Okay, first things first. Avengers Assemble sets a VERY high bench mark for 2012 blockbusters. The likes of Prometheus, The Dark Knight Rises and The Amazing Spiderman have enough hype surrounding them as it is, but Joss Whedon’s Marvel extravaganza gives the producers of those movies a lot to think about.
Whedon has already produced one of the movies of the year with The Cabin In The Woods, but the sheer size of Avengers Assemble is a daunting task to take on, but Whedon has absolutely nailed it. This movie instantly catapults itself into the reckoning amongst the greatest superhero movies ever made, no mean feat when you consider the size of the movie, and that’s in terms of budget, ambition and cast. Because this is a movie with a very strong (and very big) cast, all of whom need to have substantial amounts of screen time, without slowing the pace of the movie and sucking the excitement out of it.
This is something that Whedon has handled extremely well. The movie begins with Thor’s (Chris Hemsworth) bitter and angry brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) stealing an energy source known as ‘the tesseract’ (although it could just as easily be called the Macguffin), as well as Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Dr. Erik Selveg (Stellan Skarsgård reprising his role in Thor) from Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and S.H.I.E.L.D. He has plans to conquer and rule Earth, and as the title of the movie suggests, Fury is forced to reactivate the ‘Avengers initiative’ and sends Agent Coulston (Clark Gregg) and the Black Widow, Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) to bring Captain America (a freshly thawed Chris Evans), Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr), Bruce Banner aka The Incredible Hulk (not Eric Bana, not Edward Norton, but Mark Ruffalo) and Thor together to save humanity.
That leads to an awful lot of ego all in the one place, and it’s no surprise when the newly formed team doesn’t gel immediately. Thor in particular is less than happy, and wants Loki to return to Asgard rather than be killed or held on Earth.
And that’s about as much of the plot as I care to reveal. I could probably get away with saying more without straying into dangerous spoiler territory, but while Avengers Assemble is a great movie, it doesn’t take a genius to work out where the plot goes. So without saying more about the plot, I’ll concentrate on the writing.
With so many characters so heavily involved in the film, it would be easy for Whedon to sideline a few of them, and give all the action and dialogue and hero shots over to one or two. But this is not the case in Avengers Assemble, and everyone gets plenty to do. The film has all the action and drama you’d expect from a superhero movie, but is also consistently hilarious, with lots of memorable lines and moments for almost every character. As we know from his own movies, Tony Stark is the most sarcastic superhero of all time, but he’s not the only one with sharp wit and comic timing. Whedon’s script is smart, funny and most importantly, never boring. The film may be almost two and a half hours long, but it never drags and while there’s many dialogue-heavy scenes, they never last too long before something BIG and EXCITING happens.
The acting is great across the board too. Mark Ruffalo is the only newcomer to the Marvel universe, replacing Edward Norton as Bruce Banner, but gives a quietly assured (except when he’s massive and green, obviously) performance as the highly intelligent physicist. You know what you’re getting with the rest of the cast, having seen their characters in their own movies already, and all of them play it straight, avoiding the hammy histrionics that could easily come while playing superheroes, gods or giant green angry monsters. There are no complaints on the CGI front either, with everything looking spectacular and the set pieces are huge and hugely impressive.
So all this makes Avengers Assemble the first must-see movie of the year. It will make huge amounts of money worldwide, and with every character capable of carrying a movie on their own, you can expect to see a lot more of the Avengers, alone or together in the next five years. Blockbusters don’t get much bigger (or better) than this.