Director: Joss Whedon
Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson
Running Time: 135 mins
It’s no secret that comic books are all about payoff. There’s a fairly standard formula to the medium; Establish a flimsy conflict and stakes as quickly as possible, then let the shit hit the fan. The action, the style, the amazing feats and witty quips, by the time the villains bite the dust the reader is so exhilarated they can barely remember that it didn’t make all that much sense to begin with. With this in mind, it can safely be said that Joss Whedon has created one of the truest comic book movies of all time with Avengers Assemble. And boy does it kick ass.
Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, Hulk, Samuel L Jackson. These are earth’s mightiest heroes, and they’ve almost all had their turn in the spotlight. But when the world is faced with the greatest threat its ever seen (yeah, it’s aliens), they must set aside their differences, overcome their egos, and band together to save our asses.
Avengers Assemble opens on a sour note, with a wonky action set piece that’s more bewildering than thrilling. Still, it manages to establish a bad guy, and the movie just about scrapes by as entertaining for the rest of the awkward, exposition heavy first act. The film is tasked with uniting characters and plot from the five preceding entries in the Marvel Studio’s universe, so it’s not too surprising that the process is a little clumsy. The set up ain’t pretty, but it is quick, and once all our heroes are in one place, the film can finally unleash the insanity it’s been giddily building up to. Once Avengers Assemble hits its stride, it’s practically unstoppable.
Increasingly massive action set pieces begin to pile up one on top of the other as the film enters its second act, each more intense and exhilarating than the last. The action is matched stride for stride with a genuinely hilarious script that’s laden with sharp one liners, witty asides and physical humour. Everything is delivered with pinpoint comic timing, and never undermines the drama, unless it’s been explicitly designed to. Every member of the stellar main cast is given more than one moment to shine, though surprisingly it’s the CG incredible Hulk that grabs the lion’s share of the big pay off moments.
The action is framed masterfully through Whedon’s energetic eye; plenty of raw spectator style handycam, and some slick use of long traveling shots to convey the many simultaneous action set pieces of the anarchic third act. Alan Silvestri’s score punctuates the organised chaos perfectly, though lacks the kind of memorable themes that set apart the films ’80s genre forefathers.
With Avengers Assemble, Whedon has taken a potentially volatile formula, and crafted a thrill ride without compare. Following the classic comic book blueprint, his film delivers so much humor, adrenaline and pure pay off, that the flimsy plot and rickety first act will be wiped from all but the most pedantic of minds. He knows his audience inside out, and plays them for all the laughs, cheers, gasps and fist pumps they’re worth. It’s something incredible to behold.