The Avengers (2012)

Joss Whedon is a genius. For those who don’t know this, watch Buffy, Angel, Firefly, Serenity and a couple of episodes of Dollhouse. Occasionally he slips up and creates an appallingly horrible episode of Glee or that unfortunate future episode of Dollhouse, but is The Avengers / Avengers Assemble / Marvel Avengers Assemble / Go! Avengers Go! (or whatever they’re calling it nowadays) a piece of Whedon genius or a work of confused and embarrassing cack?

The Avengers is awesome. Absolutely freakin’ awesome. Fancy some adjectives? Go on then! It’s sharp, smart, funny, moving, hilarious, tense, scary, brutal, fast-paced, insane, furious, awe-inspiring, sexy (naked Hulk! Tasty!), crazy and very very likeable. I want to see it again, right now. But I can’t. Stupid release dates.

So why is Gorepress reviewing it, and how the hell did Boston see it already? Luck, basically. I entered a competition and won a pair of tickets to the first ever fan screening for it… like a lucky lucky bastard. So why is Gorepress reviewing it? Erm… there’s some blood in it. Badly-applied blood, but still some blood…

Right, so The Avengers is awesome. Yeah, okay, but what’s it about? Do you know who The Avengers are? No? Then you’ve got homework to do – go and watch Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and probably best avoid any Hulk movies because gamma radiation can apparently change Eric Bana into Edward Norton and then into Mark Ruffalo. But who next? (My vote goes to Vinnie Jones. “Don’t you know who I am? I’m the Hulk, bitch”. Could be epic).

So what’s the plot? Well, Thor’s evil brother Loki (played by the excellent Tom Hiddleston) has teamed up with a dentally-challenged alien race and plans on invading Earth. In exchange for the “tesseract” – a monumentally powerful energy source – Loki would receive an army to lay waste to Humans and make them his slaves. Told you he was evil.

But Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson on top form) of secret government agency S.H.I.E.L.D. has other plans. He reassembles The Avengers, a group of mismatched weirdoes, freaks, assassins and billionaire playboy philanthropists, and orders them to take on Loki and save the world. But is it that easy? Of course not!

The Avengers packs a heavy punch in the direction of other blockbusters. Whereas Transformers and Battleship make a complicated mess out of something mind-bendingly simple (they’re children’s toys!!) The Avengers takes a LOT of problem property and creates a smooth, exciting thrill-ride that twists, turns and explodes its way onto the screen. The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise should be ashamed. This is how you create a multi-character blockbuster.

This excellence is down to the disciplined and very smart Joss Whedon. The action in The Avengers is superb. Whedon crafts perfect action sequences that ensure every single penny is exploded across the screen. It looks awesome, sounds awesome and – consequentially – is a little bit awesome.

Yet it’s not just the explodey bits that rock. His dialogue is sharp and brilliantly wielded, creating moments of heartfelt pain and moments of absolute hilarity. The cinema was crying with laughter at one point. The Avengers is so much FUN.

But it’s not all about Joss. The general level of expertise on display here is amazing (apart from whoever did the blood effects make-up – you suck) with some of the finest CGI, creature work and set designs I’ve seen for a long time. And the acting? Exceptional. Everyone pulls their weight and delivers unique and excellent characters – from Jeremy Renner’s uber-cool Hawkeye to the unfortunate jet pilot who pisses off Hulk – this is a superb ensemble piece. It’s not Oscar-worthy brilliant, but exceptional by superhero movie standards (and yes, even better than Elektra). Oh, and Edward Norton, if you’re reading this – you’re an idiot. Same level idiot as Terrence Howard. You know why.

Talking of Hulk, my favourite thing about The Avengers is the big green ragebomb himself. Surprised? I was. I’ve never been a fan of Mister Banner’s story, and always struggle to see the value or possibilities in a plot involving a mild-mannered scientist becoming a giant uncontrollable git. Yeah, it’s Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, but that’s why there’s never been a Jekyll and Hyde sequel. One story, one possibility, little legroom for character development.

Joss Whedon – alongside the always underrated Mark Ruffalo – creates a really, truly interesting character out of Bruce Banner / The Hulk. He also brings something all other Hulk movies (and a lot of the comics) fail to truly depict; the raw and terrifying nature of the beast. Hats off to Scarlett Johansson for helping us achieve this, as we genuinely become afraid of the moment Hulk appears. The build up is carefully developed and – when it does arrive – it’s bloody terrifying.

But enough about Hulk. Is there anything wrong with The Avengers? 9 out of 10 certainly doesn’t suggest perfection. Although close to perfect, only minor quibbles prevent this from being 10 out of 10 genius; Black Widow’s superhero abilities seem ridiculous considering she’s just a human (grabbing a moving vehicle at 80 miles an hour, for example, without ripping her arm clean off) and the alien threat – Loki’s puppet-strings, basically – are never sufficiently explained, in physiology and psychology. This doesn’t necessarily ruin the film, but it does niggle the brain a bit and doesn’t leave you 100% satisfied. 98.93% but not 100…

Overall The Avengers is a must see. If you’re new to the entire superhero genre, I think watching Marvel’s recent canon of filmic delights is worth a punt otherwise you’ll miss out on a few concepts, storylines and characters (like who Agent Coulson is, for example. Or what the hell an Asgard is. That sort of thing).

The blockbuster of the year has arrived and it’s only April. Ignore Dollhouse. Forget Edward Norton. Pick a positive adjective and slap it on the poster. The Avengers is absolutely superb.

Rating: ★★★★★★★★★☆

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