wed 13/11/2019

Avengers Assemble | reviews, news & interviews

Avengers Assemble

Avengers Assemble

It’s that man Joss Whedon again, this time at the helm of a superior superhero stew

D'ya wanna be in our gang? The Avengers assemble

The long-threatened Avengers Assemble (in the US simply The Avengers) is an appositely extravagant big screen adaptation of the Marvel comic book sensation. More importantly for many, it’s an amalgam of several superhero film franchises, making it a great excuse to pile star upon star. Written and directed by cult favourite Joss Whedon, it really is a fanboy’s dream. Perhaps you’re relishing the prospect already, but even those for whom it sounds like a load of “crash, bang, wallops” may find themselves pleasantly surprised. Despite a predictably nonsensical plot, Avengers Assemble rises above the usual histrionic heroics by refusing to take itself remotely seriously - in a way that’s canny and engaging, with snappy banter and a cast that predominantly play ball.

Avengers Assemble is based on the Marvel Comics series created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, featuring a team of superheroes drawn from across the comic universe. The film brings together a quartet of these independently iconic, indestructible beefcakes, whose recent cinematic outings have looked forward to this collaboration. Avengers Assemble represents the sixth film in what is known as the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The first five features are (in order of release): Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger. This series of films exist within a “shared fictional space”, allowing characters to drop into each others’ films or – as the more cynical might see it – it’s a business model which allows profit to trigger profit to trigger profit.

And so our all-star line-up comprises: Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth, pictured below right), Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and that mean green mother, The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo, pictured right as the motion capture monster, taking over from Edward Norton and, before him, Eric Bana). They’re thrust together alongside S.H.I.E.L.D. agents, Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) in order to fend off an intergalactic threat, spearheaded by Thor’s errant brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston, pictured below left, a “mwa ha ha” villain if there ever was one). Loki has made off with the Tesseract (or Cosmic Cube) a much referenced and squabbled over source of unlimited power and, in his plan to bring mankind to its knees, Loki has joined forces with the dastardly alien race the Chitauri. Presiding over The Avengers’ earth-protecting efforts with his one ardent eye is the director of S.H.I.E.L.D., Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson).

Whedon’s previous experience with wisecracking ensemble casts in both film and TV (he’s the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly and its spin-off movie Serenity) pays dividends and he scores a significant win by including plenty of repartee and ruthlessly mining each character’s core characteristics for humour. So the villainous Loki is like a petulant child, consumed by sibling rivalry; Captain American (described by his last adversary as a “simpleton with a shield”) is an old man in a young man’s body - an unearthed senior struggling to face a technologically baffling present; Thor is a pompous, ludicrously attired poser; Hulk a lumbering irritable goon; and, bringing them all crashing down to earth is Iron Man, the affable arsehole.

Performance-wise, Downey Jr. fares best with the irreverent tone, Hemsworth and Evans are likably daft, Jackson makes for an appropriately authoritative and exasperated leader, there’s a nice cameo from Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts and Hiddleston is a vigorous villain. On the other hand Johansson may have comic-book voluptuousness and ample arse-kicking opportunities but she’s positively bland, and Renner and Ruffalo’s considerable talents are, for the most part, squished.

 

With regards to the action, Avengers Assemble has nowhere to go in the spectacle stakes; its cinematic precursors are films which are - given the limitless potential of CGI and trend for assaulting the audience – impossibly, almost tediously spectacular. Although Whedon presents the action competently and coherently (thankfully he doesn’t quite go in for Michael Bay-style “fucking the frame”), seeing New York totalled in film is becoming desperately old hat; Independence Day was sixteen years ago and Hollywood has been digitally destroying The Big Apple ever since, even after its gut-wrenching real-life devastation. Furthermore, the plot is idiotic and - given the wealth of superhero infighting (which is predominantly more entertaining than the battles with baddies) - it often plays out like a live-action version of Marvel Top Trumps.

For some fans Whedon’s approach will be a little too arch; his excellent, similarly subversive The Cabin in the Woods (which he co-wrote and produced) rubbed some horror traditionalists up the wrong way and there may be those who don’t want to see their heroes made fun of, however affectionately. Yet Avengers Assemble provides a welcome contrast to some of the more po-faced blockbusters we’ve seen so far this year (step forward John Carter and Battleship).

Despite an unpromising start which sees its weaker characters flounder at the fore, appropriately, it all comes together once The Avengers have assembled. The action gives just enough bang for your buck but it’s the squabbling and silliness that really makes this film fly - and that this mainstream effort finds time for a Harry Dean Stanton cameo means it scores big points with this reviewer. With Whedon at the reins, unbelievably too many superheroes fail to spoil the broth. Perhaps that’s not exactly a glowing endorsement but, really, it could’ve been so much worse.

  • Avengers Assemble is in cinemas from Friday

Follow @EmmaSimmonds on Twitter

Watch the trailer for Avengers Assemble

Whedon includes plenty of repartee and ruthlessly mines each character's core characteristics for humour

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

Explore topics

Share this article

Comments

I enjoyed the movie far more than I thought I would thanks to some great action scenes in the second half and some decent jokes.

" it could’ve been so much worse" Heavens, there's no pleasing some folk. I thought it was head and shoulders above any other superhero film I've seen (I watched Edward Norton's Hulk the night before, which was appalling) and I'm not really a fan of the genre. Honestly, for the kind of film it is, I can't see how it could be much better. It's perfect big screen entertainment. And I'm looking forward to seeing Mark Ruffalo in his own Hulk film. As long as Joss Whedon is at the helm.

Add comment

Subscribe to theartsdesk.com

Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £3.95 per month or £30 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters

Advertising feature

★★★★★

A compulsive, involving, emotionally stirring evening – theatre’s answer to a page-turner.
The Observer, Kate Kellaway

 

Direct from a sold-out season at Kiln Theatre the five star, hit play, The Son, is now playing at the Duke of York’s Theatre for a strictly limited season.

 

★★★★★

This final part of Florian Zeller’s trilogy is the most powerful of all.
The Times, Ann Treneman

 

Written by the internationally acclaimed Florian Zeller (The Father, The Mother), lauded by The Guardian as ‘the most exciting playwright of our time’, The Son is directed by the award-winning Michael Longhurst.

 

Book by 30 September and get tickets from £15*
with no booking fee.