Saturday, 28 April 2012

Review: Marvel's Avengers Assemble (3D)

CAUTION: Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.

Marvel's Avengers Assemble poster

Marvel's Avengers Assemble (3D)
143 mins / Dir. Joss Whedon

The day is here. It seems like only yesterday that Mrs Blackout and I had gotten to the end of Iron Man, and I made her sit through all the credits so that we could watch Sam Jackson silhouetted against the window of Stark Tower, turn and say to Robert Downey Jr, "I'm Nick Fury. I'm here to talk about the Avenger Initiative". I won't lie, I made a little squee noise. Since I was a wee one, I've always loved Marvel over DC, and if Iron Man had been a promise of the way things were going to go down, an all-out Avengers movie would be right up my street.

Four years and five lead-in movies later, and the day is here. The Avengers is on at the cinema. Or Marvel's Avengers Assemble if you live in the UK. I'm not sure why, but never mind.

The Plot: Earth is under threat from Loki, and the alien race, the Chitauri. The only hope of salvation lies in resurrecting an abandoned S.H.I.E.L.D. project, The Avenger Initiative, to combine the forces of Earth's (and Asgard's) greatest heroes. But the candidates for the team are spread far and wide, and they're not all known for their team spirit. A race against time and against evil begins as The Avengers assemble…

The Good: This film is a lot of fun. That seems to be the simplest way of putting it. It's ridiculously loud, possibly too long for some folks, and quite niche considering its mainstream marketing, but it's a lot of fun. Considering most of the backstories have been told already, there's a bare minimum of setup to Avengers. A voiceover at the start lets you know what the deal is, but other than that you pick it up along the way with back-references and scant exposition. There's not a lot of downtime in this movie, and considering the running time that's quite an achievement.

• The same humour that was present in the Iron Man movies returns in force in Avengers. A lot of this is down to Tony Stark/Iron Man, although the biggest belly-laugh of the film goes to The Hulk by a mile. When you watch it, you'll know the bit I mean because the whole cinema will be guffawing. There are a lot of chuckles in the film, but the laughs never outstay their welcome.

• There's an interesting amplification to some of the characters traits, this time around. Captain America seems more prissy and old-fashioned than he did in his own movie, Thor seems less carefree and his humility has all but vanished (and that was kinda the point of his film), and Iron Man is starting to seem more conceited and brash. Now I know that the idea is that the 'team' is made up of members who wouldn't normally be in a team, but their characters seem at odds with the ones we've seen previously. It works for this, anyway, but I'll be interested to see how the heroes are in their own subsequent sequels.

• No spoilers in this review, but there's some significant character development for one of the players, and I thought every aspect of it was handled greatly.

• There was a part in the climactic battle where The Hulk and Thor are standing on the back of a Chitauri snake/dragon, both smashing the living shit out of everything within reach. It was at this moment I noticed I was grinning like an idiot. The film's not just about breaking things for two hours, but the fact that it had escalated to that point made me immensely happy. The battle of New York is, for me, the enduring image of the film. Noisy, chaotic, and yet strangely sweet and good-natured, with me grinning like an idiot.

• Sam Jackson with an RPG launcher. Why can't more films have this?

• Stan Lee has a cameo, and it's fairly low-key for once. Well, for a Stan Lee cameo anyway. Don't get me wrong, I love the guy, but y'know...

The Bad: I'm not overly keen on the hastily constructed title-card saying 'Avengers Assemble' at the start of the film. It's clearly a drop-in as the US version has a different title (and hence, different card). Maybe it's so that the powers-that-be can tell where the bootlegs are coming from? It also goes against the grain of Captain America and Thor where the title-card wasn't presented until the end of the film. It's a very small point, and purely aesthetic, but it jarred with me.

If you haven't seen all the lead-in movies (Iron Man 1&2, The Incredible Hulk, Thor, Captain America), you may find yourself getting a little lost at times. It's not that the Avengers plot is complex (it's not), it's just that there's very little exposition of a lot of the things that are going on. You're expected to know about the Tesseract from last year's Captain America, and that Thor and Loki are half-brothers. They're mentioned in the film, but not in a way that'll explain them, more as a reminder.

Black Widow and Hawkeye are treated in much the same way, and they don't have their own lead-in movies. Both have appeared in the run-ups, but as incidental characters, so while they're visually familiar, the average audience member doesn't know too much about them. With Hawkeye, we learn that he's an excellent marksman/archer with no super powers as such, but I could have sworn that Black Widow is a low-level telepath/empath, even though this isn't fully explored. More on this, please.

There's not a lot said about The Chitauri. As a movie-viewer who doesn't read the comics or watch the various animated series*1, I feel like I should know more about them.

No Spider-Man? Not even a mention? Really? Oh, okay then.

Maybe it was just me, but the end seemed a little anti-climactic, for reasons I won't go into in this review. It was probably just because the adrenaline was still pumping from the previous two hours, though...

The Ugly: Nothing to report. Not for my money, anyways.

The 3rd Dimension: As with Thor and Cap from last year, the 3D's fairly well executed, it's just not necessary. There are a couple of 'ooh!' shots, but in a two-hour+ movie, you may want more than that. If 3D's your bag, then go for it, otherwise you shouldn't lose too much by going into the screen next door and paying a couple of quid less.

After the credits: There's a roll-call of the main cast with graphics behind. A short scene follows this (setting up Avengers 2 or Thor 2? I'm not sure, could be either. I know both will be made). Once you see the rolling-list of names, you can make your way out.

Worth £8+? Absolutely. The spectacle of Avengers Assemble is what cinema was invented for.

Ultimately, you already know if you're going to like Avengers. It's definitely part of the 'set' that's been built up over the last four years, and it's not going to be a great place to start if you haven't seen those. But if you enjoyed Marvel's run-up to this, you will love Avengers Assemble.

Despite what I've listed under The Bad...

Everything I'd hoped it would be. A thing of great beauty.

*1 These days, anyway. I'm afraid Star Wars takes up way too much of my free-time to get fully immersed in the Marvel universe again.

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.

• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.


  1. To answer your questions, if I may:
    Avengers Assemble because UK media and others might confuse it with John Steed et al.
    Black Widow is just a spy; no talents.
    The baddies are from the Ultimate universe. The recent films have combined elements from the "normal" Marvel universe and the Ultimate world.
    The lack of mention of other Marvel characters is down to studio ownership rights. (No mention of the X-Men or vice versa.)
    Plans for IM3, Cap2, Thor2 and Av2, but I hope the villain shown in AA is kept for them. Ohboyohboyohboy!
    Great to see Mama Barton's boy (my fav superhero) on screen at last.

  2. So is the final movie title "The Avengers" or "Avengers Assemble"? I hope for their sake not the second one ..

  3. The UK title is "Marvel Avengers Assemble". It's on the title-card and also on the BBFC card before the film.
    I think the US title is "The Avengers", but I've yet to confirm that.