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.



  1. I just saw Avengers Assemble and a B- and I was like... "Josh is 'F'ing crazy, the first issue of that series is a solid F." (Pun intended) Then I realized you meant the movie, not comic (Canadian boy, it's just Avengers to me)

    This seems to be one of the most negative reviews I've seen so far, but I can see what you're saying; this is a project that has to be hell behind the scenes.

    Tell me the first "Avengers Assemble" line is at least bad ass?

    For me personally: Whedon is know for his characters and humor, so I'm looking forward to the interactions and humor more than anything else....

    Have my ticket posted on my wall, it helps me get through the shitty days... Just gotta make it to Midnight on Thursday... =) Nice review.

  2. Interesting thoughts, I seen it for the second time last night and I enjoyed it more than I did the first time. I think it's as good as the "superhero" movie formula is going to be, but there are several faults preventing it from being a great movie.

    The aliens are probably my biggest issue, I hated them when they appeared in the animated movie because they were so damn generic and I hate them in this for the same reason, I like my bad guys to have as much personality as my good guys after all. At least Hydra bad guys stood for something after all. The worst thing about the aliens is that not ONCE in the movie is it mentioned that they're a hive mind before they all collapse, seems like there's a story beat there they forgot about....

    Otherwise I agree with you bout the forced conflict, I know conflict was inevitable but when so much of the conflict can be overcome by simple communication it's hard to place much stock in fights that are just there to look good and to do a plot point.

    Also agreed about the humour, some of the dialogue seemed so awkward I thought Zak Penn wrote them before the credits said Whedon wrote the whole screenplay. (Then again, this is the man that brought us the "do you know what happens to a toad that gets struck by lighting" line)

    The first time I seen Avengers I expected a great movie and I was let down, especially after all my friends started saying it was incredible, the second time I went in with no expectations and got one of the best takes on the normal superhero movie formula I've seen, however plot issues and some stiff dialogue means it's not a great movie that you could show to anyone not a Superhero fan and they'd enjoy.

    I may do my own fancy review if I get time, but my too read pile is now over 100 comics, my to play pile 7 games and my I've about 7 whole series of TV shows to get caught on, not the time in the world.