The Incredible Hulk
It’s fair to say that ‘The Hulk’ is the one ‘Avenger’ that sticks out like a sore thumb…a giant green one. Spawning a successful TV series starring Lou Ferrigno back in the late 70s, and the awful 2003 film Hulk by Ang Lee, the superhero got a decent reboot in 2008 by Louis Letterrier. Edward Norton plays the frequently pissed off Bruce Banner. Labelled a fugitive, he’s frantically searching for a cure whilst on the run from General Thaddeus Ross, played by William Hurt. The film is a straightforward ‘blockbuster’ that’s fast-paced, action packed and not bogged down by narrative complexities. It’s an entertaining romp that does everything a superhero film should do.
At the height of the cold war as anti-military, anti-capitalistic fervour swept across the youth of America, Stan Lee (at the time a story-plotter for Marvel) created the wealthy weapons manufacturer Tony Stark, the eponymous superhero of the Iron Man saga. Iron Man’s recent foray into cinemas under the guise of Robert Downey Jr., in the light of current economic turmoil and amidst the aftermath of several unpopular Middle Eastern conquests, stands as a contemporary cultural phenomenon. Perhaps, it is his arrogant playboy attitude that stands out among the brooding moral superheroes for whom ‘with great power comes great responsibility’, perhaps it’s some kind of infantile wish-fulfilment or maybe he’s just plain cool; whatever it is that makes us love Iron Man, in the midst of Marvel Avengers Assemble and with a planned Iron Man 3 in 2013, it doesn’t seem as if we are about to stop.
Captain America: The First Avenger
The final piece of the Avengers puzzle makes for a faithful comic book adaptation of Marvel’s most patriotic hero. The film is essentially a 1940s’ war story with a science fiction twist, which is magnificently realised through the film’s marriage of retro futurism with high-octane set pieces. The film’s visualisation evokes the atmosphere of an Indiana Jones film, which, not including Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, is by no means a bad thing. This is unsurprising, having been helmed by Director Joe Johnston, who, after the success from his previous foray into the superhero genre, The Rocketeer, once again captures the wartime period aesthetic perfectly. In addition, The First Avenger is equally indebted to the film’s superb cast. Chris Evan’s performance as the titular champion is convincingly heartfelt, whilst newcomer Hayley Atwel provides a similarly compelling heroine. Nonetheless, the two leads are eclipsed by the film’s supporting cast; Stanley Tucci joining the legacy of Marvel’s outstanding paternal figures, whilst playing opposite Tommy Lee Jones’ gruff military commander, who relishes in delivering the movie’s best lines. Captain America: The First Avenger provides a fun, conventional superhero film; a welcome breath of fresh air in an age of darker, more complex comic book outings.
Arguably one of the hardest of the Avengers to get right, a film based on an ancient Norse God could have ended up on the wrong side of camp. Many scoffed in disgust when they found out Kenneth Branagh was making such a mainstream film but it was largely well received and managed to take itself seriously enough whilst keeping its tongue firmly in its cheek. It was helped by a strong cast, including Natalie Portman, Anthony Hopkins, rising star Tom Hiddleston and not forgetting the charismatic lead Chris Hemsworth. It was fairly standard Hollywood fair, but it set up the Avengers film nicely and it will be intriguing to see how Thor fits in with the rest of the Avengers.
Jack Singleton, Thomas Mackay, Malcolm Remedios & Edward Haynes