Thursday, 26 April 2012

'Avengers Assemble' Review

Avengers Assemble (dir: Joss Whedon, 2012) Cert: 12A

It's been a long and gruelling wait but fear not fanboys because finally the highly-anticipated Marvel ensemble flick is here. Joss Whedon - the genius behind Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly and most recently The Cabin in the Woods helms the superhero epic as writer and director, and quite frankly, it's the finest decision Marvel Studios has ever made. Now just add in the pointless ASSEMBLE to the title for UK promotion because British people clearly need that extra 8 letters in order to persuade them to see it, and Hey Presto! - you've got yourself a movie kids.

 Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) is the director of S.H.I.E.L.D - an international peacekeeping agency, home to the 'Tesseract'; a highly powerful sustainable energy source which is stolen by Loki (Tom Hiddleston), the evil brother of Thor (Chris Hemsworth). In order to seize an inevitable war, Fury calls upon a series of earth's greatest super humans including Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans), Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Bruce Banner/The Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and in doing so, thankfully forms The Avengers.

 Unlike most other writers behind superhero pictures (bar Christopher Nolan), attention to detail when defining, expanding and exploring characterisation is something that is usually overlooked. Quite often the only thing a viewer can recall from a film is an action sequence or an array of special effects. Put Whedon in the frame and that entire dynamic alters, and this is just one of the many reasons why Avengers Assemble is a staggering, riveting and breathlessly exciting slice of blockbuster entertainment.

 When dealing with this amount of core characters, it's a difficult and intrinsic task to draw out a said protagonist from the bunch to lead the picture without making the other characters feel lesser or unfulfilled. Rather than meddling with character exposition and deposition, Whedon allows every member of the Avengers unit to have their screen moments - whether this be used in sub-plots like the on-going battle between Thor and Loki or the ever-so impressionable and confusing world to Captain America whose history is rooted in the 1940s, or in emerging previous film identities and codes, the scripting processes allow each individual character to in a sense, assemble. Even supposedly minor characters like Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) and Agent Hill (Cobie Smulders) are given strong and useful material to work with. It's a tremendous feat for a film this big and expensive to have such a tidy, weighted script.

Still from Avengers Assemble (dir: Joss Whedon, 2012)
 Like always with Whedon, he knows when to pull a good gag with his viewers and Avengers Assemble is no exception - often the dialogue is witty, littered with character or comic book references and even sports some visual jokes which are side-splitting. After watching this, The Hulk will be you're new favourite comedian. 

 But it isn't just the writing that is superb - the stylisation and visuals Whedon and his team have captured are simply show-stopping. From the opening sequence, it is incredibly apparent how much artistic details has been employed to the film in all departments; whether this be set design, costume or the knock-out CGI. The film's climactic third act is a tyrant of relentless and jaw-dropping moments which make the hairs stand on the neck. The action and fight scenes are beautifully composed and complex, as well as being visceral and immensely powerful. There is also enough if not more pyromania here than in a Michael Bay film but the explosions and demolition is sensible and entirely relevant to the pitch-perfect written world Whedon has composed.

 Plus Whedon's eye for directorial scale and cinematic scope is also astonishing; many scenes throughout are a testament to his hand behind the camera - swooping aerials, 360 degree rotations and dizzying pans make Avengers Assemble a thrilling and giddy viewing experience. Just try and wipe the smile off your face when leaving, I dare you.

 However Whedon is not the only person involved who deserves credit because his cast do a sensational job - Downey Jr. is as wonderful as ever in his comfortable super-playboy role as Stark, Hemsworth is fantastic as Thor, Evans nails it again as Captain America and rather surprisingly Ruffalo makes a brilliant, multi-layered Hulk. Jackson, Johansson and Renner's characters are taken under Whedon's wing and given true and meaningful identities - they never feel like side characters and their performances mirror this.

Still from Avengers Assemble (dir: Joss Whedon, 2012)
 Jackson is demanding as Fury and carries a true presence, Johansson is unbelievably sexy and spellbinding as Black Widow and Renner's Hawkeye is confident and gripping. However the star of the show in this category is Hiddleston. 

 Loki is even more bloodthirsty and grinningly evil than in Thor and Hiddleston simply thrives. Every scene with Loki features beautifully delivered dialogue dripped in almost comedic menace; it's clear he is having a ball being a nemesis rather than a posh Englishman. Hiddleston is shaping up to be a fine jewel in the crown of British actors and his screen-turn here is sensational. One bets Loki will be the character the majority of viewers will be talking about long after the screening. 

 In lesser hands, Avengers Assemble could have been a gigantic, multi-million dollar mishap but this is the superhero film every fan (myself included) has been so patiently waiting for, and let me tell you, the wait is totally worth it. Not only is this the best Marvel feature, one would argue it's amongst the best superhero movies and certainly one of 2012's best blockbusters. Whedon's picture is impossibly exciting, visually impeccable and filled with talent delivering note-perfect portrayals. Run and see it - like now.

Awesome, fantastical, masterful entertainment that cannot be missed. Whedon is set to be 2012's hero.

By Chris Haydon

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