Published on May 1st, 2012 | by Matthew Gammond14
The Avengers – Review
Love Actually, Ocean’s Eleven and Pulp Fiction; all are films that have successfully wrangled the difficulty of roping together a large amount of big-name actors playing big-name roles and forming a coherent and unbiased piece of cinema.
This was the task that was given to Joss Whedon when he signed on to direct The Avengers; he had to pull together a band of A-listers playing some of the most important comicbook characters into one film and do it in such a way that no-one drew the short straw. Arguably, this challenge was harder than any given to the directors of the aforementioned films as each of the characters in The Avengers are major in their own special way, some more than others admittedly. If Whedon failed this then the film would have been a disaster. No amount of CGI-strewn action sequences could have saved it if the characters were not balanced, with dialogue and relevance fairly shared out.
But don’t forget… this is Joss Whedon we are talking about here; a man who has made a living from crafting characters and forming teams with them, so his role as director was perfectly chosen. If anyone could do it, then it was him and I’m glad to report that he most definitely has completed his task. The Avengers is spot-on.
As someone who has yet to see 2011’s Thor, I was initially worried as a large amount of The Avengers’ plot is derived in one way or another from the events in that film. Thankfully, not too much was expected to be known already and people who haven’t seen Thor will still understand what is going on with Loki (Tom Hiddlestone) thanks to some very handy exposition.
In a nutshell, Loki is using a cube of unimaginable energy known as the Tesseract as a bargaining tool with an alien race called the Chitauri. In exchange for the cube, these funky aliens will help Loki in conquering the Earth and appointing him as the dictator of the human race… and The Avengers are assembled to stop this happening.
Simple enough, but not too simple to suggest that no thought has been put in whatsoever; and whilst this is the overall plot that is running the show, Whedon allows us to view the separate stories of each character as the film progresses.
This is where Whedon comes into his own; his knack for creating dialogue scenes that both inform and entertain is well-known. It served him well in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and it works even better here. The banter that is thrown around between these ego-filled heroes provided some of the best moments in the film, with the audience in the cinema around me bursting into laughter on several occasions.
The friction between Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and Captain America (Chris Evans) creates real tension and humour, with the cocky Tony Stark often subverting the militaristic-focused Steve Rogers at almost every turn. In fact, there are some scenes that are crafted for humour alone, none more so than the ‘love’ scenes between Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) and Captain America. They were charming, hilarious and helped ease the viewer into the scenes where they had to try and focus on more than one main character at a time.
The first third of the movie is spent pulling all of these characters together and explaining to them exactly what mischief Loki is up to. This was the part I was worried about; I thought that it would be a rushed section of the plot and would leave a lot to be desired but it was handled perfectly. Each character (with the exception of Hawkeye, played by Jeremy Renner) is explained and directly interacted with by the other characters in this opening third and you come out of this section feeling as though you know each and every one of them.
Of course, with personalities so broad and egos so big, there was bound to be a conflict between them. This forces the viewer to ask a question: will they pull together and save the Earth or will they fall apart under the weight of their own arrogance?
Thankfully, and obviously, they put their differences aside and team up to help stop this alien invasion from conquering the planet, with the film conforming to the main action movie stereotype; a few pitched skirmishes throughout the film all leading up to one huge battle at the end. It’s a simple structure and one that works as it gives each character an opportunity to shine.
The action sequences in this film are nothing short of spectacular. Watching an invasion fleet appear through a portal over Manhattan is amazing. Even better is watching Iron Man kick the ass out of the first wave of aliens with a fantastic tracking shot from beneath him. Hell, this scene, which lasts for about 45 minutes is so perfectly filmed and choreographed that it’ll have you on the edge of your seat for the full duration.
Explosions, gunfights, hand-to-hand combat - it’s all included. A slight concern is that I immediately felt sorry for Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye who, whilst kicking some alien rear, felt underpowered… like the gun in Call of Duty that you never use. They have their uses, but watching them being pinned down on the street whilst Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) singlehandedly takes down some badass alien hydra robot thing leaves you wondering why they are even in the Avengers.
Still, they both have their moments in the sun, though Hawkeye seems to get the short end of the stick when it comes to screen time; he’s definitely the most underused character in the film, which is a crying shame.
Those two aside, watching the others rip into this invasion force is truly amazing to watch, with some fantastic camera shots skipping from character to character with no cuts, allowing the viewers to take in all the action and to really immerse them in the drama, as well as showing off the truly epic sense of scale.
I must admit that I was hoping for Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) to have a bit more limelight. He has a hell of a lot more than Hawkeye, but the fact that he is restricted to a ‘commanding-from-far-away’ role makes him feel isolated and his value in the film is reduced even though he is the guy running the show. Well, him and the ominous council; a panel of shadowed seniors that are barking orders from behind a computer monitor – a plot point so often used it is beyond cliché. Then again, you need some sort of ‘inside threat’ for the characters to deal with; that’s just the way cinema works these days.
All of the characters themselves are perfectly acted, with not a bad fish amongst them. I have to give the top prize to Tom Hiddlestone though, who’s portrayal of Loki is perfect. He’s sinister and constantly lures you into a false sense of security. His brother, Thor (Chris Hemsworth), speaks a bit too cheesily for me, as is the way with Asgardian dialogue, but he is believable and comes across well. Just.
In fact, every character comes across fine. Their dialogue is great and suits each of them down to the ground. They all get to act in different situations, whether it be a dramatic action scene or a more talkative sequence – the full range of the actors’ talents are tested… including Scarlett Johansson’s ability to rock a tight leather suit, something which Whedon focuses on a lot. You’ll see what I mean when you watch the film!
It’s a shame that the one scene in the film that could be described as emotional really isn’t. I could see what Whedon was trying to achieve but it just didn’t work and none of the characters really relayed their thoughts on the situation to me in a lifelike way. Perhaps because this scene is used as a springboard for the rest of the plot Whedon didn’t want to hang around with ooey gooey emotions… I guess I could use that as an excuse.
At the end of the day, these small quibbles should be overlooked. The Avengers is a brilliant film that has easily met and exceeded my expectations. It’s the culmination of over four years of superhero movies and the obvious awesomeness that you’d expect from such a film is abundant.
It’s a perfect blend of humour, dialogue and action with the door left wide open for a sequel. For once, a film has lived up to the hype and I can’t wait for the next entry in what is sure to become an epic series.
Summary: It was always going to be tough to make this movie, but Joss Whedon has done a fine job. He found the right balance between character building, hilarity and action and very nearly made the perfect film. Stunning set pieces, witty writing, fine pacing and just enough hero interaction make The Avengers one of the very best movies in a saturated genre.