Starring: Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo
Directed By: Joss Whedon
A worrying trend has emerged with heavily hyped, big budget movies: to proclaim them either genius or turkey. Gone is the middle ground. While Avengers Assemble may be far removed from turkey, it is not genius; it is a witty, well-acted sci-fi adventure bolstered by a great deal of novelty factor.
The near impossible task of cramming six unique comic book personalities into a coherent narrative is made to look easy by director/co-writer Joss Whedon. Everyone gets a role to play. Captain America (Chris Evans – really into the part now) takes command, Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.) is the tech mind, Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) a master manipulator, The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo)… well, as Captain America announces in perhaps the film’s funniest line, The Hulk gets to “Smash”. Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) is predictably left on the sidelines; predictably because he is only a dead shot with a bow and arrow while Thor (Chris Hemsworth) wields a magical hammer that could destroy a building.
Occasionally narrative situations do feel forced, e.g. the crosscutting of Captain America tackling just one man with a machine gun while Thor subdues The Hulk and Iron Man is churned up fixing a giant propeller. Some scenes are less organic than convenient for giving all the team something useful to do. Not everyone who watches Avengers Assemble will be familiar with the characters beyond their incarnation in recent stand-alone movies or even just references in pop culture. Transplanting, say, Iron Man from a world of, admittedly exaggerated, science to one of aliens, demi-gods and otherworldly portals is an awkward fit at times. Wheden is too deft a director to let doubts linger, but they do surface.
Costume design by Alexandra Byrne provides a clever method for interpreting individual psyche, especially in regards to ‘civvie’ wear. Touches like Bruce Banner wearing a brown suit and purple shirt – purple being the colour of alter-ego The Hulk’s pants in the original comics. Or Tony Stark’s ultra-modern styling – a lounge jacket with zip collar, runners with a suit; Stark is The Avengers’ perpetual rock star in a faded Black Sabbath t-shirt. Steve Rogers’ clothing on the other hand reflects someone with uncomplicated values literally frozen in the 1940s: plaid flannel shirt, high waist pleated trousers and military leather bomber with epaulettes.
When the group “suit up”, as in when they don costume within the context of the story and become ‘The Avengers’, their clothes take on emblematic meaning (see Thor, Captain America), in addition to pure function (Iron Man, Black Widow). By the end of the film we realise just how important this idea has become to the people they protect. Instead of sidestepping that throwing together six characters in flamboyant outfits might look unintentionally silly, Byrne and Wheden have embraced the hero uniform as symbolism. The Avengers are more than themselves, more than individuals; what they represent together is far greater: hope.
Though far from infallible (the plot nearly unravels entirely over justification for the group’s final actions), it is impossible not to have fun watching Avengers Assemble. There is enough love and enthusiasm for the subject matter to power ten comic book blockbusters.
Avengers Assemble is released in the UK on 26th April & U.S. on 4th May.
You can watch movies online including Robert Downey, Jr. in Iron Man at LOVEFiLM.com.
© 2012, Christopher Laverty.