The problem with superheroes is the feeling that everything has been done before.
In a way Marvel haven’t helped with five movie entries in their own universe in the last four years alone. Can their ultimate ensemble, a popcorn flick with ten hours of back-story deliver the nerdvana fans have been craving? By Thor’s hammer, it can.
Avengers Assemble is a Hulk smash of a silly, pixel-pushing, joyous beat ‘em up. If these films can be done either tongue-in-cheek or straight (like Bond), then this is Roger Moore to the Dark Knight’s Daniel Craig.
Director Joss Whedon delivers a hugely entertaining romp that manages to give each of the heroes their due and deliver a satisfying story, while giving fans at least three or four moments that can only be described as geek pay offs. Whedon, the self-confessed fanboy knows his material and has been given the biggest toy box in the world, in no way drops the ball.
So where are we? Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson in an eye-patch and leather jacket) is the director of S.H.I.E.L.D. a shadowy organisation that collects intelligence, deadly weapons and has superheroes on speed dial, in case the world is ever under attack. This is just as well, as the villain Loki (Brit Tom Hiddlestone) has just popped through his inter-dimensional portal with eyes on a cube of ultimate power and extending an open invitation to an army of alien wraiths who look like they’re not coming over for a Broadway show.
Hence Fury assembles the gang, which is no mean feat as one of the screenplay’s biggest themes is: how do you get this group to work together, with egos, agendas and different world-views? Okay, it’s not Uncle Vanya, but Whedon plays it like they are actual characters worth a damn, as opposed to men and women in silly outfits. Each gets their moment.
Let’s go through the gang. Tony Stark (Iron Man) is Han Solo with an iPad. As ever Robert Downey Junior’s character is all bluster, quips and preening ego. He clashes with Captain America (Chris Evans), the square-jawed, blond hero, whose values (like him) are from the 1930s. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is a lunk of salted beef who’s better when he doesn’t speak. Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow is surprisingly adept at killing extra-terrestrials for a Russian spy and unsurprisingly sexy in black spandex. She kicks butt, in several well-choreographed hand-to-hand fight scenes.
Also without a supernatural CV, Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) is basically a dude with a bow and arrow. However this story gives him much to do, including a significant encounter with Loki, and his arrows are actually damn effective.
The real star of the show is The Incredible Hulk. Maybe for the first time we see the real value of the green monster on film. He’s hilarious. He smashes. It’s not just the CGI rendering which is better (for the first time the actor’s features are mo-capped into the hulk). It’s not because he’s played by a great actor (Mark Ruffalo stepping in) – there was nothing wrong with Ed Norton. It is because he needs a team around him, to play off and react to. He can’t be the centre of the story struggling to sustain a narrative, but play him as an extended cameo who rages absolute chaos and he’s bang on the money.
Avengers Assemble nips by at 144 minutes. It’s definitely silly and it definitely has a top trumps feel to it at times. Comic book readers will get just as much out of it as the casual film fan: a perfect blockbuster.