Review – Avengers Assemble

Review – Avengers Assemble

2012, 142 mins, 12A, Dir. Joss Whedon, starring Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans and Scarlett Johansson

The Avengers

In a recent survey of thousands of cinemagoers by the ticketing agency Fandango, it was found that The Avengers, or Avengers Assemble as it is called in the UK (for fear of confusion with the 1960s television series), is the most anticipated blockbuster of the year. Statistically more people want to see it than even the final Dark Knight installment. After all, publicity had been building since 2008 with the release of several Marvel movies (The Incredible Hulk; Iron Man; Thor et al) that foreshadowed this moment: the promise of a film that would put several superheroes in the same universe was tantalisingly brilliant. And who better to helm the project than Joss Whedon, the man behind Buffy and Firefly, a fiercely talented writer and filmmaker? Now that it has finally arrived, does it live up to its expectations? Does it truly give us the epic spectacle of action and characters that we were hoping for? 

In a word, yes. Avengers Assemble is an absolute thrill from beginning to end, outclassing every single Marvel film that led up to this – even the really good ones. In fact, it is one of the greatest superhero films ever produced. Instead of just one, Whedon gives us six protagonists and yet still allocates enough time and effort to explore them – their backstories, beliefs and traits. And these characters are well-acted, too. The nonchalant Downey Jr. and spirited Hemsworth are, as always, hard to resist, but Johansson is particularly excellent as Black Widow. As is typical of Whedon’s work, the female character is a strong heroine and not a mere love interest; she exerts an authoritative force that equals that of the men. The Hulk is also interestingly done – Mark Ruffalo is the first actor to play both Banner and the Hulk itself, donning a motion-capture suit for the more charged sequences. Samuel L. Jackson is, as always, charismatic in his role.

Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow

What’s more, the action sequences are fantastic, whether it’s Black Widow beating up three mobsters whilst tied down in a chair or the near-destruction of Manhattan (where else?) by the main villain, Loki: a breathtaking extended sequence which, thanks to splendid work from the special effects department, is utterly seamless and a joy to watch. And it’s funny. Very, very, very funny. Each of our heroes think they are better than the rest and this leads to inevitable bickering, ironic given that a world invasion is taking place. This contest of greatness even makes its way onto the battlefield in one hilarious scene which I won’t spoil. Although the plot is a little thin without the other Marvel films, it is a triumph in terms of dialogue, and we can only hope that the sequel, if there is one, is given due care.

Thor and Captain America get ready to fight Loki’s army.

A load of us, when we went to see Thor, Captain America and the rest, waited patiently until the end of the credits for a sequence that would hint at what was coming next. And I’m glad to say that the time was well-spent. Avengers Assemble is a triumph, a film that combines the best of the Marvel universe and yet still gives us enough time with each character. With its blend of superhero action and intelligent writing, it captures the spirit of old-style comics beautifully. The final battle sequence is an astonishing feat of special effects, an exciting and exhilarating turn of events that is brilliantly directed and edited. And, of course, it’s absolutely hilarious.

8/10

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Past reviews

Before I started this wordpress business, I used to write a lot of reviews of films both recent and old. I’ve carefully trawled through a great load of them (a lot of them aren’t very good) and selected what I feel most represents my stunning body of work as a professional writer. Enjoy, therefore, a presentation of my unparalleled reviewing skills.

I know, I’m not really a professional writer. It’s just a joke.

Review – Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

The first major screen appearance of the sensationally jingoistic Marvel superhero Captain America is an enthralling mix of villainy, patriotism and gunfire. Set in World War Two, it tells the story of the scrawny Steve Rogers who, after being deemed unfit for regular military service, volunteers for a secret experimental project which transforms him into a muscle man with superheroic abilities. Though Chris Evans’ performance lacks emotion, the film benefits from its supporting cast which includes a spectacularly creepy Hugo Weaving as arch-villain Red Skull and a dazzling (and English) Hayley Atwell as SSR Agent Peggy Carter. The set-pieces are better than ever, each explosive scene transitioning to the next with almost no break, and there are some excellent fight scenes between the American soldiers and the disintegration-gun-equipped followers of Nazi cult HYDRA.

It’s undoubtedly cheesy, but in a more comfortable, familiar way, a way that is often associated with Marvel, so it’s forgiveable. The 3D, however, is not. The whole film appears flat in its entirety, even when our nationalistic protagonist tosses his painted shield at the camera with considerable force. Never mind. “Captain America: The First Avenger” is a good bit of old-fashioned, very American fun, which succeeds in whetting our appetites even further for the forthcoming “Avengers” film. Just make sure you stay until after the end credits.

4 stars out of 5

Review – Batman (1989)

Tim Burton’s “Batman” ultimately reincarnated the renowned comic-book character with great style; from the campy, tongue-in-cheek days of the 60s to the brooding, dark shadow we know today. With elements of Frank Miller, Burton brought into existence a Gotham city overrun with dangerous criminals and menacing streets. It is into this unholy world which Batman grapples his way in, ridding it of thieves and murderers. Yet a far more intimidating, lethal villain is rising and could soon rule over the city. As Batman begins to uncover more secrets about himself, photographer Vicki Vale becomes more and more susceptible to this great enemy’s lure.

The art direction in this is simply astonishing. Burton chose not to shoot on location, but instead to craft his Gotham out of extensively complicated sets which would be erected at the time of filming. And the film itself looks stunning. Although “Batman” is dark, it’s full of colour too. The character bringing that colour is unquestionably Jack Nicholson’s Joker – making snappy one-liners, he kills people with crude ‘toys’, such as a lethally electric hand buzzer, whilst laughing manically. Although there are funny parts, this is in comparison to earlier efforts a very serious comic book movie, full of stark imagery and thoroughly explosive action sequences. Although there’s not a huge amount of character development, especially in Michael Keaton’s Bruce Wayne, Danny Elfman’s score is terrific and this will always be remembered as the first truly exciting, tense and sinister Batman movie.

4 stars out of 5

Review – Moon (2009)

Duncan Jones’ thought-provoking directorial debut, Moon, is one of the greatest science fiction films of the 21st century. Sam Bell is an American astronaut who, in the last few weeks of his 3-year contract on Moon, has a very personal encounter that makes him question reality. In a Hollywood smorgasbord of sci-fi rip-offs, remakes and sequels, it’s gratifying to find something utterly fresh, stimulating and original as this, even if Kevin Spacey’s robotic assistant GERTY is somewhat reminiscent of HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Sam Rockwell carries the entire film on his shoulders – a hefty job, but he adapts perfectly and gives a thoroughly powerful, emotional performance. It’s a wonderfully entertaining film with some great set-pieces, but it’s also a poignant tale of growing industrialisation and human greed.

4 stars out of 5

Review – Hard Boiled (1992)

John Woo’s last Hong Kong film before his unfortunate shift to Hollywood delivers much more than any American filmmaker can with about a tenth of the budget. Hard Boiled is action cinema at its very, very best with its intense shootouts, deafening explosions and, in general, its colourful flamboyance. It’s one of the most elaborate and awe-inducing films you will ever experience.

Chow Yun Fat stars as “Tequila”, a tenacious, agile cop who is determined to track down and annihilate a malevolent mob boss (Anthony Wong Chau-Sang) and his associates. Also in the picture is Tony (Tony Leung Chiu Wai) – another gangster… or is he?

Despite the trouble of culture clash, one can distinguish how good the two main leads are. Even through the most extravagant gun battles they convey the deepest emotions – the undercover man, yearning to break free from his vice, and the loyal, aging cop who believes he’s misunderstood. It seems, when directing his own countrymen, Woo can achieve much better performances.

Although the film in its entirety is pulse-pounding, the real sensations come at the end in the climatic hospital scene. Thousands of bullets are sprayed around as cops go up against terrorists and flames are everywhere in a sequence that only further shows Woo’s utter pyrotechnical genius. In one instance, the camera follows Tequila and Tony around as they shoot people in an impressive long take lasting almost three minutes. It’s a unique and fantastic addition that you never really see in an action film, making it all the more flabbergasting. Woo’s extensive use of slow-motion shots and quick, brutal dispatching of characters has become something of a genre in itself as it truly does stand unparalleled.

It’s often been ranked in the same vicinity as his other masterpiece, The Killer (1989). While Hard Boiled doesn’t have as much of a story, the action is certainly on a much higher level. It’s really up to the viewer to decide which they prefer, but one thing is for sure on both sides; that Hard Boiled, the last film John Woo made in Hong Kong, is not to be missed under any circumstances.

5 stars out of 5

And there you have it. I hope you enjoyed reading these as much as I enjoyed writing them (which for one of them wasn’t very much. See if you can guess which one). I’ll be trying to write more review on here especially of more recent films, such as the upcoming Tintin film (which I just happen to be seeing early). Stick with it, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.