Note - I’m not going to be referring to this movie as Avengers: Assemble just because it was thought that UK audiences might confuse Captain America with John Steed - okay? It’s called Avengers everywhere else in the world, and this website agrees with the rest of the world...just this once.
Ah, Friday April 27 2012 - it really was a good day to be a geek. Everything was planned, everything was in place. A day off was booked weeks in advance from the day job, tickets had been bought online a week previously, but the real build up had started even earlier than that. Due to the peculiarities of the publishing schedule, I had written a long retro piece about The Incredible Hulk for Starburst back in March for publication in our big Avengers tie-in issue which hit stores early this week.
Okay, let me come clean - my preparation for this goes even beyond the long episodic build up of the post credit vignettes we’ve been watching on the Marvel movies since Iron Man was released four years ago, it goes all the way back to my comic-book reading beginnings in the sixties. Thor, Iron Man, Giant Man and The Wasp joined forces with The Hulk for a couple of issues before the Hulk stomped off in a huff and was replaced by Captain America who was found perfectly preserved in a block of ice since the end of the war. The Avengers became Marvel’s version of DC’s Justice League of America. The super team of the publishing house, except that the Avengers would have a bigger turnover of members as some characters drifted in and then drifted out again. To be honest - this always made The Avengers cooler and more credible than the Justice League who were more do-gooding and static in their line-up back then.
A few years ago, during one of our Manchester days (where we go shopping and spend a bundle in places like Forbidden Planet) I had picked up a copy of The Ultimates, which was a re-imagining of The Avengers and depicted them more as a government sanctioned force than a freewheeling bunch of super heroes, answerable to nobody. They worked as part of SHIELD, Marvel’s super spy organisation, several notches above the CIA. The head of SHIELD was Nick Fury, another long running character, but in the re-imagining, his ethnicity had changed. He was now black rather than his previous white and his appearance bore a startling resemblance to Samuel L.Jackson - and it worked. It worked beautifully.
Imagine my surprised and stunned expression when Samuel L.Jackson turned up in a small but hugely significant cameo at the end of Iron Man in 2008, signifying with his couple of lines of dialogue that The Avengers Initiative was being started, and that we, the audience and more importantly we, the fans were finally going to see the one film we never thought we would.
The build up has been a pleasurable torture as those little additions in the credits of Iron Man 1 & 2 , Hulk, Captain America and Thor have given us tasters of things to come, as the recruitment has been ongoing and little clues have carried over from film to film, ensuring a continuity across a franchise like we’ve never seen before - and this is the result.
Believe me when I say that as far as I’m concerned, the anticipation for this one movie has been high. And when I say high, I mean Star Wars high. It’s an event. A big deal. In fact, the most devastating thing that could possibly have happened yesterday was coming out of the screening feeling disappointed. But, y’know - that possibility, real as it was, was unlikely at best. I’ve known that since the announcement that Joss Whedon was directing. Whedon has a gift for group dialogue - just look at his earlier creation, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, one of the funniest, most engaging series to be on TV in the past 20 years. Or his Firefly series - criminally cut short.
Who better to bring to life a bunch of dysfunctional super heroes?
Okay, if you haven’t seen the film and are going to - here’s a totally spoiler free review:
I saw everything that I wanted to see in this film. It was everything I had hoped for, all that and more. I read a comment from someone on Ain’t It Cool News who said "It was like someone had a camera inside my seven year old head". I can’t argue with that. It’s epically epic out of all proportion, the performances are dead on, the whole look and feel is dead on and audiences will walk out happy.
Personally, I felt goose bumps watching the story unfold, and at the end of the film, I walked, (or staggered) out, smiling from ear to ear - especially when I’d seen the extra sequence in the credits. I’m looking forward to seeing it again, not only to re-savour the bits of the film I really relished, but to catch the bits and pieces that I must’ve missed amid the non stop action.
I saw the movie in 3D, but when I later saw a clip in 2D, it seemed much brighter. I guess CineWorld must be dimming their projector bulbs unnecessarily to save some money. Bad enough we have to watch 3D wearing sunglasses, damn it. The 3D works well, looks nice, but you’re not really missing anything seeing this 2D. (Myself, I think the 3D novelty bubble has burst.)
Now leave this article and go and see the film, then come back to read the rest because we’re about to enter the spoiler zone.
SPOILER ALERT !!!!
YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED - YOU ARE NOW IN THE SPOILER ZONE. IF YOU DON’T WANT SPECIFICS ABOUT THE FILM REVEALED DO NOT SCROLL BEYOND THE GRAPHIC. LOOK AWAY NOW!!!
All right, you’re still here, or you’ve come back.
Hectic movie, huh?
As a long standing fan, I was very, very happy how the integrity of the source material had been adhered to. The last time we saw them, Iron Man had been booted out of the Avengers Initiative because of his personality defects, Thor was stuck in Asgard with no hope of getting back to Earth, or Midgard because the Bifrost was destroyed, Bruce Banner was in a jungle, and Captain America was kind of confused about being in the 21st century. Worse, as this film begins, the whole Avengers Initiative has been scrapped anyway.
So one of the things I was most looking forward to was seeing how these characters get together and that forms the first part of the film. Robert Downey Jnr is and always has been the perfect casting choice for Tony Stark, playing him as likeable, endearing, funny - but still kind of an ass. His arrival to "save" Captain America while listening to AC/DC in his suit was typically, effortlessly cool and a bit arrogant, but in a good way. The way he (literally) needles Banner to see if he’ll turn into the Hulk, his goading of Thor "Is it Shakespeare day in the park? Doth mother know thou wearest her drapes?" - Stark has most of the cool and funny lines in the film. I think that Downey Jnr’s performance was the most polished in the film (no pun intended) because he’s had the longest time to "bed in" his character with 2 movies under his armoured belt.
Last year, Thor was the movie that I was, for want of a better word "meh" about. Thor’s not a character I’d read a lot of, ( and having recently read the graphic novel "Thor: Reborn" a lot of the film makes more sense to me now) but the film was interesting and of course a necessary part of the groundwork for Avengers. Chris Hemsworth was an actor I wasn’t familiar with, though he was in Star Trek (2009) I won’t hold that against him. Here, he seems to have grown more into the role and rather than have the action split between Asgard and Earth, THIS is the Thor I wanted to see - red cloak, hammer spinning, summoning lightning and kickin’ ass.
Loki’s return as the manipulator of the film’s plot and Thor’s brother ("He was adopted") was also the Loki I wanted to see. I thought he was a cowardly drip in Thor, but here - he’s a real threat and actor Tom Hiddleston really steps up to the plate and delivers. Loki is as he should be, a master of mischief and deceit - really the bad guy you love to hate.
Although I wrote a lengthy piece in Starburst issue 376 about The Hulk called "It Ain’t Easy being Green", I’ve always thought that he was the character with the least possibilities. Look, he gets angry, turns green and destroys stuff. We’ve had two films - an arty opus with Eric Bana in 2003, and a reboot that fits in with this continuity starring Edward Norton in 2008. Hulk is the only character to be recast here as Mark Ruffalo takes the role. Hearing this, I was unconvinced that it was a good decision. Though I’ve seen Ruffalo in Shutter Island, Zodiac (with Robert Downey Jnr), Collateral and a few more - he’s not an actor that has made an impression on me. However, he fits in here like a hand in a glove and makes the role of Bruce Banner/Hulk his own. The CGI Hulk was also the most convincing we’ve seen to date, his interactions with the other Avengers during the many battle sequences are just astounding, from catching a free falling Iron Man and using a skyscraper to slow his descent to sucker punching Thor out of the frame - ILM have pulled out all the stops in their realisation of the not so jolly green giant, and while I’m at it - I’ll throw in a little bit of trivia - that’s Lou Ferrigno’s voice you hear when the Hulk growls.
Hulk has THE laugh out loud line in the movie: "Puny God". As Stan lee would say, ‘nuff said.
Chris Evans used to be the Human Torch in the two Fantastic Four films. Last year, he showed some versatility in playing a different comic book character with a different approach. That takes some doing. As the Torch, he was cocky, overconfident, skirt chasing, and arrogant. Basically an immature pain in the ass. As Captain America, he plays it closer, emotionally. He’s earnest, honest, noble and in every way an old fashioned hero whose mission is to do the right thing. He’s not only excellent in costume as Captain America, but also as Steve Rogers - the lost man out of his time, trying to fit in, when his values don’t. I guess that you could argue that where Thor and Hulk are the muscle of the team, Iron Man is the brains - then Captain America is the heart.
Two of the lesser known of the line-up have already been introduced in the earlier films. Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow and Clint Barton/Hawkeye were, in the comics, villains originally and some background is given here which points in a similar way in the case of the Widow. Scarlett Johannsen plays the deadly assassin/spy/SHIELD agent, whom we last saw planted in Stark Industries by Nick Fury, while Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner - not wearing the purple costume of the comics) was introduced as a SHIELD agent in Thor. Both of these characters have a lot of screen time, and contribute more than their fair share of mayhem to the overall action. I loved the interrogation scene with the Widow where she’s at the point of being tortured and has to take a phone call, just as priceless is the look on Hawkeye’s face as he realises he’s just run out arrows at the worst possible moment.
All I’m going to say about Jackson as Nick Fury is that at long last, Fury displays Jackson’s traits and attitude, hard hitting and displaying utter contempt for authority above his own.
Okay - the plot concerns the Tesseract - that’s the Asgardian cube of unimaginable power mentioned in Thor, which the Red Skull was after in Captain America. Loki is in league with an alien race - the Chitauri, who’ll help him subjugate Earth for the Tesseract - chaos ensues. (You’ll remember Loki discovered the location of this at the end of Thor) Fury has to assemble and co-ordinate his super team to conquer the threat. But as they gather together, they must first learn to be a team. The first half of the movie has them at each other’s throats, as their egos run rampant. Stark is being an arrogant douche who thinks he’s the world’s only super hero, Thor just wants to take Loki back to Asgard after Odin, the all-father used up a considerable amount of his power to bring him here for that sole purpose, Captain America wants a mission but is wary of wearing the stars and stripes as an uniform in the current day and age, while Banner/Hulk just wants to be left alone. Widow & Hawkeye are already SHIELD opratives so they’re already "in" - except Hawkeye is under Loki’s power for the first half of the story.
If Chicago suffered substantial property damage in last year’s Transformers: Dark of the Moon, then that damage was almost cosmetic when compared to the hammering my beloved New York takes during the battle against the Chitauri. The effects alone make this worth a second look because like the aforementioned Transformers movies, there’s so much going on, there’s no possible way you can take in all the detail in one screening. One thing I noticed that was a little odd - only in one long shot was the Empire State Building to be seen. Usually with a new York setting, it’s there front and centre of as many shots as can be. The Chrysler Building was the landmark of note here, seen clearly out of the new Stark Industries windows and when used as a lightning conductor by Thor.
Next year, we have Iron Man 3 and Thor 2 to look forward to, but the one I’m really looking forward to seeing is the inevitable Avengers 2, especially if they go with the very surprising reveal in the credits insert. Both Loki and the Chitauri were being manipulated by....
EXTREME SPOILER ALERT - I’M WARNING YOU, TURN BACK NOW !!!
And he mentions that he, himself with his Infinity Gauntlet will not fail!
(Comic book geeks will faint with anticipation of seeing THIS story on the big screen, the rest of the world will mutter WTF? Trust me non-geeks - this is big.)
Copyright © 2010 - 2012 Robin Pierce. All Rights reserved.