Yet again, cult filmmaker Joss Whedon has doled out a white-hot entertainer with glorious characters and enough action mayhem to make nearly every other Marvel/DC superhero blockbuster look like a zoo. The Avengers takes all your wildest expectations and smashes them like the Hulk - it's everything you want in a superhero movie, and more. While other films might win awards this year, I really doubt that they’d top this one in sheer entertainment mojo.
The Avengers is a result of the biggest buildup in cinema history, with the quartet of Iron Man and its sequel, The Incredible Hulk, Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger made to pave the way for an epic boss fight, and it delivers in thoroughly awesome ways. Nearly every minute of The Avengers throbs with heart-pounding fun, from the big opening apocalyptic scene at the S.H.I.E.L.D base to the gargantuan effects-soaked final battle. Director Whedon combines extremely clever lines, bombastic CGI with unexpected character development, and elevates the overused superhero genre to something much more substantial. He completely resists the temptation to make a dark brooding drama, and in taking a more gregarious direction, The Avengers becomes infinitely more refreshing.
Firstly, you are unlikely to find a more likable ensemble of characters in any movie anywhere. Popcorn entertainers work entirely based on the level of the cast rather than the CGI razzle dazzle, and in The Avengers the gang truly makes for gleeful delight. Not only do you get to witness the spectacle of Iron Man and Captain America fight alongside each other, and The Hulk and Thor smashing people together, but you’re also greeted with terrific witty back and forth banter between them all. It’s clear that Whedon is crazy about comic books and he balances the large and iconic cast of characters with the passionate dexterity of a fourteen year old genius surgeon.
The plot is naturally an excuse to get the big guys together. Baddie Asgardian Loki (Tom Hiddleston) arrives on earth to rule humans and has an alien army to enforce his regime. To deal with the threat S.H.I.E.L.D director Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) assembles the motley group of Avengers to kick copious amounts of alien buttock and defend the planet. But putting all these guys in a single room doesn’t go too smoothly initially – they bicker hilariously and bombard each other with scathing one liners. While Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is super serious and methodical, Tony Stark (Downey Jr) is amusingly narcissistic, Thor (Hemsworth) is a vengeful foreigner, Black Widow (Johansson) is menthol cool and sexy as hell, and unlike in her previous appearance, she is smart and suave. There’s an interesting twist to Hawkeye’s (Renner) character, but Mark Ruffalo brings a wonderful new shade to Bruce Banner and really steals the show as the Hulk. And miraculously, each character feels spot on and it's insanely fun to see these guys having their arguments. In one scene Stark in a pseudo Shakespearian theater voice mocks Thor by asking him why he is wearing his mother’s clothes. The big assemble in the second half and the scene preceding it makes you want to tear your shirt off and scream in ecstasy.
That’s not to say the special effects aren’t present – they’re colossal and eye popping, and there are plenty of bigger than life moments. In fact the whole second half is one ambitious action scene grander than all the other Marvel movies put together. Hiddleston makes a very interesting villain, and a scene involving him and the Hulk towards the end will leave your face with the widest possible grin. Samuel L Jackson is his usual pulpy self and Whedon goes one step further and gives Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) a meatier role. The film wasn’t shot in 3D, and though it’s well done, you’ll garner the most enjoyment in bright and colorful 2D.
The Avengers took almost fifty years to appear on screen together, and the wait has indeed been worthwhile. It’s one of the most entertaining movies ever made - it’s total delight to just sit back and enjoy the fireworks.
(First published in Mid Day)