Avengers Assemble - Cinema Review

'New gambles Mark Ruffalo and Joss Whedon bring, respectively, understated downplay to a character that sorely needed it and wit and sharp scripting to a genre which threatened to forget about those elements.'

In a small screen, during one of the UK's few genuinely 'hot' Summer nights, nearly a month after it opened, there is still a healthy crowd for Avengers Assemble. Somehow, director Joss Whedon - with a large assist from the Marvel marketing department and series producer Kevin Feige - has managed to brush away any concerns that Avengers could have been a John Carter-magnitude bomb, the film galloping up the All Time Box Office chart (it currently sits fifth but will surely overtake Star Wars: Episode One in a matter of weeks, if not days). Financially, at least, this is the justification and payoff for all the individual movies that have led us to this point.

Creatively too, there's evidence during the two-hour, twenty-three minute runtime that what went before has all been worth it and that the gambles along the way have now fully paid off. Robert Downey Jr., a surprise choice at the time for 2008's Iron Man, now inhabits the role with a degree of poise and grace, to go with the egotistical one-liners. Chris Evans and Chris Hemsworth do big and bold in different ways but each does it well. New gambles Mark Ruffalo and Whedon bring, respectively, understated downplay to a character who sorely needed it and wit and sharp scripting to a genre which threatened to forget about those elements. Jeremy Renner and, in particular, Scarlett Johansson are pushed more to the fore, giving us a human element we can care about. Everything, individually, works incredibly well.

And yet, there's a degree of emptiness at Avengers' heart. The assembling of the team is the place Marvel have built us up to but, now here, they seem lost for what to do with them. Bruce Banner (Ruffalo) - not seen since Ed Norton's turn in 2008's The Incredible Hulk - is the only character here with a recognisable arc. Everyone else ends up more or less the same as when they started. Thor (Hemsworth) is mighty, newly in love with Earth; Stark (Downey Jr.) is brave and selfless, despite outward appearances; Cap (Evans) is the golden-hearted boy wonder. Nobody changes, in amongst the excuses put on show to fight hard and explode things loudly.

Add to that too the fact that the individual best bits of the previous Marvel films are either not here at all, or swallowed up to smaller screen time. There's a great Stark joke about Thor's Shakespearean verse, which the character gets to speak about three times. The USP of Captain America's period elements is gone, save one single set, which we've already seen and there's little of that film's bitter-sweetness. Banner is presented, from very early on, as being in control of Hulk, all but losing the character's sole piece of interest: his unpredictability. Even Stark's one-liner count takes a hit.

So, as ever, the less-is-more rule seems to apply. I would have preferred more period Captain America, more Shakespearean Thor, more Stark ego-indulgence, more Hawkeye/Black Widow spy play; all in preference to what is on show here. Marvel have assembled their team by excluding the best parts of each and what they've ended up with is something less like a greatest hits and more heading towards a B-sides compilation. It's great to see the characters together, battling through your garden-variety actioner but, next time, give them an overall plot worth caring about and individual development worth each of them turning up for.

Look further...

'What strikes one the most about The Avengers, and its greatest strength, is the manner in which it captures the uncynical, almost earnest nature of the comic-book medium' - Hope Lies At 24 Frames Per Second


  1. Replies
    1. Its got some good lines in it yeah. Hulk punching Thor was laugh out loud. When Stark did get chance to say something funny his zingers were zingy.

  2. As always, thank you for your level-headed analysis. I'm in unison with your thoughts here.

    1. Good to hear Nick! Hoping for a bit better in the inevitable second one.