I watched and enjoyed Thor and Iron Man. Did not go to see either of the Hulk films or Captain America. Didn’t like Iron Man 2. Right! Backstory over. Did I enjoy The Avengers?
Why yes, I sure did! Starting off with a slightly confused opening fight/chase sequence, The Avengers quickly shifts gears to become a character-driven story which gets viewers invested in the characters before thrusting everybody into a massive action sequence at the end. The film sees Chris Hemsworth return as Thor (very enjoyable), Chris Evans as Captain America (struggling a little to find room for his charisma to shine through), Robert Downey Jr as Tony Stark (much more fun to watch when his constant one-liners are actually funny), Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow (given a bump in personality and capability), Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury (confident but without much to do) and the full arrival of Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye (a solid performance which turns a boring comic character into an interesting film role) and Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner/The Hulk (the best performance in the film). Maria Hill and Agent Coulson also appear, played dependably by Cobie Smulders and Clark Gregg, while Tom Hiddlesworth reprises his role as Loki in sneering, camp style.
The performances are all strong, with some – Ruffalo, Hemsworth – stealing any scene they’re in. Writer/Director Joss Whedon mixes them up in interesting ways as the film goes on, giving most of them the opportunity to spend time with anyone else. You’ll see Hawkeye work with Black Widow, but Black Widow work with Captain America, and Captain America work with Iron Man or Thor. For a comic-fan, seeing people butt heads in just the right way is one of the main strengths of a massively effective script. Humour gets lobbed about, unsurprisingly, with everyone given the chance to show their differing viewpoints and senses of humour, while the action scenes fall into place fairly organically, and don’t detract from the characters. Whedon in particular nails a dynamic between Tony Stark and Bruce Banner which was a delight to see.
The plot is extremely – EXTREMELY – thin, with Hiddleston’s Loki having a rather simplistic plan which has to be complicated by surprising subplots which don’t lead us anywhere particularly interesting. SHIELD, in particular, don’t come across as an interesting organisation, beyond the three main agents of the film. The scenes where Nick Fury addresses his ‘council’ in particular are a little dull. The opening scenes are frantic, but uninvolving, and it’s not until we start seeing the Avengers team together that things pick up and the momentum begins to spin and spin. There are a lot of fight scenes, and they’re of varying quality. Loki’s initial fight is overly-edited, a problem which recurs once or twice in this fight-heavy film. However, the final fight is an utter triumph of film, with CGI and live fighting matched with moments of wit, levity, pathos and intensity. We as viewers are fairly aware that Whedon isn’t going to get to pull off one of his patented ‘Joss Deaths’, but he manages to make things fairly tense for every character.
There aren’t many shout-outs for comic fans, but a teaser halfway through the credits (there is nothing RIGHT at the end) should whet appetites for a potential Avengers 2 movie. A film which doesn’t feel as long as it is, Avengers packs an incredible amount of content into the running time, with superbly-staged fights, a fun and interesting script, and most importantly – a thoroughly heroic line-up of characters. Marvel did it, guys. They made The Avengers into the biggest superhero movie of all time.