Saturday, 28 April 2012

I wasn't too bothered when the title for the British release of Joss Whedon's superhero ensemble was changed from The Avengers to Avengers Assemble, in order to avoid confusion with the classic 60s TV series and its "classic" 90s film adaptation. It isn't a bad title at all - there's a kind of energy to it which draws you in, making people assemble at the cinema as if they wouldn't anyway - nor is it a bad reason to change the title (is it, producers of John Carter OF MARS?).

As well as the title, there's actually a film. Yes, finally. After the tour de force of a marketing campaign for a film which included five films. And now it's here. And it's a good film. But not as excellent as you'd hope from something first hinted at so, so long ago, in the days of Iron Man.

And that very man is back, assembling with Captain America, Thor, and the Hulk to battle evil god Loki, and joined by Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson and the bloke from The Hurt Locker, whose job is to make everything a little less camp. There's also a plot, involving Loki stealing a glowing blue box which has incredible powers of drawing people together to blow shit up so that they can get their hands on its incredible powers.

No, I didn't really give a damn about the box either, but, despite this, each character has a well-defined arc with some degree of actual depth and development – a surprise given that most of the films leading up to it were so flat. Captain America's dealing with having slept in a bit, Thor's got family issues, and Iron Man has his relationship with his ridiculously-named assistant. Even perhaps less major characters, like Black Widow and Agent Coulson, have their own stories, expanding the film's appeal beyond pure "wow, that's cool" even if not allowing the kind of thematic depth a more focused film could have. The weak link is Loki's alien army, who have no personality, no motivation, and no purpose except to provide opportunities for massive fight scenes. 

They are very nice looking massive fight scenes, though. Whedon has a talent for crafting incredibly detailed, immersive and fluid action sequences which, despite being CGI-heavy, are a joy to watch. A long tracking shot through the climactic New York City battle is a particular highlight.

The Firefly writer-director also recognises that there's a lot of humour to be drawn from bringing together the well-known characters and creates a lot of very funny moments, mainly consisting of the Hulk punching things or Robert Downey Jr. saying things.

All things considered, however, Avengers Assemble, while a fun and diverting spectacle, doesn’t come close to matching the power and resonance of Chris Nolan’s Batman films. Which all superhero films have to be compared to now. Bring on The Dark Knight Rises.


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