A team of super heroes brought together from three different blockbuster movie franchises. An alien invasion. A shadowy Chancellor Palpatine-style intergalactic villain. A shady government organisation with dubious plans. Joss Whedon has a lot of plates to keep spinning with Avengers Assemble. Somehow it works. And it doesn’t just work – it’s up there with the best films of the year.
Whedon, a lifelong Marvel fanboy (he wrote a lauded run on comic series Astonishing X-Men), squeezes in just enough geeky references to keep the hardcore happy without alienating people who just want to see the Hulk smashing stuff. The first hour – the whole film is two and a half hours, although you wouldn’t think it – skirts a little close to too-much-yapping-not-enough-slapping territory, but is broken up by enough set pieces to keep your attention. It’s a veritable game of schoolboy Top Trumps; ever wanted to know who would win in a fight between Thor and Iron Man? Black Widow and Hawkeye? Captain America and Loki? It’s all here.
The dialogue is – as you’d expect from Whedon – snappy as a pond-full of piranhas and the characterisation is pitch perfect. Mark Ruffalo’s deserves the most applause, providing the stand-out performance of the movie as the Hulk and delivers the single biggest hairs-on-the-back-of-your-neck line of dialogue. Samuel L Jackson is finally uncaged to terrific effect, having been restricted to cameos before Avengers Assemble. Scarlett Johansson is miscast as Black Widow but she works with what she’s got.
It’s all tongue in cheek, with some excellent physical jokes thrown in for good measure; The Dark Knight it ain’t. Avengers Assemble is exactly what a summer blockbuster should be – smart, funny and visually stunning.
First published in City A.M.