by Rob Simpson
The Incredible Hulk, Iron man 1 & 2, Thor and Captain America, all of these Marvel produced superhero films were made with their own aspirations and goals most of which were achieved to varying levels. Alongside each pictures own aims, Marvel created its own self-sustaining hype machine. An added allure that fanned the flames of anticipation at the prospect of all these superheroes coming together to fight with each other. The fact is finally here, the massively anticipated avengers written and directed by Joss Whedon is here. Typically such a weight of expectation would suffocate most films, which makes it all the more satisfying to confirm that this ensemble blockbuster is everything fans wanted.
Nick Fury (Jackson), the director of S.H.I.E.L.D., assembles the group of superheroes, almost making those post-credits sequences in the earlier Marvel films redundant, almost, but not quite. Loki (Hiddleston) is back from banishment at the end of Thor and he is here to liberate the tesseract for an unknown alien race. The tesseract was established in the post-credits sequence of Thor and there is a war on the cards between these invaders and the avengers for control of earth and the mysterious energy source. Story might play second to spectacle, nevertheless unlike other superhero movies, the avengers was written by someone who understands the characters and understands story.
While it is true, the development put into any of the avengers other than Black Widow is minimal and kept to the growth of the group. There is still a fresh angle on the characters, thanks to the nature of the situation. The star is the incredible hulk, Mark Ruffalo, the third actor in three films, and the one who perfects the green beast. His entrance serves as his statement of intent, after that he gets some uncharacteristic one-liners. When the ‘other guy’ turns up, the already high-octane film goes up by a few notches and the comedy reaches his zenith. Tony Stark might be more broadly comedic, but the biggest laughs easily belong to Bruce Banner’s other half. Of the other avengers, Captain America serves as the moral compass and Chris Hemsworth’s Thor features far too sparingly.
The most interesting aspect of Thor returns in the Avengers and that is Loki. Unlike the traditional superhero villain archetype, he is not all-powerful, he is fallible. His motivation is not like the joker of the dark knight who just wanted to see the world burn or the militaristic supremacy of Abomination; he is merely a man who yearns for his old life, making his character arc easier to become invested in.
Elsewhere the film has Whedon’s signature all over it, there is a strong female lead in Johansson’s Black Widow. Who in any other film wouldn’t need any development when she is wearing that figure hugging leather suit. There are also 1990s pop culture references in Tony Stark’s (Downey Jr.) sarcastic wit and many attempts at madcap humour, some more successful than others.
Characters come and go in this film unequivocally centred on the spectacle of the final hour. Before that there are many action packed scenes. In the energetic second act, 10/15 minutes would have been committed to the spectacle instead takes up a larger stretch as it’s here where we first see how finely balanced the group dynamic is and how well they eventually play off each other in the superbly chaotic final act.
A final act sees the 6 men and women of the avengers faced with hundreds if not thousands of faceless monsters. The explosions, the energy all of it packs a huge punch. It’s a payoff that gives everyone a moment to shine. While it’s true that the sense of threat is minimal even in sight of insurmountable odds and faceless enemies, the film is still the true definition of thrilling, heart-racing cinema. Sadly mere moments after the dust has settled an irksome non sequitur of news footage detailing the fallout and wreckage unfolds in a overtly saccharine way. Which feels cheesy when the past hour was spent creating a finely tuned balance of chaos and euphoria.
After years of terrible spectacle centric blockbusters, Joss Whedon’s Avengers makes it all worth it. The comedy, the characters, and a final hour which is nothing less than jaw dropping, it’s a hugely satisfying film that will have comic book fans in an unadulterated state of glee for weeks. It’s not often that a film delivers upon the hype so conclusively that it makes most other comic book films seem relatively sedate. The best bit? It’s the film that all of us incredible hulk fans have waited years for.