The Avengers

FILM REVIEW

Whether you like superhero movies or not, you have to appreciate what Marvel Studios have achieved with The Avengers. There was a massive amount of risk putting the wheels in motion to make this film happen.

Since Samuel L. Jackson’s cameo as Nick Fury at the end of 2008’s Iron Man, Marvel have taken the necessary steps to recreate their universe on the big screen; following with origin stories for The Incredible HulkThor and Captain America and returned to the world of Tony Stark for Iron Man 2.

Each of these films dropped subtle references, featured small character cameos and slowly began to establish a central story that would bring these heroes together. And if any one of them had bombed (which both Hulk movies almost did), The Avengers may have never happened.

Luckily for Joss Whedon et al, everything came together.

The Avengers brings together some of Marvel’s most beloved heroes – Tony Stark (Iron Man), ThorBruce Banner (Hulk), SteveRogers (Captain America), Natasha Romanoff (Black Widow) and Clint Barton (Hawkeye) – who are hand-picked by Jackson’sNick Fury to join forces and protect the earth from alien domination.

This alien uprising is led by Thor’s brother Loki, with TomHiddleston returning to the role. Personally, I liked that Marvel had an unmasked actor as the main villain, instead of covering him with make-up or using CGI. Hiddleston’s facial expressions capturedLoki’s different sides, switching  between mischievous and monstrous.

As for the gang of heroes, audience members will have trouble choosing their favourite character, as each of them has their moments in the spotlight.

I was kind of expecting Robert Downey Jr. to take centre-stage in this film, but I’m glad Whedon shared the screen time more evenly. While Iron Man is a fan favourite, it’s good to see the character challenged and even pushed around by his new allies.

Mark Ruffalo is easily the best Hulk yet, taking over from EdwardNorton in 2008’s The Incredible Hulk (after he replaced Eric Banain the 2003 version). This Bruce Banner is much more compassionate and self-aware, trying to control his power rather than fear it. I especially liked the banter between Banner and Stark.

Female viewers will be happy with the amount of muscle on show from both Chris Hemsworth (Thor) and Chris Evans (CaptainAmerica), while males could be distracted by ScarlettJohansson’s tight leather costume – so both sexes will be satisfied.

Newcomers to the Marvel universe include Jeremy Renner, as the skilled archer Hawkeye, and How I Met Your Mother’s Cobie Smulders as Agent Maria HillHawkeye’s relationship with Black Widow is important to the story, and while Smulder’s role isn’t pivotal, she easily makes the switch from comedy to action.

As fans of Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Firefly will know, Whedon has a knack for making potentially cliché and cheesy moments into something fun. Moments like Captain America instructing “Hulk… Smash!” and the big ensemble shots could have failed massively with any other director.

He did extremely well to introduce each character separately, without it dragging on too much. He also gave each character their own arc, whether it was Thor’s personal relationship with the group’s enemy; Captain America adjusting to modern times;Stark’s selfishness conflicting with his duty as an Avenger; Hulk’s conflict with his alter ego; Black Widow’s past; Hawkeye’s personal revenge and Nick Fury’s battle to prove The Avengers Initiative is effective.

And true to the cross-over comics, Whedon also demonstrates what happens when big personalities come together – they initially clash. Overcoming these personal conflicts gives you another reason to cheer when they finally “assemble” and fight together at the end. Plus, we finally get to see what would happen if Thor and The Hulkwent toe-to-toe.

As a comic nerd, I guess the biggest letdown is the lack of cameos and references included. There was so much hype around possible cameos from other members of The Avengers, including Spider-manAnt Man and The Wasp, that I figured at least one would come true. However, it will be interesting to see if Ashley Johnson‘s waitress was featured for a reason.

And while I won’t reveal what happens, there is a mid-credit sequence that you should stick around for. Just don’t bother waiting around for something after that because there’s nothing there.

The Avengers is one of the greatest superhero movies ever made – as long as you don’t go in expecting Oscar gold. Hopefully the success of this one allows Marvel Studios to dig deeper into their universe, with its long-list of origin stories, sequels and cross-overs to follow.

The Avengers is currently in Australian cinemas.
Rating: A+