Add to that a strong villain in the guise of Thor's evil step brother Loki, and some big names for the smaller, unproven roles with Jeremy Renner, Scarlett Johannson and Samuel L. Jackson, throw in a Zak Penn and Joss Whedon written script and direction from Whedon, and it all seemed like it wouldn't fail, and it didn’t.
The reviews were amazing, well most of them were and the ones that weren't no one even noticed them, it's not like someone drew everyone's attention to them by bad mouthing them in public on social media for having their own opinions. Anyway, the reviews were unbelievable, even The Times gave it five stars and that was out of five. The opening weekend figures were great, and that wasn't just because it was showing at every screening in every cinema in every conceivable D.
So how could I review it badly? Was there anything that was bad about it? Well I'm not going to disappoint you, I'm mostly with the huge audience who really did like it, but there are some things that I feel weren't so stellar about it, and I'll mention them in the review of Avengers Assemble, or simply The Avengers.
The first thing that everyone will notice about Avengers Assemble is the CG, there are computer effects galore, in fact the screen is bulging from the sides with all the effects in just about every shot and they are pretty amazing to watch. I saw the film in 2D and it looked spectacular, there wasn't an effect that didn't feel cheap or look under par and to be honest there weren't too many of the 3D moments where the shots are so obviously set-up to throw something towards the screen.
The only part of the CG that didn't look quite up to standard was the Hulk, but then it's really hard to make a huge green creature look real against human characters but the film does a great job of holding him off screen, only showing what is needed, and not putting him in the foreground of a shot against too much reality, where we do see him in all his glory it's in action sequences and usually against plenty of other CG elements.
The strength of this new Hulk lies is in the portrayal of the characters of both Bruce Banner and the creature. This portrayal is receiving the most praise out of all the superheroes in the film and rightly so as they've managed to get the character of the Hulk just right and the way that the writers have created this Banner feels as strong as the Hulk himself. I think everyone appreciates the way that they have moved the character on and he isn't constantly battling with the creature but has come to terms with who he is and managed to control the creature’s appearance.
All too often Hollywood keeps going back to the origins to make a new story, but it isn't needed because these origins are almost always the same story each time but with small writer and director quirks. There's no need for another origin tale when the writer, director or actor changes, what we need is a progression of the character and with the Hulk they've done just that and it works perfectly.
While a lot of the positivity of the film is around the Hulk the real power lies in the story. It spends a good amount of time with each character to build their motivations and involvement as well as to build the direction of their story. Another problem a lot of action films suffer from these days is the urge to leap into the action and deliver just that, forgetting the idea of building some classic aspects of a well told story. Avengers Assemble isn't Shakespeare by a long shot but they do spend effort and time building the core of the story so we aren't just thrown into an action CG film with fancy costumes.
At the same time the story is never over told, another problem so many Hollywood films face, over explaining elements of the story both visually and audibly that almost all of the audience have already understood but those behind the film feel need to absolutely hammer home to make sure even the least intelligent inanimate object realises what is happening. I hate that, and I really appreciate that in a superhero action film like this they haven't resorted to this.
A lot of mystery remains in the script, for example we're not told about the evil force behind the attack which could be viewed as a negative as much as a positive, instead we are presented with the known face, that of Loki, and backing him up with enough of a tangible weight to feel as though he could really be a threat to this massively super powered team.
The pacing and timing in the story was really very good and the entire story played out well although not often with dramatic weight but rather running us along with the action, or rather being pulled along with it at a pace. It's during this pace that we do tend to miss some of the poorer moments of the script, points that did stand out a little more for me and came back to mind after the film.
I felt that Avengers Assemble took a lot of pointers from Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy and from Thor (Filmstalker review), which itself also picked up on the new Batman. What these films did was build the story first, as it would in most dramatic films, and then turn to the superhero/action aspect, building characters and threads that would work without the sparkling costumes. Okay Avengers doesn't do this to the level of the Batman films, but it does do it and that gives it a solid backbone and a good strength.
The main issue I found were that characters seemed to turn very easily, think of how easily Loki became the weaker character or the breaking of the Loki spell over the scientist, or Hulk becoming a team member. These key moments seemed to be rather easily passed over when they should be big dramatic moments that seem insurmountable for the characters. I wonder if the story building at the start of the film was allowed in sacrifice for these later moments where the pace and action would carry the audience through them without too many questions.
The action is where the main part of the audience really gets drawn into the film though and it is clearly the main delivery. It is incredible to watch and almost non-stop but it never feels as though it suffers from the fact that it was made mainly for 3D screens and audiences - note that I did watch it in 2D.
Fantastically the story is never lost in the action and the two never feel as though they are separate parts of the film. They weave together and the story elements continue through the action sequences. The film also has to handle multiple threads and it does so really well, another sign of the strong writing, direction and editing in the film.
There’s an excellent section of the film that shows the strengths of the story telling and the action together and that’s when the team are first, excuse the use of the word, assembled. They don’t work well together and start to grate; building the tension between them to actual fights that split the team and fires them off in different directions. From here the film handles multiple story threads which develop the characters and relationships while also delivering action and keeping the main Avengers story moving on. You never feel as though you are focussing overly on any one of these threads and missing out on the others or the overall story, each thread and each character seems to get their time and their moment, even the non-super human ones.
I have to point out the strong direction from Joss Whedon, especially with the handling of the multiple characters, threads and the amount of CG on display. The visuals are fantastic and the action is relentless at times, sweeping across the screen and really pulling you into the action. He had a lot to contend with and he's pulled it all together superbly well. He also co-wrote with Zak Penn, and they should both be praised for the work they did with the screenplay.
Oh, and before I summarise the review let me just remind you, closing credits. Sit around and wait for them to come because there's a mid-credits scene to watch and a big pay off if you know your comics too.
Avengers Assemble is a great superhero action film that delivers everything built on the early stages of the film of strong writing and the development of characters and relationships. The biggest surprise for me was that the film managed wonderfully to pull together the ensemble of main characters without any of them feeling as though they were being short changed and underdeveloped, far from it there's a lot of time spent bringing each of these characters in and developing their stories and the entire rest of the film benefits hugely for this.
Avengers Assemble delivers a great film but there are problems, as the action does get going it takes over and there are some dramatic character decisions that seem far from weighty, characters turn a little too easily and the story has to race along with action. Still these are small points overall because during the race forward you don't dwell on them too much.
During the production of the film the Avengers seemed impossible to assemble, too many huge characters, huge actors, and huge stories to be pulled together into one. The task seemed beyond anyone, especially when so many single superhero and action films fail. Now we can reflect and see that Whedon, Penn and all the other key players behind the scenes delivered a fantastic example of what is possible and one of the seminal superhero films we've seen.
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