| The Red Right Hand
Robert Downey Jnr.
I've been waiting for this movie for a very long time; I think it would be fair to say thousands, perhaps millions of people have been waiting for this movie for decades. I'm not specifically referring to the adaptation of Marvel's The Avengers but a superhero movie that manages to perfectly capture the look, feel and flow of a decent comic book arc. We have the money, we have the technology, we have the talent and finally, we have the proof that when taken seriously, these adaptations can decimate any competition. If I'm being honest, this is only Whedon's second directorial release and it's fucking flawless! Subsequently, this review is going to get out of hand really quickly and will probably breakdown to little more than a gushy mess, with me at the centre, crying in a bundle, thanking everyone involved.
Set almost immediately after the events of Captain America, Avengers shows us that Thor’s [Hemsworth] half-brother, Loki [Hiddleston] is alive and has forged an alliance with an alien race, whose sole intention is to invade, secure the cosmic cube (called the Tesseract in the film) and rule over our planet. On Earth, the secret agency, SHIELD (led by Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury), has been experimenting with the Tesseract in an attempt to harness its unlimited power. Once Loki arrives, Fury tries to forge his own alliance by manipulating a group of unstable but highly talented/skilled/gifted individuals: Captain America/Steve Rogers [Evans] the super soldier and hero of World War II, frozen in time; Iron Man/Tony Stark [Downey Jnr.], the billionaire playboy powered by a nuclear heart; The Hulk/Bruce Banner [Ruffalo], the victim of gamma radiation exposure, burdened with a second personality in the form of an unstoppable green rage monster; Thor, the god of thunder; Hawkeye/Clint Barton [Renner], an eagle-eyed marksman with a penchant for archery and Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff [Johnasson], the ex-Russian spy with a mean kick and a dark past. To say anything else of the plot would ruin the film but you get the idea. Good guys fight the bad guys, fight amongst themselves, fight their inner-demons, it's the awesome.
No matter whom you favour or which actor you thought would pull more focus, this is an ensemble cast and absolutely no one is awarded more screen-time, one-liners or.. er.. cool stuff, than anyone else. Each character is just as important and vital to the plot (and the team) as any other and everyone's story offers a different outlook. Rogers is still hopelessly trying to catch up with a world that left him behind, Banner is just trying to get by without hurting anyone, Thor feels responsible for his brother's actions and Stark wants to save the world any way possible (making sure everyone knows who's responsible). Then we have the SHIELD agents, Hawkeye and Black Widow tending to their personal history while finding a place on a team of extraordinary individuals. On top of that no singular character is left in the cold, everyone bonds and everyone clashes with explosive and amusing results.
Technically speaking, Avengers is breath-taking. The cinematography was crisp and fitting, the editing was precise, Silvestri's score lacked any memorable harmonies (considering he wrote the Back To The Future theme) but it was still brilliantly executed, the action flowed beautifully, the set design was futuristic yet wholly credible and the costumes were jaw-droppingly exquisite. All of which was heightened by the FUCKING ASTOUNDING visual effects - everything felt real. No uncanny valley shots, no ropey sequences or dodgy images, just immaculate artwork brought to life on-screen. An achievement which Steven Spielberg, Michael Bay, George Lucas and James Cameron have been attempting forever.
For those unfamiliar with his work, Joss Whedon has been dealt from the bottom of the deck since the eighties. Working his way slowly up the ranks, he's been knocked down at every turn. What we know to be phenomenal writing and cinematic vision was quickly dismissed, re-written and flushed without thought. Looking back on all the projects he was involved in, one can't help but wonder what they would have been like if someone actually listened to the man! In my opinion, Whedon is not only perfect for this film but perfect for this genre because of his tried-and-true formula. As stated in my The Cabin In The Woods review, the man opens unassumingly, builds slowly, delivering what people expect and want - a few brief action scenes, lots of heart and drama undercut with pitch-perfect wit - before kicking everything into high gear for the third act. The only comparison I have is watching a surprisingly entertaining puppet show, before the curtain pulls back and you realise you're actually strapped into a roller-coaster, hurtling at Mach 3 with the puppets screaming and fighting everything thrown at them. In conclusion, Whedon is a genius and anyone who ever doubted it should be publically slapped.
Some would argue that in order to fully enjoy this film, you would need to have seen the other Marvel releases that led up to this event. By extension, those same individuals would argue that in order to enjoy those lead-in films, you would need to have read the comics.. and you'd have to have an encyclopaedic knowledge of the entire sixty year history of the characters. Utter bollocks. This film is essentially a sequel and by rights anyone who is coming into this fresh is a bit of an idiot. However, if that is the case there are more than enough expositive scenes and clever use of dialogue to explain every character's backstory - or as much as one would need to follow the events of this film. Sure, a decent understanding of where the characters come from and what they've done in print form is nice and for those people, there are plenty of nods and in-jokes (the end credits monk's reward comes to mind) but it's hardly necessary. If I had to draw on one flaw, I would say the opening two minutes were a little startling. Following the production logos, we're shown a very rushed glimmer of some alien race and Loki's deal with them before the plot really kicks in. In a comic it would have worked as a nice opening, maybe even an event prelude but in this film (especially when compared to what followed) it felt incredibly messy. But that's it. That's literally the only problem I had.
It's been so long since I've seen a film that has entertained me to the extent that my adrenal gland started properly pumping; a film that opened its arms to me and said, "Don't worry, you're with us." Yes, I realise how pathetic that sounds but I'm a geek. This is my thing. For me, this is home and to see true justice done to the characters, story and the art of cinema brought a smile to my face and a tear to my eye. Thanks, Joss. You're the man.
UK - 27th April 2012
US - 4th May 2012
The Scene To Look Out For:
Whedon gets comics, he also gets TV/Film and knows that tender emotion, gritty drama and outrageous action are nothing without a keen semblance of relatable humour. Not fart jokes and immature antics but genuinely hilarious setups that pay off beautifully. Choosing a single scene or moment that stood out from all the others is actually incredibly difficult. The whole film is a steady stream of brilliance that flows from start to finish without issue and every time I isolate one memorable interaction, I'm instantly reminded of countless more of equal greatness. As such, I will not be highlighting a single scene. Sorry guys, this entire film is astonishing and I refuse to pick - like that shitty grandmother line, "You're all my favourite grandchild"
As an ensemble, the entire cast from the top billed talent to that one guy who was playing Galaga when no one was looking, offer amazing performances. But two individuals really resonated with me and deserve special mention. The first is Loki. Without question, Tom Hiddleston has not only retained the key aspects of his stellar performance in Thor but he's managed to elevate himself to scene-stealing magician. The man is literally unstoppable in this film, as suave, powerful, resourceful, cunning, intelligent and amusing as any of the main team - a simultaneously menacing and riveting villain. Then there's Cap. Chris Evan's Captain America went from unlikely element to natural leader in the space of two hours. A man without purpose, a fish out of water, a lizard without a shoe... whatever, he brought something new to the character and felt more like Brubaker's Cap than I could have hoped for.
"What are we doing here, Shakespeare in the park? Doth mother know you weareth her drapes?"
In A Few Words:
"Glorious, spectacular, hilarious, ridiculous, engrossing, emotional, stunning, wonderful, sublime, divine.. words fail me"