(taken from www.theadamharris.com)
It can't be an easy task. Taking four of the biggest superheroes from Marvel's comic book universe and combining them together into an epic storyline which features a threat so big that no superhero alone can tackle.
The man tasked with attempting to do just this is Joss Whedon, who not only took on directing but also plays a huge part in the script of this years second big blockbuster. Should "The Avengers" have failed then Whedon would have taken a huge portion of the blame. The big questions that remain are can he do four franchises justice whilst creating a fifth one in the process? Can characters like Robert Downey Jnr's extravagent Tony Stark work on screen together with the straight faced persona of Chris Evans' Captain America? Can Mark Ruffalo finally create a Hulk that lives up to his "incredible" title?
The answer, to everyones relief, is yes. There is no question that "The Avengers" has some issues with its large cast and its general plot, but in many ways it doesn't matter. What Joss Whedon manages to do is give every character enough of an individual focus to make each one stand out and have a purpose for being there. He also makes the actual cause for fighting secondary to the fact that we have some of the most famous faces of the superhero world sharing the screen at the same time. It's is called "The Avengers" after all.
Beginning with the plot, the film revolves around the fact that Thor's brother Loki has returned, taking the tesseract for himself and planning on using it to rule earth. If you haven't seen all of the preceding parts to "The Avengers" then what exactly this cube of energy is could be a little confusing, but needless to say it is something which possesses a lot of danger in the wrong hands. Wisely choosing a god as the villain, Whedon makes Loki even more menacing than he was in "Thor" with Tom Hiddleston putting in the films most impressive performance to add real evil into the mix. Whilst what exactly the tesseract can do and how it works are skimmed over, it also is clear that there isn't much more to the overall plot of this specific film than stop the villain before he takes over the world. It's not exactly a ground breaking story, but it serves as reason enough to get the characters together and as such works.
Whedon isn't afraid to hold back on introducing each character in due course, with Thor in particular being absent for the first thirty minutes. It gives him time to flesh out individual character arcs which add and serve to thicken the universe's scope. Robert Downey Jnr. has never been better as Tony Stark, and it seems that giving him the camaraderie of other characters we already know makes Stark even more witty, relevant and interesting. There's no question that Stark is also the leading role of the film, but he isn't allowed to run away with proceedings. Chris Evans also gets to inject much more development and fun into Captain America. Whilst in his first solo film he seemed too normal and plain to lead a franchise alone, there is plenty of evidence here to suggest that the Captain is a much more interesting character than we saw last year. Chris Hemsworth also gets a meaty role to play, with the fact that his brother is the villain allowing Thor to have more emotional investment in the grand scheme of the plot. It works well, and Hemsworth shines through to give Downey Jnr. a run for his money in just which Avenger is the best. All three get plenty of action and awesome ass-kicking moments for the fans to cheer at, and you'll find yourself loving each of them more comes the films ending credits.
The biggest surprise is Mark Ruffalo's Bruce Banner. Whilst Eric Bana and Ed Norton both failed to find the right angle to take The Hulk's alter ego, Ruffalo reigns in the character, giving him a mysterious and held back edge that instantly makes him more interesting. Perhaps more impressive is what Whedon does with The Hulk. Big, rough and at times hilarious, The Hulk is "The Avengers" ace up its sleeve, adding so much excitement to the action sequences that you wonder how the first two attempts at creating him fell so short. It turns out Bruce Banner is an interesting character on screen, and you can only hope Marvel find a way to show that in the next solo outing Mark Ruffalo deserves the chance to do.
Whilst the big four all shine, the supporting roles suffer slightly through the fact there isn't much time to devote to them. Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow is undeniably the best of the rest with interesting references to her dark past adding an edge to her character we didn't see in Iron Man 2. Jeremy Renner struggles with Hawkeye to find the interesting angle to make the character seem worthy of his own film, but he gets some brilliant action sequences that mean you won't forget he's there at any point. The most disappointing character is Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury, who after being teased for film after film finds himself sidelined for large chunks and still hasn't really got to show any sort of depth or intrigue in his character. Clark Gregg and Cobie Smulders make much more of their limited running time, and Gregg's Agent Caulson plays a huge part in getting the team working together.
When the film reaches its crescendo it lets everything loose, with a forty-five minute action sequence that is huge in scale, destruction and scope. It's captivating and breath taking to watch, and is a fitting conclusion to the years of buildup we have seen from the first Iron Man up to now. If you have a love for just one of these characters you'll find yourself glued to the screen, laughing out loud one moment and gritting your teeth the next. It's the very definition of cinema-de-smack-gobbage.
As things wind down, every character is left in place that sets up their next outing, and even though you can't wait to see them do battle solo again, you will feel a little hole in your heart that you have another long wait before all of them team up again.
Perhaps, rather sadistically, you'll be hoping for some global threat sooner rather than later, so they have a reason to avenge once again..
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