It’s the first of this season’s big-tent box office sensations (taking a massive £2.5 million in the UK on its opening day), boasting no fewer than five superheroes alongside one super baddie, but is Avengers Assemble awesome, or simply average?
In a way, AA is the next natural progression of the superhero movie – we’ve had them fighting for justice as single entities for so long, it was about time they gathered together to kick ass collectively. What this allows cult director Joss Whedon to do is to make everything bigger, louder, more explosive, more special effects driven… basically just more. This movie most definitely is not shy, retiring or discreet. It’s also not short, with a running time of 2 hours 20 minutes.
So, for the first time gathered together on one screen, we get wise-cracking Ironman (Robert Downey Jr. on his usual great form); upright, old-fashioned good guy Captain America (Chris Evans); the hammer-wielding god (but still classed as a superhero) Thor (Chris Hemsworth); sultry super spy Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson); and the mild-mannered Dr Banner and his alter-ego the Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). They are ‘assembled’ by director of security organisation SHIELD Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) to combat Thor’s brother (well, adopted brother) Loki (Tom Hiddleston) who has a chip the size of a planet on his shoulder (Thor was the favourite) and wants to take it out on us poor earthlings.
It takes some time to get this ragtag bunch of heavy-hitters together, and there are few bouts of “my superpowers are better than yours” fisticuffs before they all end up in the same place on SHIELD’s floating mega-ship (nicely realised). Even here, they still can’t play nicely, bitching and squabbling until Loki escapes from their clutches and they realise they better start working together or they’re all going to look like losers.
This is when everything gets very, very big, with a massive battle above the streets of New York. There are bangs, booms, whams, slams and enough destruction to have little boys bouncing up and down in their seats with extreme excitement. As far as superhero movies go this is the big daddy of them all, setting the benchmark for all that will come after it (and believe me, there will most definitely be a sequel).
But is it any good? The action is up there on screen, the special effects are seamless and there are some nice comic touches (The Hulk punching Thor just for the heck of it is quite entertaining), but there is no complexity to any of the characters; no sense of hidden, tortured depths as with Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight. But in the end, it doesn’t really matter – it is what it is, a film taken from a comic book – and even those of us who may wish for slightly more nuance and subtlety can enjoy a good rumble when we see one.