The ultimate superhero mashup from Marvel Studios.
Following the huge success of Iron Man (Robert Downey Junior) and the relative healthy returns for the lesser known Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Hulk (now Mark Ruffalo) and Captain America (Chris Evans), the obvious monetary synergy of all four characters in the same movie is obvious.
Adding to the mix we have tight leather clad Black Widow (Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) along for the ride, following their brief appearances in the previous films. On Bad guy duties we have Loki (Tom Hiddleston), hell bent on creating a portal to earth to allow his army of minions to flow through and capture the world, making him the undisputed leader of, well everything.
On paper this should not really work, we have numerous superheroes all with very different powers, origin stories, character arcs and so forth. Somehow writer and director Joss Whedon, of Buffy and Serenity fame, manages to create a cohesive whole. Each character gets to contribute and have their moment or two in the sun, no-one appears sidelined for too long. The ultimate tag team if you will, even Agent Phil gets his chance to shine.
Whedon is far too sharp to allow the proceedings to get too pretentious, for every hint of comic book mythology a pin is on hand to puncture the balloon, audiences and characters clearly instructed not to take all this too seriously
Complaints, the film does feel long and there are shades of “Transformers 3” in the climactic scenes, have we not done organic alien monsters destroying skyscrapers?
The story is largely irrelevant, all the crew are called together by Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) in full, “hell yeah” mode, to defend the earth against this ultimate threat. Loki wields his staff with aplomb, initially stealing away Hawkeye and Selvig (Skellan Skarsgard). We know they are working for the wrong side due to their crazy eyes, until of course they experience some cognitive repair surgery, or get bashed on the head, dependent on your medical training.
The effects are top notch, production values off the scale and it is obvious the director has a firm grip on the material and belief in his characters. All participants appear to be having a whole lot of fun and it comes across on the screen.
Who would have thought a few years ago that cast lists of this quality would be lining up to play Comic Book heroes, how times and storylines have changed.
So to the characters. Stark is just Stark, every mans wish fulfillment, rich beyond dreams, able to ignore anyone and everyone, good with the ladies but now settled with the radiant Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow). Thor continues to talk in Nordic God like speak, which never gets old. The trusty hammer Mjolnir gets a good work out here, incidentally Natalie Portman’s character is referenced but not shown on screen.
Captain America is tried and true, embodying a dependable “old world” can do attitude, which is a pleasant antidote to Iron Man’s showy pursuits. Evans does well here, actually anchoring the character somewhere firm amongst all the chaos.
Strangely the character that should not work at all, just maybe steals the show. The “Hulk” whose character development in real life now has morphed through three “A” list actors, is the obvious crowd pleaser. He also gets the best two laughs in the film and the least expensive wardrobe, just a torn shirt and some cut off jeans.
The Hulk is played rather well by Ruffalo, bringing something to the role that Norton or Bana did not find. The big guy remains under wraps for quite some time but when he gets angry, he sure makes some mess.
Clearly the studio are thinking big, stay for the set up as it is clear the “Avengers” work is not done yet.
Yet another high for the comic book genre, post modern and self knowing in the approach, this works better than anyone might have dared to expect.
Big, loud, expensive comic book superhero mashup. Not to be taken seriously, just enjoyed for the spectacle on show and the obvious thought, care and intelligence invested in the series.