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Stars: Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Samuel L Jackson, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston, Cobie Smulders, Stellan Skarsgård and Clark Gregg.
Writer/Director: Joss Whedon
Running time: 143 mins

Rating: 3.5/5

The one thing that the average moviegoer will be most grateful for in Joss Whedon’s geek-tacular epic is that it employs a shimmering, pristine (one might say...stark) colour palette. All but one of the vast action sequences are shot in the cold light of day with no atmospheric fog-FX or lingering explosion-smoke to muddy the 3D lens. It may sound old-fashioned to cherish such an asset, but that is itself perfectly fitting. With a red-white-&-blue hero out front, leading his moral chargers against a yappy Brit-influenced villain, The Avengers is, conceptually, about as gosh-darn old-fashioned as the modern blockbuster gets.  

In fact, if you take the shiny hardware of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Helicarrier headquarters and Downey Jr’s hipster wise-assery out of the mix for a moment, Whedon’s world conjures images of a 1960’s Hanna-Barbera TV-cartoon version – had there ever been one (a small-screen friendly 1.85:1 screen ratio bolsters the notion). His camera feels static, even when it is not; there is a simplicity to his shot composition and editing that subverts even the panels-per-page literary origins of Marvel’s super-group. Whedon has utilised a visual style that honours key team members antiquated beginnings lovingly yet captures the action with a contemporary precision.

It is a simplicity that echoes the heart of The Avengers team, as well. These are heroes for whom there are no grey shadings in the fight against evil – Captain America (cast standout Chris Evans) is a mountain of 1940s stoicism; the bond that sleek operative Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) shares with assassin Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) is unshakably honourable; Thor (Chris Hemsworth)...well, he’s Mr Perfect. Even Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), who gets dragged from India against his substantial will, is clear as to his purpose in life – stay in control.

Which means that their nemesis has to be black-as-night and powerful enough to pose a threat to all six of our protectors and the world in which we live. As Loki, wayward brother of Thor and commander of a legion bent on Earth’s domination, Tom Hiddleston emerges as arguably the film’s greatest asset. The scene in which he convinces Black Widow just how evil he can be is a cracking bit of screen villainy; he has many of Whedon’s best lines (in a film full of expertly-written, well-timed humour) and the actor, lean but entirely commanding on screen, chews them with maniacal glee.

Not everything about The Avengers completely satisfies. The first act works over a lot of origin exposition that will play well to the fanbase but was a plod to non-comic types (like me); the first big-bang action sequence delivers though it felt like a while coming. Samuel L Jackson’s posturing remains all-wrong as S.H.I.E.L.D. boss Nick Fury (watching Clark Gregg, as the much-loved Agent Coulson, cower to Fury feels wrong). Robert Downey Jr’s Tony Stark/Iron Man continues his slide into douche-baggery; his smugness has gotten less charming with each screen outing. And, unless I missed some co-ordinates-relevant plotpoint, I can’t figure why Loki would choose the skies over Manhattan to land his army rather than, say, a paddock in Russia.

But The Avengers (or Avengers Assemble or Marvel’s The Avengers – I’ve seen them all used) gets it wonderfully right where it needed to the most. Each hero has ample time in their own spotlight (Ruffalo’s Hulk shining brightest) yet Whedon constructs the enveloping sense of camaraderie seamlessly, all set against top-tier FX and a compelling narrative.

Reader Comments (4)

I believe that lokie needed the energy supply that was connected to the stark tower to open the protal

April 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterScott Newman

Great review, but I have no idea where you get 3.5 stars out of that. Ive seen many similarly raving (with a few caveats) reviews and its 3 or 3.5 out of 5 stars. Exactly how mindblowing, how life altering does a film have to be to get 4+ stars? Does this have to do with Rotten Tomatoes or something. Just curious.

April 28, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterjoeyjojo72

"And, unless I missed some co-ordinates-relevant plotpoint, I can’t figure why Loki would choose the skies over Manhattan to land his army rather than, say, a paddock in Russia."

Arrogance, basically. As Stark said, the man "needs an audience". So I suppose you did miss the co-ordinates-relevant plotpoint, but I won't hold it against you - good review.

April 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterOhJohnNo

I think you're not paying enough attention to the dialogues. You've missed a major point as OhJohnNo pointed out. To have missed this is like Ebert denouncing Star Trek 2009 as a failed movie because he missed the part about Nemo's ship jamming all communications and transporter. It seems there are other things you don't get as well, base on your review, but they could be understandable since you said you're not a comic book fan, even in the slightest I would think so as well since I'm in that category and know. There's a reason for the enemy, there's a reason why it's on top of Stark building, there's a reason why Loki just doesn't outright destroy as much as he could already, etc. All the answers are in the dialogues to be honest.

I suggest that you watch it again and pay much more attention to the dialogues. Can it be that the action sequences might have thrown you off? Just curious.

April 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterThe0ne

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