Avengers Assemble review

Banana Rating: 5 out of 5

First things first. That title, that godaw­ful title, Avengers Assemble, that we’ve been lumbered with in the UK, whilst the rest of the world gets The Avengers.

If you’re a puzzled for­eigner (big shout-out to all my avid read­ers in Viet­nam, Ecuador, and Venezuela, all four of you), then don’t panic. It’s just a rejigged title that’s come about because of a Brit­ish TV show from the nineteen-sixties, called — believe it or not — The Avengers. The one where Diana Rigg fam­ously wore a tight out­fit and beat people up.

And guess what? In Avengers AssembleScar­lett Johans­son wears a tight out­fit and beats people up. Some things never change.

Avengers Assemble is the res­ult of 4 years worth of super­hero movies (I’m assum­ing the ori­ginal Hulk from back in 2003 isn’t really part of the Avengers canon), start­ing with Iron Man, and con­tinu­ing through The Incred­ible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor, and Cap­tain Amer­ica. All of them, of course, com­plete with post cred­its teas­ers to whet our appet­ites for their even­tual team up.

A supremely confident action epic

Joss Whe­don, in only his second fea­ture film as dir­ector (the first being Serenity, a whole seven years ago) dips his toe into the sum­mer (Spring?) block­buster pool. Does he do it nervously? You might expect so. You’d be wrong how­ever. Avengers Assemble is a supremely con­fid­ent action epic that doesn’t skimp on spectacle.

More import­antly, and unusu­ally for such a big film these days, it doesn’t skimp on char­ac­ter either. Des­pite all the pyro­tech­nics, this is no Michael Bay movie. With his films, there’s often a strange feel­ing dur­ing the talky scenes that he’s kind of pacing around behind the cam­era, fid­gety, killing time until the next set piece.

Joss Whe­don prefers to let the char­ac­ters breathe a bit more. As a res­ult, the first two thirds of the film feel sur­pris­ingly wordy for a super­hero movie. The Avengers appear one by one, ten­sions rising in the group each time. There’s a lot of super sized muscles, and super sized egos. How on earth are they sup­posed stop Thor’s brother, Loki, from car­ry­ing out his dast­ardly plan if they’re too busy fight­ing each other?

But that’s prob­ably more than half the fun, simply watch­ing the Avengers exchange blows and with­er­ing quips (most of the quips com­ing from, yep you guessed it, Downey Jr. as Tony Stark). It never seems to get dull. Whe­don has pro­duced a well-balanced script that gives just about every Avenger enough screen time to make an impact. Even the least super powered of the team, Black Widow and Hawkeye, get their moments to really shine.

New York gets trashed (with style)

How­ever, even with Whe­don’s exper­i­enced hand­ling of ensemble casts (see Buffy the Vam­pire Slayer), not every­one comes out of it okay. Cap­tain Amer­ica seems a bit too ser­i­ous and whiney, maybe even a bit depressed, and out of sorts with his time and place. Whilst that’s under­stand­able given he’s been yanked 70 years into the future, there’s a feel­ing that he could have done with maybe one more film under his belt before being plunged into the Avengers, to sort through some of his issues.

Whe­don did in fact cut a scene where Cap­tain Amer­ica meets up with his now much older flame, Peggy Carter, because it interfered with the rythmn of the movie. It’s some­thing that’ll now prob­ably get shif­ted to Cap’s sequel. We’ll never know if that scene would’ve worked in Avengers Assemble (unless it ends up on the Blu-ray extras). Maybe it would’ve gone some way to help­ing out poor old Cap and his palp­able lack of con­fid­ence that seems at odds with the fun, exuber­ant tone of the movie. When he assumes more of a com­mand­ing role in the group, it doesn’t wholly convince.

Mind you, it’s not like it spoils what is a pretty fant­astic movie. Whe­don gets so much right, and makes it all look so decept­ively easy. You’d think he’d been dir­ect­ing block­busters all his life. He’s done a far bet­ter job than dir­ect­ors who have been doing it all their lives, and trashes most of New York with style (give or take a few moments where the CGI feels a bit weight­less and video­gamey, but then such is the nature of CGI).

Spider-Man watches it on the telly

In fact, New York gets so com­pre­hens­ively smashed to pieces, I did kind of think that Spider-Man’s spidey sense must’ve been tingling like crazy as a 300-foot alien ploughed through the tower block oppos­ite his apart­ment. Was Peter Parker sat on his crappy sofa, a can of beer in his hand, watch­ing the action unfold on the news? Wish­ing that he could join in and help out, if only his hands hadn’t been tied by the Hol­ly­wood legal system?

I like to think that an alien might’ve landed on his win­dow sill. And that Peter Parker might’ve checked no-one was look­ing before whist­ling tune­lessly, open­ing his win­dow, and knock­ing the alien off it’s perch to it’s death.

I’d love to see Spider-Man bat­tling along­side Marvel’s other her­oes. I think the only way to secure this for the future, would be to send the Hulk around to nego­ti­ate Spidey’s film rights. A shout of “Law­yer, smash!” and a few pulped lawyer’s heads around the nego­ti­at­ing table would be a small price to pay for an Avengers sequel that might even top the ori­ginal. But until that time, the likes of Michael Bay will have to try a lot harder with their bust­ing of blocks. Good luck. They’ll need it.