Writer: Elaine EweWriter Ratings:Overall: Cast: Plot: Effects: Cinematography: Watch this if you liked:
Those who are here for this review want to know only one thing: does it live up to the hype? The answer is a resounding yes, ten times over. Oh, you want more specifics? Well, first of all, director Joss Whedon has managed to take seven contrasting colours to weave them into a rainbow, complete with a pot of gold at the end of the journey (a metaphor for viewers' satisfaction, so to speak). The seven are Tony Stark a.k.a. Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Steve Rogers a.k.a. Captain America (Chris Evans), Dr. Bruce Banner a.k.a. Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Thor a.k.a. (Chris Hemsworth), Natasha Romanoff a.k.a. Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Clint Barton a.k.a. Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Loki (Tom Hiddleston). Nick Fury may have considerably more screen time than his previous post-credits' scenes, however, his role is still relegated to the occasional one-liners and it is the seven that the theatre entrants have paid to watch. The "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" creator and his team certainly know this, and they have definitely gone to town with the material.
Of course, before we can have the rainbow, we must first have some dark clouds, and let it be said that "Marvel's The Avengers" is not a film that everyone can jump into. Two hours and 23 minutes is hardly enough to develop fully-fleshed characters from scratch, but more than enough to develop existing characters into three-dimensional ones, which is what Whedon has done. For those who have not watched the previous Marvel films, with the exception of Ang Lee's "Hulk" (2003) and Louis Leterrier's "The Incredible Hulk" (2008) (this is because they changed the main actor), take away a star for you will spend this film getting acquainted with the personalities instead as opposed to getting re-acquainted with old friends.
And like old friends, this narrative of the Marvel-verse is filled with action, humour, charm and heart. Chris Evans stills plays the soldier he was moulded to be, "the man out of time" if you will, always ready to jump into action if it is to serve his country and following orders. Chris Hemsworth's Thor is still the impulsive Asgardian who is still trying to work out his brotherly issues, but brings the team the much-needed youthfulness and spirit. Mark Ruffalo, the one that everyone is curious about, makes for a superb Bruce Banner, bringing to the role a kind of subtlety and endearing quality that makes his conflict believable and sympathetic. Fellow newcomer Jeremy Renner steps up from a cameo role to one of the leads, and he does not disappoint. Despite his ordinary, pudgy-faced and quiet demeanour, there is something very compelling about his Hawkeye as he shoots his arrows with confidence. On the other hand, Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow is the archetypal Whedon female, although thankfully, her character is written with much nuance than we have seen before in Jon Favreau "Iron Man 2" (2010). Robert Downey Jr. is back with his trademark dry wit and charm, which provides much of the film's humour. To be fair, their interactions will one another is worth the price of admission itself, such as seeing Iron Man and Hulk getting along or Loki trading barbs with Nick Fury.
At the same time, no character is given more prominence over the others despite the unsettling amount of egos present (we are looking at you, Tony Stark) and everyone gets their fair share of the story. It is not really surprising coming from the man who is used to handling large, charismatic sets of characters, such as in the aforementioned "Buffy The Vampire Slayer", "Firefly" and "Dollhouse", thus it is even more satisfying to see him pull off the same trick twice for "Marvel's The Avengers". Whedonites will be able to spot his usual trademarks, such as his penchant for strong female characters, uncanny comedic timing and tragedy, not to mention the subtle references to other fandoms (see if you can spot "The Wizard Of Oz" and "The Lord Of The Rings"). Despite the occasional cheesy line that makes you want to roll your eyes, the overall dialogue is crackling with energy and wit, bolstered by impressive set-pieces like the airship.
Kudos must be given to Marvel movies' secret weapon, Clark Gregg's Agent Phil Coulson, who steals many of the scenes he is in. He is very much the essence of us normal folk, providing viewers with a platform of sorts to relate with the film, whether it is his hero-worship of Steve Rogers or his bravery in times of peril or his unwavering faith in the group of social misfits. In fact, if anyone from the assembly that should complain about being short-changed, it is probably Cobie Smulders' Maria Hill, whose role consists mainly of carrying out Nick Fury's orders.
With heroes too large for the screen, you may wonder if the villain is up to par. Tom Hiddleston's Loki is back, and he is even more devious and devilish than his introduction in "Thor". No one does it quite like Hiddleston, who imbues it with the right amount of gleeful malice and insecurity that makes him one of the more lovable villains. It is a shame that he is not given the role of the final boss, and this in itself is another kink in the grand Whedon piece. The alien army that the evil demigod has allied himself with are reminiscent of the alien invaders from the recent Peter Berg naval film, "Battleship", which, to put it more appropriately, throwaway, bland types who serve as little more than intergalactic cannon-fodder. As such, "Marvel's The Avengers" should be thought of as a character study film or introduction to a much larger plot-verse, much like what Christopher Nolan's "Batman Begins" did for the franchise.
Cinematography-wise, "Marvel's The Avengers" does better than most superhero films, with variations in shots and dollies. There are flashbacks such as a quick montage of the Captain's history before being set adrift in a world he does not quite truly comprehend, indirect point-of-view such as Captain America seen from a broken side mirror on the ground, and slow-motion, to name a few. The pacing is fast and furious, from the car chase at the beginning to the final battle, yet amply intercut with out-of-place scenes to spice up the drama with laughs, such as Banner's arrival at the final battle. Computer-generated imagery-wise, Whedon's film lacks the technological clout of Michael Bay's "Transformers" films or James Cameron's "Avatar", and at times it is all too obvious that it is jarring, especially the scenes with Hulk. However, watching it in IMAX format makes you forget all this, and watching it in IMAX 3D makes the experience helps elevate the experience to nothing short of eye-opening awe, although opting for this is a little too over-the-top as there are hardly any scenes that showcases the power of 3D. The film was, after all, only converted to 3D post-production.
All in all, Whedon's "Marvel's The Avengers" is definitely a product that Whedonites will love while retaining the superhero essence that Marvel fans will delight in. This is one assembly that has defied the odds and worked like clockwork, taking viewers on a relentless rollercoaster ride with its blend of heroism and humour that just keeps raising the stakes while maintaining a firm grip on what makes the individual heroes tick. The film is available in the usual 35mm format, 2D, 3D and IMAX 3D. Do stay until the credits' end for the usual extra scene that may be the building block of the (unavoidable) sequel.Cinema Online, 24 April 2012