In the words of the great Peter Griffin: "holy freakin' crap!"
Think Christmas, think Grand Final Day, think that first drink on a Friday afternoon. Now imagine all of those things put together and you might have The Avengers. Whether you knew much about the Marvel Universe before Iron Man or not, Samuel L. Jackson's post-credits cameo wet our appetites for something ‘big’ and it’s been building for four years over a further four movies and now, it’s finally here...and it does not disappoint. Sorry, let me rephrase – it was f*ckin’ awesome!
That in itself, is its greatest achievement. I mean, the more potential an Avengers movie had, the greater the chances it would fail. What else could be expected of an idea that brings together four headline acts and hopes that they work even better as one? After all, we’ve seen the multiple hero thing tried before – think Fantastic Four, or the so-bad-it’s-still-kinda-bad Batman & Robin – but it’s never worked. It seemed that, to give each character enough time to establish themselves wasn’t possible – at least short of making a movie so long no one would sit through it.
And sure, we’ve seen each of the four in their own origin movies but, that was never going to guarantee they’d all work in one two-and-a-bit-hour movie. The mould, however, is definitely broken here.
From the first scene, The Avengers grabs your attention and doesn't let go. It's the longest Marvel movie so far, but I can’t remember a dull moment, even in the frequent and lengthy dialogue scenes. Anyone worried that the script would become a second priority to punches and explosions can take a breath. Writer / Director Joss “cares about the characters first” Whedon makes the banter almost as entertaining as the action itself...well, maybe not, but it's great nonetheless.
As you'd expect, Robert Downey Jr. has the best lines but the surprise package actually comes in the way of Mark Ruffalo. He takes over from Edward Norton as Bruce Banner/Hulk, but unlike Norton (or even Eric Bana in the unrelated Hulk) Ruffalo's Banner is less of a depressed loner and more a guy who's learning to laugh at his f#cked up situation. But, after all, he is in similar company.
The story sees Loki, brother of the mighty Thor, appear on Earth. He's looking for the Tesseract, a powerful weapon once held by his father and more recently used by the Red Skull in Captain America. With it he plans to bring an alien army across the universe to rule Earth. If you saw last year’s Transformers: Dark of The Moon, it’s basically the same evil plan. Thankfully that’s where the similarities end. It’s much deeper than that. I guess to understand why, you need to have seen Thor. If the only movie of the five in the ‘series’ that you have seen is Iron Man, you're in for a very confusing and likely unsatisfying ride.
Actually, I dare say that the only unnecessary movie in your preparation would be The Incredible Hulk. Knowing that he goes green when he’s angry should be enough to get you through (I say that with the utmost respect, I quite enjoyed TIH). To a lesser extent, Iron Man 2 isn’t a must-see for Avengers build up either. Thor definitely is. Not only to know who the hell Loki is and why he’s so pissed off but, like I said, if you’ve only seen the grounded-in-our-reality Iron Man, going into The Avengers,which starts with two non-human creatures talking on what looks like a slow moving meteorite in the far reaches of space, you’re gonna have a hard time getting your head around the fact that these movies do share the same universe. Captain America should also be on the list, otherwise his “old fashioned” character might just seem a tad more ridiculous than it should, coz he’s pretty much front and centre here.
Fanboys cried foul that we’d see Loki as the main villain for a second time, but I reckon he is absolutely necessary to bring the team together, the very reason for the movie’s story: how four super-beings put aside their sizable differences to fight alongside each other. The team might just be able to take Loki out, but Thor’s not into that – he doesn’t believe Loki’s beyond saving. It’s one of the many conflicting interests that makes their feuds absolutely believable. It doesn't take long to see that Iron Man doesn't like Captain America, Captain America doesn't like Iron Man, the Hulk doesn't trust anyone of them and Thor thinks them all little - how is this ever gonna work?
But is does. And thank God! If this movie could be described in one word, it would be ‘epic’. Yes we’ve seen more alien invasion movies than we care to count but The Avengers soars past them. The script has been well looked after. There might be plenty of one-liners heard in the trailer, but it’s not all like that. It’s actually funny. By far funnier than any of the five that have come before it and it’s not all up to Tony Stark! But the laughs are well placed.
If the fact that The Avengers doesn’t disappoint is its greatest achievement, then its balance comes in second. Joss Whedon has managed to handle four massive characters, a horde of little ones, a cunning villain, work them into a movie that is both relentlessly action packed, intriguing, funny and - in one of the more memorable moments – quite sad. If you’re here to see action though; sit up close and hold on – it is bat-sh*t crazy!
But…there will always be let downs, however few there may be. One would be Loki’s aforementioned plan. It might be the ideal situation to beg for such a team-up, but we’ve seen it before. And not only was it last year, but it’s not overly complex, or creative. Another would be a revelation that aids the Avengers towards the end of the fight. I won’t reveal what it is, but it can be described as a miraculous, convenient stroke of luck. The last is something so small considering the concept of the movie. Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow is not super powered. She is merely a (in fairness, well trained) human, but at one point does something surely even she is incapable of. Leave the amazing feats up to the titular supermen, please.
I also wasn’t thrilled that Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye gets so little to do, but within the story of the movie, it kinda makes sense.
However…such problems are basically little fish in a big pond. Overall I couldn’t give a damn. They are thrown in amongst everything else that is so well balanced that they’re hardly a cause for argument.
The Avengers is epic, over-the-top, ridiculous, cheesy...and bloody brilliant! (It doesn’t hurt to have kick-ass 3D either!) Not only may it have set the standard for this years blockbusters, but it may have set it too high.
Although, a troubled man in a bat costume may have different thoughts.