THE AVENGERS Review; "[This] Is A Spectacle Which Demands Repeat Viewings"

We were lucky enough to be at the UK's first press screening for Avengers Assemble last week and the embargo has finally lifted! Hit the jump for our in-depth and spoiler-free review of the epic ensemble!

It's easy to throw around the words, "greatest comic book movie ever," after seeing a new release like Avengers Assemble. Of course, it’s an entirely different thing to actually mean it. This time however, you most definitely will. Joss Whedon has achieved what many considered to be an impossible feat. He has brought together all of these larger than life superheroes into one film and actually made it work. There are no problems with the script, no issues with the direction and most certainly not a single fault to be found with the acting or special effects. Avengers Assemble sets the benchmark for every single movie in this genre to come (and for blockbusters as a whole) and regardless of the fact that both Spider-Man and Batman are on the way this summer, it's hard to imagine even Christopher Nolan topping this one. It's that damn good.
Joss Whedon's script is exciting, tense and genuinely funny. There are several moments in the film which will have you laughing out loud, although that by no means takes anything away from the seriousness of the situation that the team finds themselves in. The banter between the heroes (primarily from Robert Downey Jr.) is hilarious, and while the film may not be crammed full of easter eggs, the numerous pop culture references are even more fun to keep an ear out for. The movie starts with a bang and maintains that momentum throughout, delivering set piece after set piece. Whedon touches upon just about all of the loose threads from the previous Marvel Studios films without making Avengers Assemble an impossibly complicated watch for anyone who hasn't seen them. He also adds some much needed back story for Black Widow and Hawkeye, while Maria Hill's position in the cinematic universe is deftly established for future movies. To either write or direct a film such as this one is surely no easy feat, but Wheon does both so brilliantly, it's heart-breaking to even consider the possibility that he won't return to do the same for the sequel. The way the team comes together, their interactions and every other single moment of Avengers Assemble flawlessly comes together to create a near perfect piece of cinema. This isn't just the best comic book movie I've seen. It's one of the best movies I've seen period.
Each Avenger receives what feels like an equal amount of screen time and are given their respective moments in the spotlight. This is a true ensemble piece, and the performances are flawless from start to finish. Robert Downey Jr. is on fine form as Iron Man, as are Chris Evans as Captain America and Chris Hemsworth as Thor. The three actors add even more layers to their characters, while simultaneously delivering the same endearing performances which made them so popular in their respective solo movies last year. Whedon's script gives them an awful lot to work with and now we are past this initial stage, there is still an untold amount of space to continue developing the relationship between “the big three”. Samuel L. Jackson and Scarlett Johansson return as Nick Fury and Black Widow respectively, and both actors are given an opportunity to show not only how bad-ass they are, but to give the characters the injection of extra life and personality they were so mostly lacking in Iron Man 2. From the second he appears on-screen, Mark Ruffalo owns the role of Bruce Banner and offers a far more complex and entertaining take on Banner than we have ever seen before. Ruffalo is sympathetic, incredibly likeable and thoroughly convincing as the scientist with a dark (angry?) side. When he tells the rest of the team his secret to controlling the monster (“I’m always angry”) there’s not a chance in hell you won’t believe him. Jeremy Renner is another major addition to the cast and his take on Hawkeye is astonishing as he personifies the character in just about every single way a comic book fan could hope for. Despite spending a fair bit of the movie as Loki’s lackey, his role in the battle for New York City is chock full of scene stealing moments. Cobie Smulders' mainly comedic background quickly proves to be of no cause for concern as her take on Maria Hill is spot on and the role gives her the chance to show off some serious action chops. Overall, she perhaps feels the least developed, but that makes her presence no less satisfying (if anything, it just adds to the anticipation of seeing her again). Clark Gregg returns as Agent Coulson in his biggest role in a Marvel Studios movie yet. Despite some hysterical scenes with Chris Evans, he's also given some serious material to work with here and nails it during one of the most shocking and intense moments of the film. On the other side of the equation, we have Tom Hiddleston as Loki. If you thought he was good in Thor, then prepared to be well and truly blown away. No longer just the jealous brother (though that still plays a big role in Loki's motivations) the God of Mischief is ferocious, nasty and downright terrifying. A scene that he shares with Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow is shocking and nasty, arguably showing him as an equally effective villain as Heath Ledger’s Joker. The actor gets his chance to interact with just about every single actor in the film and he once again offers up a complex performance and remains the most fascinating villain of the Marvel Studios universe.
The special effects are top notch, with not a single scene letting the film down. The Helicarrier (in which a surprisingly big portion of the film takes place) looks magnificent as does everything else. However, ILM just about guarantee countless award nominations next year with their work on the Hulk. The Green Goliath has never looked so convincing, and for the first time ever, we actually see an actors likeness fully realised in his face. The decision to get Mark Ruffalo to utilize motion capture was a wise one as the Hulk moves and acts in so convincing a manner, it's hard to even believe that special effects have become this good. In fact, it wouldn't be in the least but unjustified to call the Hulk in Avengers Assemble one of the best CGI creations in the history of modern cinema. Iron Man of course looks as amazing as we've come to expect. One scene sees Stark donning his armour in a way we’ve never seen before, and it easily surpasses Iron Man 2's still incredible briefcase armour scene. Of course, another CGI heavy component of the film is Loki's alien army (whose identity – after months of anticipation – is casually revealed in the first few minutes). Again, they are entirely convincing and no one could be blamed for assuming that they're actors made up in heavy prosthetics, rather than mo-cap creations. The giant, unnamed creatures which form their army also look astonishing and the epic battle in New York during the last twenty or thirty minutes feel like a true war movie. This isn't a brief battle by any means and is epic in every conceivable sense of the word. A single scene flies us through the city from Avenger to Avenger as they tackle the alien threat together. Breath-taking. Alan Silvestri's rousing score is perfectly suited to this epic action and used to great effect. It's powerful, moving and completely engrossing.
Avengers Assemble is just about flawless. If it has any faults, they're only minor and extremely petty. It would have been nice to hear a certain phrase, and it was a shame that Captain America's discovery was only briefly touched upon, but with the latter situation having already received a decent amount of time in the solo movie, it has absolutely no effect on the quality of the film. What Marvel has teased in the various trailers, TV spots and clips don't even begin to scratch the surface. There are countless surprises on offer and so much we didn't know about. Of all the Marvel comic book movies, this feels like the most "comic booky" but still maintains the tone of those that have come before. Whether it's seeing the epic battles between team members, or even those of them that take on Loki (his final fight is particularly memorable) there's enough here to leave you with a grin on your face which you'll have a hard time getting rid of. Things do wrap up fairly quickly near the end, but in a way which not only leaves the door wide open for a sequel, but also puts each of the characters exactly where they need to be for when we meet them again in their upcoming solo sequels. Avengers Assemble has a powerful story full of powerhouse performances and everyone involved should be proud of what they have created. Oh, and don't even get me started on that after credits sequence...
Clever, funny, emotional, and downright amazing; The Avengers is a spectacle which demands repeat viewings. Joss Whedon has delivered what is quite simply an epic comic book movie masterpiece.

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