Sunday, 6 May 2012

The Avengers Assemble - Get your geek on!

It’s the latest thing, the film everyone is talking about, possibly the best film of 2012, so far at least.  A week later than planned I finally got to see The Avengers.
There has been a great build up to this film, with individual prequels for some characters; Ironman, Thor and Captain America.  What made this film a winner and must-see was when Joss Whedon took over the writing and directing duties.  Suddenly the genius behind Buffy and Firefly was given a chance at a mainstream masterpiece and he didn’t disappoint.

Loki (Tom Hiddleston), last seen disappearing into the space from brother Thor’s grasp, arrives on Earth, takes Dr. Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard) and Agent Barton (Hawkeye played by Jeremy Renner) both last seen in Thor, under his command along with the Tesseract, last seen in Captain America and capable of great power.  Fury (Samuel L Jackson) gathers Black Widow (Johannson), Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr), Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) and Steve Rogers (Chris Pine) to retrieve the Tesseract.  Along the way, Thor arrives on Earth to take his brother home, Loki’s army arrives to take over the Earth and the Avengers are formed.

I can’t say what this film meant to the diehard Avengers fans but from what I’ve read not many have been disappointed.  As someone who has never read the comics, this film was spectacular; funny, well written and inspiring with vibrant action sequences.

The Avengers is the bringing together of a lot of characters made known and well loved by prequels; Ironman, Thor and Loki, Captain America, Hulk and to the lesser extent Fury, Black Widow and Hawkeye (who is referred to as Agent Barton throughout the film).  There was always a danger that a film culminating in so many big, individual characters could be disastrous but the writers managed to develop the dialogue and story so that the team worked but no characters were compromised.

Tony Stark is probably the best known, as there have been two Ironman films with a third on the way, and he remains charming, sarcastic and humorous. 

I was concerned about Captain America.  As you may remember I reviewed his prequel film last week and I wasn’t keen.  His character was too good, plain and boring but I had hope for his development.  My hope was well placed.  He is still plain and full of good values, that’s who he is, but in The Avengers he is struggling with the modern world, feeling out of place and missing those that he left behind.  He is looking for his place in the new world and his values rub up against Tony Stark creating a fun tension; suddenly Captain America isn’t all good and pure.  In The Avengers, Captain America becomes much more human and therefore likeable.

I have never watched a Hulk film all the way through but would wait impatiently to watch a Hulk film starring Mark Ruffalo with Joss Whedon at the helm (which is currently in discussion and Ruffalo has since signed up for more Marvel films).  Ruffalo plays Bruce Banner sympathetically and quietly, you can feel the anger boiling beneath him and the anticipation of what may happen.  This is the first film where the actor playing Banner actually plays the Hulk via virtual-camera-motion-capture rather than the big green man being purely CGI or played by a different actor.  The result of sensitive acting and the technology used is that Hulk steals the show.

I thoroughly enjoyed Thor and so was very glad to see both Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Loki again.  When mixed in with Earthly superheroes and warriors, these gods stand apart.  It could be said that Hemsworth is a little wooden but I believe this is simply a result of a god standing next to Tony Stark.   Loki has grown since we last saw him.  He is still jealous and living in his brother’s shadow but he is darker, having seen things in the universe that Thor could not fathom.  He still has weaknesses, struggling to be a leader, but now he is a showman with powerful allies and makes an excellent super-villian.

The two non-superheroes in The Avengers are Black Widow and Agent Barton.  While we have seen Johannson’s Black Widow in previous Ironman films, we have not yet met Hawkeye.  The Avenger’s gives viewers a chance to wet their lips at the back story to these two agents.  Black Widow is the only female in the team and she is a very effective spy.  While she fights well and she is definitely not present to be just a romantic connection, her best scene is her first.  Perhaps physical fighting is not her strong point compared to the others but at least she holds her own and makes her presence felt.  Agent Barton, on the other hand, is skilled for fighting with his bow and arrow and I found his fighting scenes just as enjoyable and thrilling as the ones with Captain America, Thor, Hulk and Ironman.  My only complaint when it comes to Barton is that we don’t learn much about him earlier as he is under Loki’s control.  Suddenly he is brought into the team and immediately fits in when it actually took the rest of the team longer, with more arguments, to gel.

Although the plot to The Avengers is simple, for a film of this scale I think anything elaborate would have ruined the whole endeavour.  The effects are well done and mostly the film is fast paced, with elements of heartfelt emotion and brilliant humour.  Perhaps the only thing I can say against this film is the length, in some places the plot feels a little stuttered and at one point I wondered if it was about to end without any conclusion.  But if you just let these moments slide, the result is a beautifully written, funny, epic action comic book hero film that I feel the desperate need to see again and again.

Make sure you stay through the end credits!

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