(Published in The New Sunday Express, on 30 April 2012, retrieved from http://expressbuzz.com/entertainment/reviews/the-avengers/386829.html)
Cast: Samuel L Jackson, Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston
Director: Joss Whedon
Rating: 4 stars
When four superheroes who’ve had their own films – Thor, Captain America, Iron Man, The Hulk – and two who haven’t yet starred in Hollywood productions – The Black Widow and Hawkeye – come together to save the world, you know it’s going to be the biggest darned movie of the year. If you’re a Marvel fan, you’re worried that it may not do justice to your superheroes. Thankfully, Joss Whedon is one of us, and he steers the camaraderie and the individualism with masterful direction.
And for those who’ve never heard of Asgard, The Avengers offers enough to make them want to enter a universe where bizarrely-clad folks consistently save the world from glib criminals who sneak away little cubes that double as portals to outer space.
There isn’t much to the story. The high-maintenance Loki, estranged adoptive brother of the noble-but-troubled Thor, gets his hands on the Tesseract, and S.H.I.E.L.D. boss Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) deputes his best men – and woman – to claim it back and protect the world.
What could so easily have become just another spectacle with expensive action sequences, an overdose of graphics, and a flood of testosterone is moulded into a film that combines dazzling effects with scintillating repartee. All the while, it basks in the kitsch that makes these evergreen heroes, umm, evergreen.
They’re all conflicted individuals, driven by their strengths as much as their weaknesses, and when they come together, they don’t make a team. To quote the film, they’re a time bomb. The film is particularly well-executed in this aspect. The banter and jousting never seem forced, and the characters drive the situations. As if the coming together of six people used to taking charge weren’t bad enough, their personalities are woefully at variance – which makes for lovely clashes, when they’re as well-scripted as these.
Particularly enjoyable is Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man ribbing Chris Evans’ Captain America. Iron Man’s conversations with The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) are far more loaded with subtext. The Hulk has been played by three remarkable actors so far, and Ruffalo owns him as much as Eric Bana and Edward Norton did. Tom Hiddleston, reprising his role as Loki, makes for one of the best bad guys we’ve seen on the big screen of late, and I can’t wait to see him in Thor 2 next year.
Whedon leaves his mark in sequences that seem to subvert themselves. Watch out for the one where Scarlett Johansson is trapped, and the one where The Hulk undergoes a transformation. For all these little touches, this film is a good old summer blockbuster, a celebration of computer graphics and special effects that are meant to be lapped up in 3D. Make sure you don’t miss the end credits!
The Verdict: Start lining up at the ticket counters. This is the sort of movie that’ll make you walk out of the theatre spouting all the monosyllabic exclamations we usually attribute to teenagers.