Thursday, 3 May 2012

Clash of the Cats: The Avengers

Image: Fohnjang Ghebdinga/Fohnhouse

Houston, we have a difference of opinion. Ever since The Avengers crashed onto cinema screens last week the film's magnificence has been subject to a large amount of debate among us Wandercats. While two of us enjoyed the film, we certainly don't feel that it's as impressive as many, including our Jonathan, would have you believe - and in my review of The Avengers I contradicted popular belief, much to his dismay.

Clearly rattled, naturally, he had to strike back....

So we finally have The Avengers, the film that brings together the superheroes that Marvel has worked so hard to endear to cinema goers over the past few years. Last year I was surprised, impressed, and very much entertained by Thor and Captain America, and with Joss Whedon taking over writing and directing duties for The Avengers, my expectations were high despite the nagging worry about fitting so many characters into one film.

One of my main concerns was that Robert Downey Jr. would dominate the proceedings but all of the cast get their chance to shine, with Chris Evans and Chris Hemsworth carrying on their good work, and I very much agree that franchise newcomer Mark Ruffalo shows that he’s the perfect choice to play the Hulk (and yes, please give him a stand-alone film). Scarlett Johansson also makes her mark much more effectively here than she did in Iron Man 2. Benefiting from a script that gives her not only some quality Whedon zingers but things to actually do, her Black Widow stands shoulder to shoulder with the super-powered boys in costumes. As for the complaints about Thor and Cap, it’s hardly surprising that Thor is the butt of a few jokes (much like he was in Thor), and Captain America’s vital to the proceedings as he’s not only the leader and the only one not to hesitate to sign up, but he also gets some nice fish-out-of-water material to work with.

There was a moment about halfway through the film when it suddenly occurred to me that The Avengers felt very much like a comic book come to life. And yes, obviously, that’s the point, but it’s worth addressing the fact that Whedon brought his cast and his characters together to create something that is very much like a Marvel comic. The script is at its best when providing the characters the opportunity to bounce off each other. It’s a pleasure to watch these characters verbally sparring as well as squaring up to each other. Given that it’s Whedon, it’s hardly surprising that their back-and-forth is great but the fight sequences are truly impressive, building towards a huge final battle that’s a tremendous piece of sustained action.

Tom Hiddleston’s Loki seems to be a point of contention, but in my opinion, it’s a fantastically sly performance of a wonderfully written character. Loki is snide, he’s petty, and he’s cruel. His plans for world domination are born purely out of a sense of entitlement and spite. He’s not trying to rule the world because he wants to change things, he wants to rule the world because he hates it and everyone in it (particularly his brother) and he wants them to suffer. I couldn’t really disagree more with the idea that Hiddleston isn’t good at playing bad.

Now, I do have a couple of complaints to address. It was inevitable that one or two characters were going to be short-changed, and frankly I would have liked to see more of Thor. However, Hemsworth continues having a fantastic time with the part and his chemistry with Hiddleston is as good as it was in their previous film. Jeremy Renner’s Hakweye looked conspicuously like the third wheel in much of the advertising, and while he finally gets something to do in the final act, if one of the characters could be lost, it would be him. Finally, I do agree the film does sag a little in the middle as the slow build towards the stunning climax is, in fact, a little bit slow.

But these are all minor complaints. One of the things that has impressed me the most about the recent Marvel films is their commitment to character and a sense of spectacle and fun, and The Avengers continues that trend. It’s hugely entertaining and it’s up there with the best of the Marvel movie canon. You’ll leave with a big grin on your face.



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