Director: Joss Whedon
Starring: Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Chris Hemsworth, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston, Mark Ruffalo, Samuel L. Jackson
2012 saw the first phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe reach its conclusion with Avengers Assemble, the first genuine crossover movie of the MCU’s “shared universe”. Each of the previous five movies featured fan-pleasing Easter Eggs and occasional cameos of supporting characters, but this would be the first time that the heavy-hitters would be on the screen at the same time. And, while the track record was undoubtedly promising, there was still a faint nagging concern among some fans about whether the whole thing would come together in a cohesive and enjoyable way.
Oh how wrong they were.
Before I get started with this review, I want to get the reality out of the way. Yes, there are flaws in the film. There are some eyebrow-raising leaps of logic, more than a few gaping plot holes and a complete and utter lack of the character development that had made the solo movies so engrossing. But with all that said, Avengers Assemble may very well be the most fun I think I’ve had in a cinema in my adult life.
Flaws or not, it’s just relentlessly fun from start to finish, and whether it’s the return of ‘bad guy MVP’ Loki as the film’s antagonist, the seamless introduction of the Avengers themselves during an absolutely flawless first half hour, the inter-team conflicts, the tragedy they’re forced to overcome, or the genuinely jaw-dropping finale, this is blockbuster cinema at its absolute finest.
While he lacks a lot of the nuance present during his Thor debut, Tom Hiddleston’s Loki serves as the perfect catalyst for the formation of the Avengers, leading an extra-terrestrial Chitauri army who feel like a worthy threat to the new team. Almost every line of dialogue he has is instantly quotable, from being “burdened with glorious purpose” to calling Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow a “mewling quim”. Yes, his motivations are a bit muddled and flimsy, basically boiling down to him wanting lots and lots of power, but it doesn’t really matter when the character is delivered with as much charm and flair as it is here.
The team themselves also interact in an incredibly interesting way. Sure, Black Widow and Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye are pushed into the background somewhat, with the latter being turned into a generic henchman for a good chunk of the movie, but the friction between RDJ’s Tony Stark and Chris Evans’ Captain America (more on that later), the blossoming “science bros” relationship between Stark and Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner, and the mixture of straight-faced gravitas and deadpan humour from Hemsworth’s Thor makes this an extremely entertaining group to watch.
In fact, one of the scenes I enjoyed most as part of this #RoadToInfinityWar re-watch was the one where we have the entire team bickering back and forth in front of the Tesseract, inadvertently falling into Loki’s trap in the process. There’s some real emotion on display as the jibes and barbs become more and more vicious, underscoring the fact that this isn’t going to be an easy group of personalities to bring together. Banner himself explains this best, hitting the nail on the head as he says “What are we, a team? No, no, no. We’re a chemical mixture that makes chaos. We’re a time-bomb.”
Director Joss Whedon’s distinctive brand of humour is present throughout, with some moments definitely hitting the mark (“He’s adopted”, “Puny god”, etc.) while others end up feeling teeth-clenchingly cheesy (the “That man is playing Galaga” guy actually playing Galaga, for instance). For the most part though, Whedon does a great job with the dialogue, giving plenty of great lines to the big players while doing his best to keep the relatively straightforward story surging forwards from action-packed set-piece to action-packed set-piece.
The much-welcome fan service is on full display throughout, with the film being packed to the gills with “wouldn’t it be cool if…?” moments. From Iron Man and Captain America taking down Loki, to Cap, Iron Man and Thor throwing down in a heated skirmish to The Hulk going fist-to-hammer with the God of Thunder himself, this entire movie seems custom-built to whip fanboys and girls into an absolute frenzy, and for my money, that’s exactly what it did.
The film builds all the way to the climactic Battle of New York, where Whedon throws out any sense of subtlety or nuance (not that there was a huge amount of that on display beforehand) to provide us with one of the all-time great superhero battles. Buildings are destroyed, civilians are saved, faceless alien storm-troopers are dispatched with flair and panache, and everything that had been built up in the preceding five-and-a-half movies crystalises into one jaw-dropping tracking shot which features the Avengers “assembling” for the very first time. An absolutely goosebump-raising moment, as I’m sure you’ll all agree.
At the end of the day, Avengers Assemble did everything it set out to do. It managed to integrate the characters from four separate successful movie franchises together seamlessly, bringing the “shared universe” conceit of the MCU to life in an air-punching two-and-a-half hours of sheer unadulterated fan service. And while it may have been surpassed since, I don’t think any of us will forget just how awesome it was sitting in the cinema watching the comic books of our childhood come to life before our eyes. A fitting end to Phase 1 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, without a shadow of a doubt.
You can check out the rest of our Road To Infinity War reviews by CLICKING HERE.