- Director:Joss Whedon
- Cast:Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Robert Downey Jr., Mark Ruffalo
- Release Date:April 25, 2012
- Running time:142 minutes
- Film Worth:$19.99
- FILMINK rates movies out of $20 - the score indicates the amount we believe a ticket to the movie to be worth
Wildly entertaining yet brilliantly cohesive, wonderfully characterised, deftly humorous and packed with heart, this is an absolute winner.
As any comic book fan knows, The Avengers is the end point on a road signposted by a host of excellent films - Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger - and the big question has always been whether or not the destination would equal the thrilling journey that those films represented. The answer - somewhat joyously - is a resounding, unhesitating yes: The Avengers is a comic book movie that should inspire near delirium in true fans, and register as a big, fat slab of rollicking entertainment for more casual viewers. Based on Marvel Comics' long running team up series, and hauling in the title superheroes from the aforementioned movies (along with a few lesser but equally interesting figures), the challenge with The Avengers was always going to be how to balance such a large and iconic cast of characters. With so many pieces on the superhero chessboard, the excess character traffic could easily have resulted in a cinematic stalemate.
But in choosing Joss Whedon - the creator of TV's Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly and Dollhouse, and a highly regarded comic book author himself - as director, Marvel head honcho, Kevin Feige, has delivered nothing short of a movie masterstroke. Whedon is a true believer who knows, loves and deeply understands not just comic books, but also the often complex art of character dynamics. In melding the two, The Avengers plays out like some kind of celluloid-meets-panel-art piece of divine alchemy. Cineastes might sniff at such superlatives, but for fans of this genre, The Avengers is truly something special. Make no mistake: this is no big, dumb action movie.
Threatened with war and an impending alien invasion by the evil Loki (a masterclass in pithy villainy by Tom Hiddleston) - the bad guy from Thor - Nick Fury (the enjoyably authoritative Samuel L. Jackson), the director of the international peacekeeping agency known as S.H.I.E.L.D, brings together a collection of superheroes to save Earth from total annihilation, and its population from ultimate enslavement. Drawn somewhat reluctantly into the team are WW2 super-soldier Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans expertly continues his wholesome but never dull line in heroism), demi-god Thor (the intense, physically imposing, and perfectly cast Chris Hemsworth), genius billionaire Tony Stark/Iron Man (the scene stealing Robert Downey Jr.), brilliant scientist Bruce Banner/The Hulk (the sensitive and charismatic Mark Ruffalo fills in perfectly for Edward Norton), and master assassins Clint Barton/Hawkeye (a nicely taciturn Jeremy Renner) and Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson hints dynamically at the wells of pain and guilt that drive her complicated character). Cue whip-smart banter, initial feuds, slowly building respect, uneasy friendships, forged allegiances, and lots of action.
Despite having to deal with a mess of elements - lots of story, and lots of characters all fighting for screen time - sole screenwriter (a true rarity in Hollywood blockbusters, which often seem to be written by committee) and director Joss Whedon has created something almost impossibly cohesive with The Avengers. All of the characters have meaningful, compelling things to do, both in terms of the film's action and its dramatic arcs. Nobody is short-changed, and all of the actors work brilliantly together (the performances are absolutely top-notch across the board), throwing sparks when necessary and pulling together just as well when that's what's required. Whether it's a snappy line of dialogue, or a heroic action shot that could have been ripped from the very pages of a comic book, each of these superheroes is allowed to be, well, super.
Whedon's punchy script is tight and focused, and he keeps all of the narrative cogs well oiled. There are no significant plot holes, and despite involving aliens, unlimited power sources, and intergalactic threats, The Avengers has a seamless sense of internal logic that never collapses in on itself. The real surprise of the film, however, (though no surprise to those familiar with the previous work of Joss Whedon) is the expert and perfectly placed use of humour. While never veering anywhere near being parodic or disrespectful, there are genuine laugh-out-loud moments in The Avengers that subtly ground its epic flights of fancy. In one hilarious aside, the wisecracking Tony Stark compares a forest-set war of words between demi-gods Thor and Loki to "Shakespeare In The Park", and asks the cape-sporting Thor why he's wearing his mother's drapes.
The Avengers, however, is really about its larger-than-life but always relatable characters. The interactions between these grand but essentially damaged figures - whether funny, exciting or moving - are what give this huge but never lumbering cinematic beast its propulsive heart. Even in the film's eye-popping, hectically designed action sequences, that beating heart remains the true signal sound of this wonderfully entertaining, near-perfect comic book extravaganza. And that's something to be savoured.