Benjamin has been reviewing films for sixteen years and has seen more action movies than he should probably admit to!
What's the big deal?
Avengers Assemble (or simply The Avengers as it was called in the US) is an epic superhero film released in 2012 and features every superhero featured so far in Marvel's Cinematic Universe from Iron Man to Captain America: The First Avenger. It is the sixth film produced by Marvel Studios and ends the Phase One of Marvel's Cinematic Universe (MCU), a single continuity that links each and every Marvel release. Written and directed by Joss Whedon, it was a huge smash critically and commercially, taking well over $1 billion at the box office and remains one of the highest grossing films in history. It also served as a launchpad for Phase Two which started with Iron Man 3 the following year as well as Marvel's own TV show, Agents Of SHIELD. It is, quite frankly, the comic book movie to end all comic book movies.
What's it about?
Having recovered the Tesseract and discovering that it is a portal to another realm, Nick Fury and the forces of SHIELD are forced onto the back foot when Loki appears on Earth to claim the Tesseract for himself. Using his manipulative powers via his staff, Loki possesses Hawkeye and Dr Selvig and makes off with the Tesseract. Fury has no other choice but to begin the Avengers Initiative, uniting Tony Stark with Natasha Romanoff (aka Black Widow), Steve Rogers aka Captain America and Dr Bruce Banner, the scientist containing the rampaging Hulk within. After unexpectedly encountering Thor, the Avengers must formulate a plan to prevent Loki from destroying the world.
But it isn't that simple. Each member of the Avengers has their own weaknesses and egos and together, they make a pretty deadly mix. And when Loki himself begins to interfere and manipulate them, is there any hope for Earth's mightiest heroes in the face of Loki's vast alien army en route to Earth?
Robert Downey Jr.
Tony Stark / Iron Man
Steve Rogers / Captain America
Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow
Clint Barton / Hawkeye
Dr Bruce Banner / Hulk *
Samuel L Jackson
Director Nick Fury
Agent Phil Coulson
Agent Maria Hill
Dr Erik Selvig
World Security Council member
Joss Whedon *
Release Date (UK)
26th April, 2012
Action, Adventure, Superhero, Sci-Fi
Academy Award Nomination
Best Visual Effects
What's to like?
You might have felt somewhat jaded about superhero films, given that this is Marvel Studios' sixth release in a little over four years. Not a bit of it - the entire film is packed to the rafters with characters we know and love, action sequences that are both brilliant and imaginative, a plot that manages to encompass the entire MCU up to this point and also some of the best and wittiest dialogue I can recall hearing. We know that Downey Jr. can deliver one-liners with next to no effort but the rest of the cast step up as well meaning everyone has a chance to make you laugh. Even Hiddleston's classy baddie has his moments and he's the villain. Villains aren't supposed to make you laugh, are they? There is so much joy and fun in the picture that it occasionally threatens to derail it.
The story might not be the easiest to follow, especially if you're not familiar with other MCU Phase One films. But for once, an epic occasion deserves an epic plot and Avengers Assemble never fails to deliver. The MCU is turned on its head in this film, giving it a real scope and level of interest that might not have been there if it was your standard megalomaniac-ruling-the-world angle. The effects are also top-notch from Thor's colourful descent from Asgard to the impressive Heli Carrier lifting up from the sea. Newcomer Ruffalo's take on Banner / Hulk is also so much better than Edward Norton managed in The Incredible Hulk and he slots in perfectly into an already overcrowded cast list.
But what I really love is that despite the fights, explosions and ever-expanding list of characters to remember, it still feels like a feature-length comic book experience. Compared to Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy, this is light, colourful, noisy and hyperkinetic fluff - which is exactly as it should be. Too many superhero films spend more time looking at the character beneath the mask and questions their motivations or flaws. Marvel aren't interested in that and I hope they continue to do so. If I want navel-gazing then I'll look up Batman Begins. If you want fun and excitement then this is the film for you.
- Chris Evans sent everyone in the cast a text message that simply read "Assemble!" which led to a night out. Clark Gregg has said this was his favourite ever text he's received.
- Samuel L Jackson becomes only the second actor after Hugh Jackman to appear as the same character in five different superhero movies.
- Tony Stark sometimes calls other characters names with a movie connotation. Loki is called Reindeer Games, Thor is called Point Break and Hawkeye is called 'Legolas', the elven warrior played by Orlando Bloom in the Lord Of The Rings trilogy.
What's not to like?
No film is ever perfect and indeed, there are a few changes I would have made. I wanted to know more about Hawkeye and to have him as the zombified henchman of Loki felt a bit of a waste (thankfully, an oversight rectified in the sequel Avengers: Age Of Ultron). I also wanted to understand more of Loki's scheme which felt as though it was hastily written but with enough drip-fed pieces of information for the fan-boys to figure it out and not the rest of us.
Apart from these impossibly minor niggles, I'm struggling to think of any other flaws with the film. It's unusual to have a movie which is so much fun - I can't remember a film which shocked and entertained me as much as Avengers Assemble. This is pure, escapist brilliance.
Should I watch it?
The question should be "Why haven't you watched it already?" This is arguably Whedon's finest hour and certainly the best superhero film of all time. From the opening scenes, you're gripped and strapped into an epic adventure of the sorts that only Marvel could produce. It reminds you of why you watch films in the first place - to be entertained - and Avengers Assemble does entertain with such ease, you wonder why other films cannot follow its template more closely.
Great For: Marvel fans, audiences young and old, Disney's bank balance
Not So Great For: DC characters wondering why they can't do this, Paramount
What else should I watch?
You're not going to find a better superhero film that this but you should certainly be salivating at the films in Phase Two of the MCU - Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Guardians Of The Galaxy, Ant-Man and of course, Avengers: Age Of Ultron. I also recommend the TV shows "Daredevil" and "Luke Cage", although they obviously lack the big budget that the films have.
If you prefer DC characters like Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman then I'm afraid you're going to have to accept that DC films are a long way behind their Marvel counterparts in terms of box office takings and quality. But Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy is the other side of Marvel's movie coin - it's darker, grittier and so very serious but equally impressive movies to watch, enjoy and love. Superhero fans have never had things so good.
© 2015 Benjamin Cox