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

From Kirk To Buffy: a beginning in sci-fi TV

Ever since my foray into the realm of geekdom, I have made a particular effort to consume as many classic science fiction television series as I can. Granted, I haven’t got very far, but my journey into the furthest reaches of outer space, the deep and mysterious Vancouver forests and the endless danger of Sunnydale High School has both excited and exhilarated me. Theme tunes have forever emblazoned themselves in my mind alongside wonderfully written characters and dialogue. This addition to my fast-growing blog, then, will keep you up date with all the television shows I’ve been watching as of recent, with stunningly composed commentary on all of them. If you’re interested in this sort of thing, you will undoubtedly lap this up. If you’re not interested in this sort of thing, you’d better lap it up or my phaser won’t be set to stun.

Star Trek: The Original Series – While I find it hard to remember when I got curious about Star Trek TOS, I do recall sparing no time in ordering the remastered season 1 box-set after watching a preview trailer. What a show this is, full of real fictional science and great characters. Granted, it’s very hit-and-miss, with a large number of episodes featuring planets mirroring earth and Kirk seducing alien women in short skirts, but when it hits it is fantastic. The City on the Edge of Forever, Star Trek’s classic time-travel episode, has taken the spot of my favourite episode of the two seasons I have watched so far. I now quote Spock in everyday life and find it frustratingly difficult to stand in an elevator without boldly exclaiming “Bridge”.

He's dead, Jim.

The X-Files – While I’ve only really scratched the surface of the highly-praised second and third seasons, the first bout of Mulder and Scully’s investigations into paranormal phenomena has gripped me throughout. It’s just such a well-crafted, mysterious, frightening show that never fails to impress as the two FBI agents seek to uncover the government’s mysterious secrets while regularly encountering a “monster of the week” – the episode Squeeze in particular had my mother leaping into a paroxysm of fear. Judging from what I’ve seen, undoubtedly one of the best TV series I’ve seen so far.

The new way of burgling.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer – I was coaxed into this by a few of my friends. I was surprised to find that I actually very much enjoyed it. The story of Buffy, a sixteen year old girl who just happens to be prophesied by ancient texts to kill vampires (and her school is at the hellmouth) was infinitely amusing to me and I began to connect more and more with the characters as I went along. I’ve only seen season 1, but so much has happened I’m wondering how much content Whedon actually packed into 6 further seasons (which all had twice the amount of episodes as the first). What will Angel do to Buffy? Will Xander ever be cool? What has happened in the past of Giles, my favourite character (I honestly have no idea, I’m just speculating)? Whatever happens, it’s very well-done, with a large amount of jump-scares, plenty of humour, quotable lines and teenage angst alongside weapons of stakes and crossbows.

RAAAAAAAAAAAAAWRRRRR!

Firefly – now here is something outstanding. Joss Whedon’s eternally charming space western which sadly ended before its time (damn you, Fox, for cancelling it) has the most enduring cast of characters I’ve yet seen (each with their own individual appeal), a vivid and believable world and some very impressive writing. What Whedon does here is make a series that is anti-establishment, anti-government and anti-war, demanding a huge amount from the viewer as the nine-strong crew of the ship “Serenity” hurtle across space, taking any job they can in order to put fuel in the engines and food on the table. It’s a show you can sit and just lose yourself in, and the dialogue is instantly quotable:

Zoë: Preacher, don’t the Bible have some pretty specific things to say about killing?
Book: Quite specific. It is, however, somewhat fuzzier on the subject of kneecaps.

Three of the Serenity crew

Game of Thrones – I’m not sure I could call this strictly sci-fi, more medieval fantasy, but the first season of Game of Thrones is suitably epic and is as brilliantly cinematic as the book series on which it is based. It has 162 speaking roles, several vast kingdoms and landscapes and, being an HBO series, a substantial amount of sex and violence. Those who can’t stomach some of the series’ more gruesome moments, however, are missing out on one of the greatest TV productions of recent years. It stays as faithful as it can to the book (which in itself totalled around 800 pages, depending on the edition) which was full of suspense, distrust and great dialogue. The acting is impressive, particularly in the child actors, and in Peter Dinklage who undoubtedly stole the show in every scene he was in as Tyrion Lannister. Filmed predominantly in Northern Ireland and featuring a large cast of British actors, the epic scale is just overwhelming. I will definitely be getting the blu-ray.

Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister

So there you go. I hope this has enlightened and (hopefully) entertained you. There will, of course, be further posts on this matter even if you’re not interested in the slightest.

Oh, and you know in the first post I said I’d express my views on Gaddafi? Well, he’s dead now, so I see no reason to.