Friday, 11 May 2012
Avengers Assemble - review by David Sexton
It is traditional to end reviews with a more or less subtle variant on the formula: if this is the kind of thing you like, this is the kind of thing you like. This week let’s get that over with straightaway. If you like superhero movies at all, you’ll absolutely love Avengers Assemble. It’s got everything. On the aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, it enjoys a rating of 96 per cent, a more or less complete thumbs-up. It’s the culmination of a long-term plan by Marvel Studios to build towards an anthology movie that brings together a whole bunch of the best-loved superheroes. Nearly all have established what Marvel cheerfully refers to as their own individual “franchises”, over the past few years. The two Iron Man films with Robert Downey Jr have grossed $1.2 billion; Thor took $446 million; Captain America $368 million; The Incredible Hulk $263 million. Avengers Assemble is only going to do even better. They haven’t messed up on the variety pack. The stars have all signed on again: Downey for Iron Man, Chris Hemsworth for Thor, Tom Hiddleston for Loki, Scarlett Johansson for Black Widow, Chris Evans for Captain America, Samuel L Jackson for SHIELD director, Nick Fury. Brooding Jeremy Renner is successfully introduced as the lurking bowman Hawkeye, while Mark Ruffalo is far more engaging than his predecessors Eric Bana and Ed Norton, both as the mild doctor Bruce Banner and as his alter ego, “the other guy”, the Hulk. The film, moreover, has been directed and the screenplay written by the ultimate fanboy Joss Whedon, the creator of Buffy and more recently of the definitive in-joke horror mash-up, The Cabin in the Woods. He has lovingly tended to (the vogue word in film criticism is “curated”) his superheroes, with just the right mix of earnestness and knowingness, taking them quite seriously as difficult characters not naturally likely to get on well together, while freely riffing away on their more cartoonish attributes. The story is pleasingly simple. The SHIELD organisation has been messing with a “cosmic cube”, the Tesseract, and opened a door to other worlds. Through this comes Loki, still smarting from his defeat by Thor in a previous episode (“I remember you tossing me into a abyss,” he complains to his bro), intent on world domination with the aid of lots of robotic, scaly aliens. Only united superheroes can stop him — and once they’ve been reluctantly recruited, the film becomes a series of fights, first between themselves (Black Widow v Hawkeye, Iron Man v Thor) and then, with even the Hulk turning public-spirited, banding together to save the world (or not, of course). All special effects are on a ratchet system of ever increasing spectacularity these days and Avengers Assemble delivers in bulk. There’s a gigantic final battle on 42nd Street in New York (filmed in Cleveland) that has enough whoosh! whee! and whaam! for anyone. It’s not the kind of thing I like, though. Had I seen it when I was a boy, it might have been my favourite film. Now I find it impossible to suspend disbelief enough to invest in superheroes sufficiently to avoid boredom.