The Avengers – ★★★★ (1/2)

SYNOPSIS: While using the Tesseract, S.H.I.E.L.D director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and his crew open up a portal which allows the devious villain Loki (Tom Hiddleston) to take control and steal the object as well as special agent Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner). Fury decides to finally bring the Avengers Initiative into force and manages to assemble a team which include Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr), Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans), Bruce Banner/Hulk ( Mark Ruffalo), Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) and Loki’s half-brother Thor (Chris Hemsworth). The band of superheroes must stop Loki from using the Tesseract to open up a new portal which could bring the evil forces of Chitauri down to destroy Earth.

For the last few years, Marvel have slowly pieced together Stan Lee’s comic-book universe by adapting several of his superheroes into their own individual films. Firstly we had Robert Downey Jr reviving his film career with his titular role as Tony Stark/Iron Man in the two Iron Man films. Then we saw The Incredible Hulk make a worthy comeback in ’08 after Ang Lee’s disappointing effort in 2003. And then finally we had both Thor and Captain America make the big screen too. What linked all these films together was a simultaneous appearance in each one by S.H.I.E.L.D agent Nick Fury (bar Hulk) who talked of his desire to assemble a team of special units known as The Avengers to help save the world. With 2012 now upon us, Marvel has sought Disney’s backing and the creative mind of Joss Whedon (of Buffy fame) to form these superheroes together and create the ultimate comic-book blockbuster which most fanboys would never have dreamed of.

The film sets the standard for why the ‘superhero’ genre has become dominant in recent years and is certainly up there with Spiderman 2 and The Dark Knight amongst the best of them. Disney’s involvement pays off after the box-office disappointment of their recent flop John Carter and they have already made plans to follow it up with a sequel (alongside other Marvel film sequels). But director Joss Whedon deserves big credit for bringing these heroic characters together and creating something spectacular for film-goers to indulge in throwing in a mixture of wowing action and witty one-liners and banter between the characters. Having been a fan of the comic books when he was younger, his vision proves the key factor in making the film as stunning as anyone could expect. The action is widespread throughout courtesy of some riveting sequences from a three-way battle between Iron Man, Thor and Capt America in the forest to the incredible showdown in the city where all the Avengers battle it out with flying robotic snakes and Chitaurian soldiers. It’s an orgy of epic proportions when it comes to the visual spectacle! Whedon also gives all six of our superheroes something to do and never chooses to have one character overshadow another, allowing the chief actors to share screen-time. That’s crucial too in showing character development which we see within all the heroes on screen. We have Robert Downey Jr back to his smug and intelligent best as Tony Stark with Chris Evans and Chris Hemworth bringing back their on-screen persona from their films for this as the noble Captain America and the gruff Thor. But the most welcome addition is Mark Ruffalo (replacing Ed Norton from the original film) as the intelligent scientist Bruce Banner who tends to get green now and again. He proves to be a natural in the role conveying the goofy look of Banner before his ferocious transformation into Hulk while at the same time, providing some humourous moments with Thor. Despite not having their own individual films, the likes of Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow and Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye contribute effectively with the plot with Scar-Jo kicking-ass as Widow. Renner on the other hand is given more to do after his brief turn in Thor and contests himself against Katniss Everdene as this year’s best film archer. Samuel L. Jackson also gets more screen-time showing authority in his role as Nick Fury with Clark Gregg giving comedy value as Agent Coulson (as he has done for most of the Marvel films). And finally we have Tom Hiddleston reprising his devious portrayal of Loki with such venom and by doing so ends up more evil than he was in Thor. Superhero ensembles have never been more awesome!

Perhaps the main problem for those watching The Avengers is that some audiences wouldn’t have taken time to watch the original Marvel films and this can lead to a lack of understanding with key references from those films here, like the significance of the Tesseract from Captain America or the Thor sub-plot. But that won’t really matter to the typical film-goer who just wants to be entertained by the dream superhero epic. It’s action speaker louder than words in most blockbusters nowadays and this becomes the problem for the first half of the film where there are a few talkative scenes explaining the scientific factor which drag a bit but this mostly comes before the assembling of the Avengers. Other than that, it’s an immaculate action film which is a rare feat in this day and age.

VERDICT:  The ultimate Marvel-ous experience gives audiences a mind-blowing action-fest with Joss Whedon’s genius and a standout cast of heroes assembling to create the  comic-book blockbuster of the year. Over to you Batman….

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