Thursday, 26 April 2012
Review: Avengers Assemble
It is fair to say that the Avengers movie, or Avengers Assemble to give it its full title, has been a long time coming. Ever since an unexpected post-credits scene in 2008's Iron Man made mention of the 'Avengers Initiative', the question has been when, not if Marvel's premier team would be making its way to the big screen. Handing the project over to Joss Whedon seemed a match made in heaven, but the director has had his work cut out with perhaps one of the most ambitious cinematic projects in history. Although Avengers Assemble is at times a gloriously entertaining summer blockbuster, it is difficult to truly state whether it is a total success.
Dealing with plot threads from both Iron Man films, the Incredible Hulk and last years Captain America and Thor, the Avengers immediately fills like a project filled to the brim with ideas. Although Loki, primary antagonist of Thor, is the villain for the majority of the films running time, he is backed up by a truly gruesome cast of alien creatures, and a plot that contrives to turn the Avengers against themselves several times over. Whedon's narrative is not overly complex, but he should be commended for 'assembling' the team relatively quickly without it ever coming across as rushed or forced. The scope of the film feels suitably epic throughout, aided by some superb set pieces and breathtaking action sequences.
At times though, it seems like Avengers struggles a little under the weight of its own expectations. The final battle, while often spectacular, feels a little self indulgent and overly long. The action is of course, entertaining enough but is never backed up by the sort of emotional resonance that would have lent it slightly more depth. It is inevitable that in a film with such a bloated cast some characterisation must be sacrificed, but while there are some flimsy attempts at it, they feel perfunctory at best. The films large scale, while probably necessary, also seems overdone - the alien's that serve as fodder in the climatic fight scene serve little purpose other than as things to hit. There is little attempt to flesh them out and they come across as flimsy antagonists. Loki, on the other hand is terrifically portrayed by Tom Hiddleston, following on from an impressive turn in last year's Thor. Often though, his strongest moments are the quiet ones that allow him to actually act, rather than the bloated, special effects heavy action sequences that he is often lumbered with.
The film's tone seems confused at times too. It is true that humour has become a staple of action films, but it often feels misguided here. When it comes off, it works very well, but much of the laughs feel forced, and their frequency often threatens to undermine a plot that should have been an epic. Whedon's dialogue - usually one of his stronger suits - feels a little laboured here, and took me out of the action more often than it drew me in.
The film's cast do a largely fantastic job. Robert Downey Jr and Tom Hiddleston are standouts, but the rest of the cast are convincing throughout and bring a lot to their roles. Chris Hemsworth is a little bland, but certainly looks the part, as does the rest of the film. Even the background characters are given enough attention to make the world of the Avengers a richer one than arguably any other super hero's seen on screen.
Avengers Assemble could have been one of the more memorable comic book adaptations of all time but as it is, Whedon's epic feels as though it is trying too hard. The action feels overdone, with the characters suffering as a result despite attempts to the contrary, and the humour, while of course a necessity, also seems more prominent than it should be. Joss Whedon deserves credit for crafting an entertaining summer blockbuster, but has fallen short of producing the stand out super hero film that the Avengers franchise has promised us for years.