Comic books and graphic novels are no longer the uncool, distant cousin of cinema and TV. The universe of panels and ink has always been so fresh with ideas waiting to be exploited onto the big screen or serialised to the small screen and the time has finally come for them to receive the page to moving picture transfers they truly deserve. And boy, are they taking advantage of this opportunity.
I still remember the first time. It’s Friday evening, April 26th 2012, and I am sat in a darkened cinema, packed to the rafters with excited movie-goers. After a five minute, action-laden opening, the Alan Silvestri score blares and as the title appears on the screen I’m not ashamed to say, I well up. This was it, the movie experience I had been waiting for since I lost myself in the artwork of my first Marvel comic early in my childhood. The chrome, 3D title of ‘Avengers Assemble’ rotates and fades away, and the child in me surfaces for the next two hours. Immediately, my worries of a possible disappointment fade; I was safe in the hands Joss Whedon and his team of heroes.
The plot of ‘Avengers Assemble’ (or ‘Marvel’s Avengers’ for audiences outside the UK) is, at heart, quite simple: bad guy Loki (previously known for wowing us as a particularly charismatic antagonist in ‘Thor’, something that Marvel movies have been lacking of recent) is ordered by the leader of an alien race known as the Chitauri, to capture a cube of power with unknown potential named the Tesseract. The only problem is, the Tesseract is currently held by S.H.I.E.L.D and its theft leads Director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) to activate the Avengers Initiative. This brings together a team of powerful beings including Iron-Man, Captain America, Thor, The Hulk, Black Widow and Hawkeye (the latter spending most of the movie underused and brain washed by Loki), who join forces to reclaim the Tessaract and prevent the potential destruction of Planet Earth at the hands of the megalomaniacal Loki and the Chitauri army. Much action and witty one-liners ensue in a crescendo to an enormously grandiose final act.
The actors all fit their characters beautifully, feeling almost as if they are an extension of their real life personas. Robert Downey Jr. is sublime, playing the billionaire playboy and self-professed philanthropist Tony Stark AKA Iron-Man, full of arrogance and self-importance with a streak of charm that makes you root for him regardless. Many have attempted to portray The Hulk in recent years, and finally Mark Ruffalo has succeeded in giving us the thoughtful Bruce Banner at war with his inner, destructive, “puny god” hating, green monster. I especially loved Chris Evans’ Captain America, with his natural, stoic heroism and unshakeable moral code and his “Hulk, smash” order certainly received the biggest shouts of excitement from the audience at my cinema viewing. Scarlet Johannsson and Jeremy Renner are admittedly a little side-lined throughout, but this can be forgiven when considering the magnitude of the personalities they share the screen with.
One particular scene had me raise from my seat. When Chris Hemsworth’s Thor meets Iron-Man and Captain America for the first time, it is an incredible, action set piece, and gives us one of many unforgettable lines from Tony Stark, who foolishly mocks Thor with “doth mother know you weareth her drapes?”; not the best idea to make fun of the God of Thunder. The script contains huge amounts of witty, quotable dialogue like this, and director Joss Whedon has all the while made a valiant effort to remain sympathetic to the source material. He understands the universe these characters come from, and this is almost palpable through the screenplay and the performances.
The plot sometimes loses itself and becomes convoluted as it builds, with the involvement of magic spears and impending doom. One might say the team of heroes fighting faceless, evil flying things across a city skyline now feels a little “old hat”, having been plagiarised more than once, meaning ‘Avengers Assemble’ doesn’t quite have the same impact it did on first viewing. But, ultimately this movie does exactly what it sets out to, as it creates and inspires a shared universe of infinite characters, plot crossovers and opportunities for future movies. It is an enormous amount of fun and will, for me, always be the grandfather of the superhero movie revolution. Although I am biased, I am a nerd after all.
Director: Joss Whedon
Starring: Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo, Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Jeremy Renner