When making a cake, experience tells us that throwing every tasty thing you can think of into the mix doesn’t necessarily give you the tastiest spongy-based confection of all time. What are we to think of The Avengers then? Aside from a clarifying or baffling name change in the UK (depending on your generation) to Marvel’s Avengers Assemble, the film represents the film equivalent of putting all of your eggs, sugar and everything else in one mixing bowl and baking it for two hours.
The build up to the film has been epic, and anyone who hasn’t seen the films which introduce our misfit band of heroes would do well to familiarise themselves beforehand. The characters are all likeable enough for a first impression though, and Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner/Hulk manages to fit in effortlessly despite not playing the character in his hero (or monster) origin story.
The threat which brings the Avengers together is orchestrated by demi-god Loki, brother of the thunder-happy Thor. Loki intends to rule the world (yep, that old chestnut), with help from an outer-space army of grisly evil creatures called the Chitauri., who will send an army to conquer and leave Loki to be in charge of what is left of humanity.
With all of the big guns in play, it’s a fast-paced film, leaving little time for character arcs or deep and moving moments, but director Joss Weedon knows how to work an ensemble cast (not least from his work on sci-fi cult classic Firefly) and makes sure no one seems left out.
The comedy element of the film is distinctly more pronounced than its predecessors, with almost every character getting a zinging one-liner at some point or other – even the Hulk had the audience laughing out loud on occasion. Love-to-hate villain Loki (played to perfection by Tom Hiddleston) takes the crown in an exchange between him and brother Thor (Chris Hemsworth). Thor is understandably unhappy with his younger brother’s behaviour, and the pair proceed to have a verbal sparring match in a murky wood, culminating in Thor brandishing his iconic hammer with fire and brimstone and howling at Loki to listen well. Immediately Thor is bowled over by an airborn Captain America (Chris Evans) and flings out of sight, leaving Loki to remark: “Erm…I’m listening.”
Newcomer Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) has a hard time of it, spending most of the time on the wrong team, but manages the most memorable emotional scene in the film and some equally impressive action with his signature bow.
Despite the obvious dangers, things are kept in the balance so the film expertly avoids becoming ‘Iron Man and friends’. The effortlessly charismatic Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark manages to fit in with the team in exactly the right way, still up to his usual cheeky and reckless ways, but not to the extent that the audience becomes irritated and impatient, a fact which makes the climax’s emotional weight.
Supporting players from SHIELD like Nick Fury (helpfully pointed out as Samuel L. Jackson in the opening credits, just in case we missed it) and Agent Coulson, who is finally blessed with a first name, continue to impress. Particularly striking is the Avengers’ home base the SHIELD Helicarrier, which serves as one of the most diverse and action-packed sets in the film.
The film succeeds in being more than the sum of its parts. It might not be the most remarkable story in the world, but the balance, pacing, drama and action are all just right, making the film the defining superhero flick of the decade…at least until Spidey and The Bat return.
James Michael Parry