As master plans go, it’s certainly an ambitious one. After steadily regaining the production and distribution rights to its own properties, Marvel Studios’ super-sized gambit has finally come into fruition and has promptly set about laying waste to multiplexes the world over. Despite a somewhat clunky UK title, Avengers Assemble is the culmination of over four years steady ground work by the entertainment colossus, and as such can honestly be considered one of the most ambitious - not to mention risky - undertakings in recent cinematic memory. If it bombed, it ran the risk of not only inciting the boundless wrath of its fiercely loyal fan base, but also of singlehandedly liquidating any credibility and momentum that Marvel has earnestly sought to build from the ground up. No pressure then…
In director Joss Whedon, Marvel head honcho Kevin Feige could not have entrusted such a huge gamble to more well suited pair of hands. It’s for this very reason that Avengers Assemble succeeds in not only achieving its already achingly vast aspirations, but almost utterly obliterates them in a gleeful wave of unadulterated carnage and razor sharp panache. First hinted at in the post-credits scenes of Thor and more widely used for dastardly ends by Hugo Weaving’s Red Skull in Captain America: The First Avenger, its once again “blue-glowing-cube-of-doom” the Tesseract that serves as the engine of timely war this time around, controlled by a wryly unhinged Loki (Tom Hiddleston on excellent form), last seen plummeting into a celestial abyss in Thor.
With the untold might of an intergalactic army behind him (you’ll find no spoilers here), Loki finally forces Nick Fury’s (Samuel L. Jackson) hand in engaging a certain initiative first threatened in 2008’s Iron Man. As expected from Whedon, the man responsible for birthing Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Firefly and its sister film Serenity, a lot of the joy can be found in the wonderfully well judged interplay between its central super squad. The heart and soul of Marvel’s master plan was always going to have to be about exploring how such a disparate collection of planet-sized egos and city-levelling powers find a way to co-exist long enough to win the day. Thankfully Joss Whedon provides an answer: very, very badly. And painfully.
Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury
Whether it be Chris Evans’ Captain (far better used than in his solo effort) plugging a heady mix of man-out-of-time comic shtick and shield-flinging derring-do, Chris Hemsworth’s cod-Shakespearean Thor (hilariously forsooth-ing his way into battle before laying waste to pretty much everything) or Robert Downey Jr’s ever droll Tony Stark managing to simultaneously piss off everyone whilst still pulling off being an intensely likeable man of iron, the key word here is friction. And Whedon is more than capable enough to know that this is where the real fun is. That and providing almost incomprehensible volumes of slickly delivered ass-whoopings of course.
This, naturally, leaves us with the Hulk in the room. Much has been made of Mark Ruffalo’s inheritance of the role of one Bruce Banner (itself passed on to Edward Norton from Eric Bana) and it’s a subject that has left many a fan wondering quite how Whedon was planning on implementing such a notoriously complex and awkward character. Thankfully, it’s a turn that is quite frankly leagues ahead of what anyone could have hoped for. Ruffalo promised a far more accessible interpretation of both Dr. Banner and his big, green alter ego, and whilst this is very much true, Ruffalo doesn’t skimp on either the deep seated vulnerability or tortured humour that makes the character so appealing in the first place.
Any potential issues of how the Hulk’s obviously over-powered talents would slot in with the more reigned in capabilities (relatively speaking) of his cohorts are answered in a series of confrontations that range from the inspired to the pant-fillingly funny. Jeremy Renner’s Clint Barton (AKA master archer, Hawkeye) and Scarlett Johansson’s Agent Natasha Romanoff are both excellent in supporting roles that both ground the team on a much more mortal level and whose friendship provides the backdrop for a much darker plot tangent. Hell, even Clark Gregg’s Agent Coulson even manages to grab enough a few precious moments in the spotlight. Was Avengers Assemble ever going to be recognised as one of cinemas greatest triumphs? Of course not, but quite simply this is what happens when a great idea is bettered by even greater execution. Relentlessly entertaining, unbelievably well made and astonishingly focused, this is as good as you were hoping for and then some.
Avengers Assemble official website