When the all powerful Tesseract, last seen in 2011‘s Captain America: The First Avenger, was recovered from the ocean after falling from the hands of the Nazi General Red Skull. Scientist Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) is trying to uncover it’s potential use when it instead opens a portal allowing fallen ‘Asgardian’ god Loki (Tom Hiddleston) to enter. With world domination on his mind, Loki enchants Selvig and S.H.I.E.L.D agent Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) with his scepter and escapes the lab hidden underneath the agency’s headquarters. Realising the odds are against him, Director of S.H.I.E.L.D, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) asks Agent Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) to bring in Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) to locate the Tesseract as it was radiating strong signs of gamma rays (which Banner was highly exposed to). For his vast technical knowledge, Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr), commonly known as Iron-Man, is asked by Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) to join the Avengers initiative led by Captain America – a super soldier who has been frozen for nearly 70 years and awakens in a world he’s not familiar with. After a failed attempt to subjugate humans in Stuttgart, Loki is captured by S.H.I.E.L.D but is soon extracted by his step brother Thor (Chris Hemsworth), new guardian of Earth, to inform him his plan will be met by a force unlike anything he has ever seen. Continuing the story from 2011’s Thor, the threat to Earth is now larger and more dangerous thus demanding the assembly of Earth’s mightiest heroes – the Avengers.
It’s unprecedented in Hollywood to invest in four different story arcs, across five different films, each costing approximately $100 million to make – to lead into a single movie. But then the Marvel Universe is a different kind of business building upon the dreams of comic book and fanboy/girl lovers across the world. But does it succeed, say compared to another group of Marvel superheroes like Bryan Singer’s X-Men?
On the face of it Avengers Assemble is a whole hearted fun movie. Director and co-writer Joss Whedon has taken the fully developed characters from Iron-Man, Captain America, Incredible Hulk and Thor and amalgamated them into something dynamic and visually stunning. Unlike X-Men, which comprises of a mix of well known and secondary characters, Avengers Assemble has nothing but big gun names who are worthy of standing eye to eye with mesmerising gravitas. The synonymous Whedon humour, found his in Angel and Buffy series, is very much evident here with Downey given the lion share due to his facetious nature.
Much of the film takes place on the ship transporting Loki from Europe to America where the iconic comic heroes are together in a lab and Whedon simple provokes their pride allowing them to unravel their vulnerability. Captain America intriguingly asks Tony Stark, “Big man in a suit of armour, take that away and what are you?”, to which Stark vainly replies, “A genius. Billionaire. Playboy. Philanthropist”.The Cap isn’t impressed as his list doesn’t contain anything in relation to being brave or indeed a soldier to which the Cap prides himself on. The verbal bouts turn physical when Banner turns into the Hulk and attempts to fight Thor which is not only aesthetically amazing but truly ground breaking in terms of the green giant finally receiving the CGI motion capture treatment he deserves. Much of this ‘clash of the titans’ effect takes precedent for most of the film and unfortunately it is perhaps it’s biggest drawback.
When Jackie Chan was giving a promotion interview for Rush Hour 2, he expressed his frustration with American action films focusing a great deal on plot rather than the actual action. He said, “In Hong Kong, most stories revolve around the concept of ‘Why you look at me?. Fight. Fight. Fight. Why you look at me again? Fight. Fight. Fight.’” Changing the location and balletic performances of his ‘Fight. Fight. Fight’ philosophy has made Chan the greatest action hero of all time. And deservedly so. If only Whedon took this approach. With the individual story arcs, the main protagonists had an opportunity to divulge into their origins, some had a sequel to go into their dark side but Avengers Assemble was meant to be an opportunity to put all the talk aside and open a can of whoop-ass for every threat a super villain was meant to throw at them.
The criticism with Spiderman 3 was that a single protagonist was put against one too many villains (including a darker version of himself). The opposite here applies as there are one too many superheroes against a single villain and an army that never really seemed dangerous. Which is a terrible shame considering Hiddleston is brilliant as Loki. And it drags in the middle act. It really drags. The film is far too long, by approximately 40 minutes. The audience was anticipating Loki would introduce a bigger villain in the final act to which Spiderman or even Wolverine might drop by as cameos lifting the dramatic tension to a tantalising and overwhelming climax. But alas, they never did. Further complaints include Captain America’s costume which looks nowhere near as cool as his original film, the chemistry (or lack of) between Romanoff and Hawkeye had no real significance to the overall story and the terrible dismissal of Agent Coulson. Just unbelievable.
A great opportunity has been lost because many would praise this to be a fun movie, full of laughter and family entertainment (the most funniest and charismatic character being Hulk who never got enough screen time) but it could’ve been better; if Singer was able to bring dramatic depth, entertainment and cool factor to his X-Men films then we were expecting the same, if not more to Avengers Assemble. Undoubtably, it will certainly make back its production value and is still a worthy viewing but does it claim the crown as the best comic book action movie ever made? No. The Dark Knight is still wearing that. And he might still retain it when he rises in a few months time.
Reviewed by Vaskar. S. Kayastha