film review: Marvel’s Avengers Assemble (2012)

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film review: Marvel’s Avengers Assemble (2012)

So. Four years and five movies and it’s all been leading up to this.

(If you ignore all the planned sequels of course.)

I was thinking before I saw this… I’m not so sure about superhero films any more. I mean, aren’t they all the same, really? There’s a hero/es. There’s a villain/s. Stuff happens. There’s a big battle. The heroes wins. The end. That’s it, right? How good can even a good superhero film be, really?

Marvel's Avengers Assemble poster, The Avengers 2012Anyway. I had that in mind this morning when I was strolling up to the screening of Marvel’s Avengers Assemble, or just The Avengers as it’s known outside of the UK and Ireland. Yes, it’s written and directed by the great Joss Whedon, and they’ve got Zak Penn, from the X-Men films on co-writing duty… but Whedon is completely untested on blockbuster scale so how much could that count for?

A lot apparently.

I’d enjoyed most of the films leading up to this, Iron Man (2008 review of Iron Man) was kinda fun… and Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger were good placeholders for the main event. What did shine in all of them was the main character. They were great heroes, it’s just that they were in films that were… flawed. Pacing problems, a lack of empathy, a lack of fun, that kind of thing popped up here and there in each of them.

Avengers Assemble has none of those problems. There’s plently of action and even when we got into the big battle, I didn’t find myself suffering the kind of fatigue that can crop up in a hero fight… sometimes I get a bit bored, especially ’cause… well you know how the fight’s gonna end. The film is also properly funny, and more importantly, at appropriate times. I laughed out loud. What surprised me most was that Whedon and Penn have even managed to bring a bit of emotion into it, unexpected but it works. Fact is, it’s 142 minutes long but I never felt bored.

My biggest worry coming into this film was that Whedon and Penn would be overwhelmed by the number of heroes. So many big characters were billed… Tony Stark, Nick Fury, Thor, Captain America, The Hulk, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Maria Hill, Loki… it sounded excessive. I felt there was a real risk that, in the effort to get everybody’s favourite character in, the plot would suffer. That fear was unfounded. They’ve managed to (mostly) balance everyone’s screen time and the way they’ve structured the relationships means that it’s all hangs together far better than I could have hoped.

Which is not to say that it’s flawless either. If I were picking holes, which… I guess I am… I would say that there’s one or two superhero clichés that crop up a little too much. Also, I wouldn’t say this is a criticism entirely, but I think you’d want to have watched the other Marvel films I mentioned earlier. Avengers Assemble saves time by not dwelling on the back story, it doesn’t really need to… but I think it’ll be a much better viewing experience for you if you know some history. I’d recommend Thor and Captain America and possibly Iron Man if you’re so inclined. If you can only watch one I’d go for Thor, it covers the most relevent stuff. Iron Man 2 is unnecessary. In general.

Acting-wise, plot-wise… It’s a big ensemble so it’s not exactly designed for either to shine. They do the job and they do it well. I’ll leave it to you to experience it yourself.

The question is though… Isn’t this just another superhero film? And the answer is… yes. It absolutely doesn’t step outside of that box. I’m not saying that it should have. But this film, as fun and exciting as it is, still wheels that well worn superhero rut. Wheels down it with glee. But it’s still just another superhero film. You can darken them down, add grit and grimacing, or you can paint them in bright colours and fill them with wit and charm… but… How good can they be, really?

Fortunately for me it turns out, I still love superhero films.


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