I had my doubts, I really had my doubts.
I’m no Marvel ‘fan boy’, I’ve seen the comics… but I was never really into them as a kid. In fact, as a kid, my super hero world consisted of ‘The Incredible Hulk’ TV show with Bill Bixby, the Spiderman TV show with Nicholas Hammond (which I loved – but after seeing a few clips on You Tube recently, made me wonder what I found so appealing!) – and the Superman movies with the legendary Christopher Reeve. Back then I had not heard of Iron Man or Thor, I was blissfully unaware of the majority of the Marvel universe until Hollywood starting chucking the films out about a decade ago.
Of course in recent years I’d been to see every Marvel movie (Hulk, Iron Man 1 & 2, captain America etc..) and slowly became aware of a bigger story… involving an organisation called S.H.I.E.L.D and something called the Avengers initiative. My geekier friends explained that the Avengers were in fact all the superheroes teamed up together to fight a common enemy. I didn’t think it would work, in fact I thought it would be disastrous and cheesy. An opinion I stood by until I saw the second trailer …my interest was piqued, although I hadn’t even intended going to the cinema to see this. I though Prometheus would be ‘the ticket’ this summer… and then one of my friends called on Friday night, “want to go and see The Avengers tomorrow?” I thought about it for 0.02 seconds* then said yes.
We went to a late showing and it was busy… usually a good sign.
I won’t cover the plot in too much detail here, I think most people know the basics and part of the fun of any movie is following the story as you go.
Right, let’s cut to the chase… this film blew me away. Not in a run-of-the-mill, ‘yeah that was a good/awesome/great film’ kind of way, but in a ‘holy sh*t… what did I just witness’, mind blowing awesome kind of way! Films these days feel very like a very disposable commodity, over-marketing and general over-hype tend to build a film up in such a way that it can never live up to the promise and even when it does, 24 hours later you’ve forgotten most of it already. The Avengers is not like that, three days later I’m still excited, not only do I want to go and see it again, I want all my friends to go and see it, so I can talk about it and share the experience. I haven’t felt like that since the summer of ’84 when I saw Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom 12 times!**
In my opinion there is not a bad note in the film, every character gets good screen time and good dialogue, no one feels like an afterthought. The baddies are bad, the goodies are good and the special effect are indeed special!
There are a fair few characters here to cover, even before we start talking about the actual Avengers, the supporting charcters, who we’ve all met before – Nick Fury, Agent Coulson, Pepper Potts, Selvig etc… they are all here and each is dealt with expertly. It feels great to see all these people again and watch as their threads and story arcs come together and in some cases reach a conclusion.
What about the Avengers themselves, is the film big enough for six heros… well they are utterly fantastic( and not in a non-fantastic way like the Fantasic Four). They all have some really great scenes, but it’s Robert Downey Jr (who a few years ago I could take or leave)as Tony Stark who’s a revelation. In the Iron Man movies as Tony Stark he reinvented himself and portrayed it brilliantly, here he takes it to a whole new level. Having other bigger ego’s to play off gives him more scope and he ramps his character up to an 11! Some of the funniest lines in the movie come from Tony Stark. His cool/calm/humorous demeanour will become a role model for forty-somethings everywhere***
If Tony Stark has the funniest lines, then Hulk has the funniest moments, I won’t ruin them – but two particular scenes had the audience at my cinema absolutely howling with laughter and cheering. This is Marvel’s third attempt to find ‘their’ Hulk and I think they’ve finally cracked it. Mark Ruffalo is fantastic, he plays Dr. Banner so laid back and quiet – the exact opposite of his alter ego (The ‘other guy’ as he calls him). I’m a big fan of Ang Lee’s Hulk****, but I didn’t really care for the Edward Norton version. This Hulk however ticks all the boxes, making him more than incredible, finally, he is credible!
Chris Evans as Captain America plays his character really well, you still get the sense he is a man ‘out of time’ and struggling to deal with this chaotic modern world he has woken up in. Cap’ has some great tense action scenes with Tony Stark and comes across as the most level headed of the group, a natural leader. My initial reaction after seeing a still from the movie, was that I didn’t like his
uniform costume compared to his previous version in ‘The First Avenger’, but in this context it works and actually once he gets it dirty and a bit of battle damage on it, it works well.
Thor was the character I thought would be hardest to get to work, he’s a hard sell. In fact it was this that almost prevented me from seeing the Thor movie, it seemed almost too ‘Lord of the Ringsesque’ to be an action comic book movie. I was wrong – I saw it and enjoyed it, but I still wasn’t sure how he’d ‘fit’ with the other superheroes.
Effectively a (demi)god from another planet, with magic powers, Thor is a very fantastical character compared to the others*****but, somehow he works. The ground work laid down in the Thor movie helps to buy in to the character and his otherworldy origin. In fact having Thor in the Avengers ensemble is a complete necessity for the film to work, aside from the fact that his adopted brother is the main protagonist, once you can accept Thor and his origin it then becomes so much easier to suspend your disbelief and lose yourself to the plot involving portals to other dimensions and alien invasion. There is no doubt that this storyline would have seemed preposterous and insulting to the audience if it had been the story for say, Iron Man 2 or Hulk a couple of years ago, before the introduction of Thor. Here it not only works, but works well.
The CGI is almost faultless, it really is exceptional. The action scenes are all well thought out and you never(unlike Transformers for example) loose sight of whats going on. I saw this in 2D, I’m not against 3D.. but if it’s not filmed in 3D, and is added in post-production then it’s an instant no from me******
The bottom line
There is action (lots of it), humor- more than I expected and it all works; there are about 6 or 7 really big laughs. It packs an emotional wallop too, there are two or three really key emotional scenes. There is some great character work – you are literally cheering these guys on with all your heart.
If audience approval is anything to go by, then the clapping, cheering and laughter from the showing I attended says it all. Even if you’re not a Marvel/comic fan you must see this for the spectacle, it may be a little confusing to those that haven’ t seen any of the other films, but I believe you could go into this with zero prior knowledge and still have a good time.
As much as I want another, I hope they are sensible and leave it for a while, get a good story, secure all the actors and Joss Whedon as director and take their time to develop another film, equal in quality to this.
9.0“Unexpectedly this film made me feel like a kid again, it made me feel excited about movies in a way I thought lost forever, and for that alone it gets high marks from me.”
P.S In the UK, the movie is ludicrously titled “Marvel Avengers Assemble” rather than simply “The Avengers”. If you’re wondering why, may I suggest you read this (scroll to the bottom)
* May not be accurate.
** It’s true – don’t hold it against me.
*** Including me
****A very misunderstood film – but even I won’t defend the last 10 minutes!
***** Yep – even Hulk – at least they tried to explain his origin scientifically.
****** Blame Clash of the Titans – once bitten…