JIM ROSS takes a look at the the latest comic-book adaptation and first true blockbuster of the year: Avengers Assemble.
Directed by Joss Whedon
Why Marvel Studios took it upon themselves to retitle this superhero smorgasbord is anyone’s guess. Unless their marketing team thinks we’re all stuck in the 1960s staring at posters of Diana Rigg and Honor Blackman, the international The Avengers would suffice. The UK title sounds like Ron Burgundy should bellow it through a horn. Fortunately, behind the camera Joss Whedon has got most of the crucial stuff right and delivered the best Marvel adaptation by some distance.
Initially you might find yourself extremely worried by the fast-paced and rather confusing opening. Loki (Tom Hiddleston), the campy demigod villain from Thor, steals the Tesseract, a source of enormous power, from a SHIELD facility headed up by Samuel L Jackson’s Nick Fury. Fearing the worst for humble Earth, Fury looks to assemble the team of the title, consisting of Iron Man (Robert Downey Jnr), Bruce Banner/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner).
However, the rather confusing and jargon-laden opening quickly moves on to become a comic book movie that is a light-hearted but well-crafted action adventure. After the various MacGuffins are set up, Joss Whedon wastes no time in delivering a bright and humorous film with some sparkling dialogue. Although the action sequences are well-handled, the balancing of the dense character roster is what really makes this a superb film. It is remarkable, for instance, that this ensemble piece is by far and away the best adaptation of the Hulk character. Mark Ruffalo’s portrayal of the witty but uneasy Banner is finely judged, strengthened by Whedon’s direction. One scene where Banner begins to lose his cool in his lab is an excellent demonstration of how to handle the tension surrounding the character.
The superhero bulk does cause the film to sag a little around the middle, and needs a good kick up the arse to get going for the final stretch. Additionally, some characters are a bit thinly drawn, such as Jackson’s Nick Fury, who basically functions as a plot fulcrum and little else. Fortunately, everyone is on good acting form – particularly Tom Hiddleston as Loki. A theatrical presence, chewing up dialogue everywhere; Hiddleston is a terrific villain and also responsible for a new addition to my profanity vocabulary.
Avengers Assemble is an excellent comic book film that treats its subjects with an affectionate humour, rather than a mocking one, and is a counter-point to the trend for ‘gritty’ comic content striving for an illusionary realism. Despite the superb films that have come from that approach, Avengers Assemble is all the better for it.