Avengers Assemble – review

Avengers Assemble

Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Captain America (Chris Evans) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) in Joss Whedon's Avengers Assemble. Photograph: Zade Rosenthal/Marvel/MVLFFLLC

Joss Whedon has been busy. With The Cabin in the Woods (producer/writer) recently hitting the multiplexes and two soon-to-be released projects to get excited about, that leaves the small matter of the biggest cinematic superhero event ever. Well, until The Dark Knight Rises comes out in July – although even Christopher Nolan’s much-anticipated climax to his Batman saga may struggle to overhaul the box office numbers already generated by the alliance of Marvel’s biggest hitters.

Takings aside, with so many big-name characters, stratospheric egos and deep-pocketed CGI expense involved in the Avengers Assemble, could this mammoth movie be reined in enough to produce something more than just a mega-bucks explosion-fest? The answer is an assured yes.

It doesn’t have the moody quality of Nolan’s work, but this wasn’t to be expected having gauged the vibe of recent individual film outings for members of the Avengers (Iron Man 1 & 2, Thor and Captain America). It was never going to feel as “real” either, with such emphasis on CGI and the characters on show being superhuman freaks, scientific mistakes and even gods, rather than simply well-trained vigilantes, but Whedon wields his weapons with aplomb, delivering a high-octane blockbuster, not wasting any of a £220m budget – which has already been recompensed by ticket sales alone!

The premise comprises a typical comic-book dilemma, with the world under threat from an evil schemer. Covert/military agency S.H.I.E.L.D. has in its possession an immensely powerful source of energy, the “Cosmic Cube”, which the agency is supposedly trying to harness to provide earth with a realistic renewable energy solution. However, far-seeing eyes have other ideas for the use of this cube (think Spiderman and tritium). When the cube is stolen by Loki (Tom Hiddleston) – brother of Norse demi-god Thor (Chris Hemsworth) – this means bad news for S.H.I.E.L.D. and planet earth, as Loki knows the cube can open a portal to other dimensions where those with evil intent reside.

Envy-riddled Loki dreams of having humanity kneel before him when his plan comes to fruition and S.H.I.E.L.D.’s only hope of stopping this is to recover the cube. Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson), director of S.H.I.E.L.D., has one hope of recovering the energy source from the deadly repercussions of it staying in Loki’s possession, which is to call upon some extraordinary (if destructive) beings.

Fury must reactivate a previously-aborted agency project called “Avengers Initiative”, in which these unique individuals must unite to form an elite team to counter the threat that is imminently facing the earth. This is no mean feat, considering that some of these heroes are either off the grid, reluctant, volatile or in Tony Stark’s own words, “don’t play well with others.” The task is made all the more difficult as Loki has brainwashed two of Fury’s assets – expert archer Clint “Hawkeye” Barton (Jeremy Renner) and Professor Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) – utilising the cube’s power via his sceptre.

Some of the recent solo movies preceding the Avengers Assemble have not lived up to their hype or potential, but this culmination of their unity is an impressive sum of parts and an enthralling adventure, albeit with the mainstream appeal of punchy comedic dialogue. The return of Robert Downey Jr as Tony Stark AKA Ironman is the key, as his quick wit and cocksure swagger provide a great balance for the tension of the posse’s predicament. There is great banter between the stars, as this dysfunctional army threatens to self-destruct, whilst trading verbal as well as physical blows.

Credit is also due for the casting of Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner/The Hulk. We have seen a couple of pretty poor depictions of the big green giant in recent memory, but Ruffalo captures the dangerously brittle temperament of the character brilliantly. Add the sexy-but-deadly Black Widow (Scarlet Johansson), the patriotic pomp of all-American hero Captain America (Chris Evans) and the brutish hammer-wielding Thor into the mix and you have a concoction brimming with fireworks.

Marvel’s Avengers Assemble 3D is not as slick or as cool as another superhero ensemble brought to life in 2009, Watchmen, but this ambitious movie outguns Transformers and is a non-stop thrill ride.

Marvel’s Avengers Assemble (12A)
Directed by Joss Whedon
Starring: Chris Evans, Samuel L Jackson, Tom Hiddleston, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlet Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Robert Downey Jr, Gwyneth Paltrow, Chris Hemsworth, Stellan Skarsgård
Running time: 142 minutes

Marvel’s Avengers Assemble 3D is showing at the Hackney Picturehouse throughout May.