WARNING: THIS REVIEW MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS FOR THE FILMS IRON MAN, IRON MAN 2, THE INCREDIBLE HULK, THOR AND CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER
After four years and five films building up to this, Marvel’s Avengers Assemble brings together all of its major superheroes (well, the ones it still has movie rights to anyway) together in one film. Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr., Sherlock Holmes, Tropic Thunder), Captain America (Chris Evans, The Losers, Fantastic Four), Thor (Chris Hemsworth, The Cabin in the Woods, Snow White and the Huntsman) and the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo, You Can Count On Me, The Kids are Alright) are forced to unite against Loki (Tom Hiddleston, Midnight in Paris, War Horse) and his invading army of alien Chitauri.
But the biggest questions on everyone’s lips are does it work and does it live up to the hype? And the simple answer to this is simply yes. A beautiful blend of scenes filled with witty dialogue that is trademark to its brilliant director Joss Whedon, and high octane action. The cast work well together, each bouncing off each other, and Whedon approaches the idea realistically. Because of the force of characters that are just thrown together, they don’t get along instantly, and it’s fun to see them disagree and fight. All of the characters are made relevant as well, because in these sorts of films, it’s easy to neglect a few of the roles. Mark Ruffalo particularly stands out as Bruce Banner/The Hulk. The role was changed from Edward Norton in 2008’s The Incredible Hulk, and while Norton was a conflicted scientist desperate to find a cure, Ruffalo’s character is a man coming to terms with who he is, which better suits the tone of Avengers Assemble. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is no stranger to cast changes, and I feel that this one was better handled than changing Terence Howard for Don Cheadle in Iron Man 2. The only one who feels a little absent from the start of the film is Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker, The Bourne Legacy), but more than makes up for his lack of screen presence by the dynamic relationship he has with Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson, The Girl with the Pearl Earring, Vicky Cristina Barcelona).
The film also expands the role of spy agency S.H.I.E.L.D., and it’s just as interesting to see behind-the-scenes in the organisation as well as the superheroes themselves. The organisation’s position has only been touched on briefly in the other films, but it has now been expanded, with recurring appearances from Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg), Dr. Erik Selvig (Stellan Skasgård, Pirates of the Caribbean, Good Will Hunting) and Director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson, Pulp Fiction, Snakes on a Plane), as well as the welcome new character of Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders, How I Met Your Mother). But none of this would matter if they weren’t against a strong villain and Hiddleston more than meets up to this. He is more devious and insane than he was in Thor (being thrown into space would probably do that to you), being much more than the jealous brother, but never losing his original smoothness.
There have been some complaints however, but I feel these are unjustified. Yes there may be some plot holes (how did Loki survive? How did Thor make it back to Earth after the destruction of the Bifrost Bridge?). Yes it may suffer from a convenient story, but did it stop me from enjoying it? No. If anything, they left just enough to be expanded on in following films.
Avengers Assemble is a superhero blockbuster film that meshes together several franchises brilliantly and all the while I was grinning when I was watching it. It can be enjoyed as a stand-alone film, but it is significantly better if you have seen all the other films leading up to it. While it’s not going to win any Oscars, and it’s still not the best film based on comic books, it is the best ‘true’ comic book film ever made and my personal favourite film of 2012.