‘King of Cult’ Joss Whedon has served up a crucial lesson in how to balance huge expectations and a smorgasbord of Hollywood talent in this year’s must-see superhero spectacular The Avengers (or if you’re in the UK… Avengers Assemble. For all intents and purposes we’ll call it The Avengers.)
Despite the huge number of potential pitfalls associated with a project this huge, The Avengers is a classic case of a studio getting it right. Where in many cases the number of protagonists involved might see the film become jumbled, the blend of characters from Robert Downey Jr.’s “genius, billionaire, playboy… philanthropist” to Samuel L. Jackson’s eye-patched Nick Fury captures the imagination of the comic books and translates it effortlessly to the big screen.
And what a spectacle it is, witnessing Downey Jr, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Samuel L. Jackson, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson and Jeremy Renner going toe to toe with an alien army against a New York backdrop is a joy to behold. The sheer scale of the action and ambition of the set pieces is breath-taking, yet the film takes it in its stride and Whedon’s motley crew of heroes fit perfectly. But it isn’t all about the heroes…
Every superhero needs an enemy and the group of A-List heroes are but all usurped by Tom Hiddleston’s Loki. Given the chance to build on his convincing big screen debut in Thor, Hiddleston gives us a villain with style and a genuine sense of evil. His scenes offer some of the most enjoyable viewing in the film’s 140 minutes and without giving anything away, by far the funniest. That’s not to say that humour is a rarity; Avengers offers a number of genuine laugh-out-loud moments balanced with touches of heartbreak and poignancy. While the epic action scenes and over-the-top set pieces will be what attracts its audience, these moments make it all seem more human, more real.
That’s not to say that The Avengers is perfect. If I were to have a couple of gripes I’d say that Cobie Smulders as SHIELD Operative Maria Hill could have been given a bit more screen time rather than being little more than Samuel L. Jackson’s right hand. At the risk of being really picky, sometimes it was all a bit too much; The Avengers is quite possibly the only film where a nuclear warhead could simply be considered almost nothing more than a mishap. Or did this just add to the grandeur and gravity of the accompanying scenes? The box office smash seemed to agree with the latter and it’s no surprise that Avengers 2 has already been commissioned by Disney. If it’s anything on the original, we’re in for a treat. Disney, if you’re reading this just make sure Mr Whedon is involved again.
And one last point, don’t ever leave a Marvel film while the credits are rolling.