Watched Apr 26, 2012
Adam Cook’s review:
When Marvel announced they were going to set up their own film studio, not only making individual superhero movies but also set them in the same universe and using the solo outings as a way to build interest in a mega-collaboration with four of the biggest heroes in comic books, it seemed like an ambitious folly that was doomed to fail. When most of the solo films turned out to be merely decent the ambition seemed to be misplaced, even if the films were financial successes. However, my reservations were thankfully unfounded as not only have they managed to cleverly assemble (if you pardon the pun) the disparate heroes into a cohesive and consistently exciting story but Marvel and Whedon have created one of cinema’s greatest superhero films. Period.
It was always going to be a tall order to try and fit such strong characters with rich histories into one film with each getting their moment to shine and avoiding overshadowing the others. It is in this balancing act that the film was always going to live or die and thankfully Whedon has managed to weave these personalities together quite brilliantly, especially compared to other comic book movies that have struggled to balance far simpler movies. Using a familiar enemy (arguably the most interesting of all the previous Marvel film villains and played with real mischievous glee by Hiddleston) was a wise move too. There is little need building a motivational backstory whilst the audience, and other characters, know what a credible threat he is. Whilst his alien companions are little more than characterless Avenger fodder they serve their purpose in the story well, not least all the novel ways the Hulk dispatches them.
What is so pleasing, particularly for a mega budget summer blockbuster, is the fact the characters are put front and centre. Sure, there is an end of the world threat but the story is incredibly simple. Instead it is the characters that carry the film and not an elaborate plot and it is here where the hiring of Whedon makes sense. I don’t want to give the impression these are particularly deep characters but they each have their moments of doubt and inner-conflicts. The sparring, both verbal and physical, between these heroes is a real joy to behold. Its comic book roots evident for all to see; it’s funny and exaggerated but still respectful of where these characters originated. It is also nice to actually see the cast looking like they are having a good time and whilst there are naturally those that shine a little brighter (Stark was always going to have the pick of the best lines) they each bring something different to the film.
On a personal note it is brilliant to finally see the real Hulk on screen. In previous adaptations it has either swung too far in favour of the brooding Banner or characterless digital green gorilla we witnessed in the last incarnation. Yet here the balance between Banner and the Hulk is nigh on perfect and when the action comes he really delivers. Everybody knew Whedon could write comic book dialogue and juggle larger than life characters, what is perhaps so surprising is how adept he is at shooting action too. Whether it is a simple hero showdown in a forest or a large scale war, he managed to never lose sight of the characters whilst creating an ebb and flow rarely seen in modern action sequences (for once there is no shaky cam or fast editing trying to distort the on screen action). Pleasingly, most of the action in the film did not make its way into the trailers so there will be plenty of surprises for the audience because there is an awful lot of action in this film but it is always integral to the plot and has a genuine sense of peril.
The Avengers is ambitious, exciting, funny and packed full of memorable moments. Whedon and Marvel Studios should be commended for doing justice to such iconic and much loved characters.