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Notes On A Film: The Avengers (aka Avengers Assemble)

The content of this blog should indicate that this film was made for someone like me, who loves films and comics (although I’ve never been a huge Avengers fan), so whatever I have to say will come out biased. However, no matter how much I geeked out watching this film and how entertaining and awesome it was (it’s probably the most enjoyable time I’ve had in a cinema since Inception), I hope that this doesn’t invalidate my views.

The first thing to say is that it is impressive that this film exists: as a superhero comic book fan, the idea of a team-up/crossover is a tantalising idea; having the separate superheroes together in one film is an achievement in itself. There have been good films with superhero teams before (with X2 as the leader of the pack in that regards) but it’s different to take individual heroes from their own successful films and unite them in something that doesn’t make a mess of it because of the difficulty of the mix. The build-up with the individual films (Iron Man, Thor and Captain America were very good; Iron Man 2 and The Incredible Hulk were slightly less good) heightened anticipation but meant that the blending of them could prove problematic. This is not the case: this film is everything you hope for in an Avengers film.

Everything in this film works. The individual heroes are believable on their own in the context of the movie and they are believable as a team – the movie has a plausible reason for their combination (aliens are coming to destroy the Earth) and brings them together in totally plausible fashion, with great character interaction, emotional bits, sufficient backstory to understand the conflicts, fantastic action and lots of great lines. The film is 140 minutes of pure entertainment from beginning to end (and mid-credits, which had me laughing out loud with geek glee; I can’t say anything about after the credits because non-US audiences have yet to receive it); I enjoyed it so much I wanted to see it again as soon as possible, just to relive the joy, but also to see the great moments peppered throughout. There are so many great moments that will make you smile or laugh, but I won’t detail them – you should enjoy them yourself for the first time and I won’t take that away from you.

Joss Whedon with Captain America's shield

Marvel has done a lot of hard work to get the film to where it is but there is one man who is responsible for the greatness of this movie: Joss Whedon. Yes, the film uses the basic plot of the first storyline of The Ultimates (which was just Mark Millar updating the Avengers); yes, Zak Penn has a story credit; yes, there are lots of other people involved in the making of a film. However, Whedon is the one who has crafted the beautiful blend that is this film. The deft handling of a large cast is a trademark of his (this is a rare skill, giving all the characters equal amount of quality time, something that regular comic book creators fail at with team titles); the great dialogue works in both the action scenes and the non-action scenes; and the fact that the female characters are so strong in an excessively male film (Warner must be kicking themselves for stopping the Whedon Wonder Woman movie). The Black Widow is handled brilliantly, given great moments of smartness and ability, with a depth to her character that was a revelation. The short scene with Pepper Potts shows her as a smart, funny and capable person, just through dialogue, and it was a delight to watch. The dialogue is whip-smart throughout – Tony Stark gets some of the best lines, suffused with the trademark pop culture gags that Whedon handles with ease – and the actors look like they’re having a blast with the talking scenes. Robert Downey Jr slips back in Tony Stark with ease, Chris Evans and Chris Hemsworth are back in solid superhero mode, Scarlett Johansson was great as the Black Widow, Jeremy Renner was good as Hawkeye (Whedon made me think that Hawkeye was a good character, something I didn’t think was possible) and Tom Hiddleston was having a ball as Loki (I couldn’t believe he got to say ‘mewling quim’ – hilarious). But, as reports have said, it is the excellent Mark Ruffalo and the motion-capture Hulk who steal the show. Whedon has done a fantastic job of capturing the character of the Hulk and why we like him, using him judiciously until needed and then turning the dial up to eleven; it’s an unalloyed delight and provides the two biggest laughs of the film (and this is a film full of funny lines).

It’s not all talking and funny lines; there is plenty of action along the way (Whedon balances the rhythm of little action pieces in between the conversations and the plot), until the final third of the film is one big beautifully choreographed fight scene. The CGI is great (the Ruffalo-based Hulk works really well), although I can’t speak for the 3D because I watched in good old-fashioned 2D, the violence is explosive, the characters act and interact in exactly the right way and Whedon slips in action banter in the right way. It looks fantastic, as would be expected for something with this amount of money behind it, and it’s a joy to witness.

Joss Whedon must be a happy man. Not because he has written and directed what will be one of the biggest films of the year, but because he got to geek out and put Marvel’s superheroes together on the silver screen for the first time and have them do really cool stuff. And he did it really, really well. It’s quite possibly the most perfect comic book movie yet.

Rating: DAVE (DAVID for the comic book geek in me)

[Explanation of my updated film rating system]

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