Joss we trust,” as I texted to my sister after I bought our tickets the other day, and in Joss you can be certain your trust shall be rewarded.

For those living under a rock, The Avengers unites the not inconsiderable talents of Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain America (Chris Evans), and the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) with Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg), and Director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) of S.H.I.E.L.D. Together, they must fight an invasion of the Earth by hostile forces, led by meddlesome Asgardian and brother of Thor, Loki (Tom Hiddleston). The latter, last seen plummeting to an uncertain fate in the denouement of Thor, is blithely unconcerned with the fate of the human race and seeks only an obedient realm to call his own – building cleverly upon his character arc in the aforementioned film. After an initial raid sets his plans in motion, it is up to Fury to invoke the ‘Avengers Initiative’ and assemble the elite group of superheroes. The tempestuous bunch must put aside their differences and find a way to work in harmony, utilising their individual strengths to overcome the threat at hand and protect the planet from destruction.

This conflict was of some concern off-screen as well, as fans noted that the aspect most likely to derail the film was the competing interests of each superhero. The trick lies in demarcating clear roles for each character, so that even as they come together their individual strengths are put to best use. This is achieved admirably as the film takes the time to introduce each leading character with a personal vignette that illustrates both their personality and their potential. To this end, Tony Stark/Iron Man is charismatic, ambitious, and sardonic; Steve “Captain America” Rogers is humble, noble, and focused; Bruce Banner/the Hulk is tense, conflicted, and careful. They and their compadres are served well by a lively, witty script that illustrates all of Whedon’s flair for sharp one-liners and incidental humour. He brings his gifts to bear well; ensuring an even mixture of heart and heroics. A particularly intimate subplot involving Black Widow and Hawkeye is handled gracefully (and no, don’t panic, it’s not romantic), while Loki and Thor’s arcane posturing is more splendidly pompous than ever. Further, the latter is afforded a uniquely mesmeric entrance, one which had a fellow cinemagoer fist-pumping jovially in the theatre. If you can’t take comfort from your fellow fanboy’s delight, you are indeed a tough crowd.

The performances are uniformly excellent – Downey Jr. doesn’t charisma everyone off the screen, as some may have feared, though his natural charm is infectious and he strikes up a pleasing chemistry with Ruffalo as their two characters combine their brilliant minds. Johansson is cool and assured, Evans thoughtful and earnest, and Hemsworth a rugged, wry presence. Hiddleston, who was a revelation in Thor, doesn’t get to flex his dramatic muscles quite as much here but he has a consummate, insatiable screen presence that’s all but intoxicating. The world of S.H.I.E.L.D is evenly realised, its technological haberdashery sleek and classy, and in a number of Fury’s scenes Whedon posits intriguing hints as to the depth and twisting confines of the organisation’s rabbit hole.

There are a few minor issues with the film, though it must be stressed that these barely detract from the enjoyment factor and have more to do with the niggling complexities of such an ambitious project. It may be a little too long for some people’s tastes – though it’s hard to see what could have been trimmed out, particularly as the extra half hour or so allows for individual character battles such as an exhilarating three-way face-off in a forest. The final battle is tremendously orchestrated, but it doesn’t feel quite as climactic as Loki had been threatening. Indeed, for all that I am a gushing captive of Hiddleston’s nefarious charms, some may find him too unimposing a villain as his threats require back-up from his alien counterparts. The script errs on the overly cautious side at times, leading to the occasional decline in pace, and it is difficult to honour each character in the same way – see Hawkeye and Black Widow’s more pedestrian contributions to the final battle, by comparison with the others.

All that considered however, these are small prices to pay for an action blockbuster as uniquely entertaining and rewarding as this one. The Avengers is exciting, refreshing, and overwhelmingly fun, not so much blazing as storming a trail for future superhero ventures to follow. The powers that be have taken your faith on board and honoured it, so please relax and enjoy. I hear the U.S. audience shall also get to see the final trailer for The Dark Knight Rises beforehand, which was the price we paid for getting it early. Oh, and stick around til after the credits– those denouement manifestos aren’t quite done yet.

Review written by: Grace Duffy (Twitter)

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the founder of Under The Gun Review. He loves writing about music and movies almost as much as he loves his two fat cats. He's also the co-founder of Antique Records and the Marketing Coordinator for Haulix. You should probably follow him on Twitter.

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  • Summer

    Is this movie suitable for  11 yr olds?

  • Grace

     Yes, certainly. There’s no crude humour, nothing explicit, though there are a fair amount of explosions. Otherwise the young ‘uns ought to love it!