Review: The Avengers

Few films will come as anticipated as The Avengers, the accumulation of years of superhero movies that finally sees the likes of Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr), Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Captain America (Chris Evans) joining forces to battle evil and save the planet (but mostly just America). It’s hard to ignore the hype that has surrounded this Marvel comic adaptation and as it explodes upon the multiplexes across the globe I was left with a distinct sense of relief. To be perfectly honest with you, I didn’t want to be one of those people that anonymous online commentators fire vitriol at simply because I didn’t understand the intricacies of why Iron Man acts the way he does or understand the hows and whys behind The Hulk’s green-hued muscular transformation. Quite frankly, I was just glad I had a good time and don’t have to be “that guy” with a target on his back.

While films like Iron Man (2008), Thor (2011), Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) and maybe one of the Hulk movies (but I can’t really tell since all have featured different actors in the role and been so wildly different in tone and craft) told their own stories with their own characters, The Avengers is the film that ties them all together in one shiny package. Included are Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), previously seen in Iron Man 2, Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), briefly spotted in Thor, and, yes, The Hulk, played by franchise newcomer Mark Ruffalo. There is a plot about Loki (Tom Hiddleston), brother of Thor, planning to open up intergalactic portals, but who cares when it’s this much fun?

Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Captain America (Chris Evans) go to battle in The Avengers

What makes The Avengers work is a mix of technical skill and actorly enthusiasm. As written and directed by Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), The Avengers has a quick-witted screenplay that constantly fills its characters techno-babbling mouths with smarter than your average dialogue. Whedon’s experience on Buffy has certainly helped him master the delicate balancing act between allowing his actors to interact with each other as well as green screens and monsters. His skill shows up magically during the action sequences where sprightly-choreographed one-on-one battles sit next to colossal, extravagant sequences of bombastic all-in battle that are refreshingly coherent. Impressive 3D and colourful costumes and sets are intertwined exquisitely.

Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) fights the good fight in The Avengers

As for the actors, even when a character is more-or-less shunted to the sidelines due to an overstuffed narrative, the actor finds finely tuned beats to play. Captain America for instance is sadly given little to do but hand around in Iron Man’s shadow, but Evans is so perfect for the role that even in darkness he can emerge with a perfect line reading or handsome gesture. Johansson is particularly fine, but it’s Hemsworth who easily takes out best in show honours, with the Australian carrying over his fabulously cocky persona from Thor, still the best Marvel movie out there. His muscles aren’t too bad to look at either, although The Avengers is thoroughly subdued in that particular arena. Sorry ladies, no shirtless superheroes here. Thankfully what The Avengers does have is a solid gold structure that doesn’t buckle under the weight of its gargantuan expectations and overflowing cast. It’s a winner and a definite early highpoint to blockbuster season.

The Avengers is out  in Australian cinemas now.

Director: Joss Whedon

Cast: Robert Downey Jr, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L Jackson, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston, Mark Ruffalo, Cobie Smoulders and Gwyneth Paltrow