Not content with redefining the horror genre with Cabin in the Woods, Joss Whedon has turned his attention to superheroes, delivering what has to be a landmark in the field. A lot was riding on this one, especially as it’s been set up over the course of five movies, starting with The Incredible Hulk and Iron Man back in 2008. But, if anyone could pull together the team of Earth’s mightiest heroes, then it was always going to be the man behind Buffy and Firefly.
Picking up after last year’s Thor, we find Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) continuing his experiments with the Tesseract, a self-sustainable power source used by the Red Skull in Captain America. Unfortunately, Selvig is being manipulated by Thor’s meddlesome brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston), who plans to use the cube to open up a doorway for an alien army – after snatching it from S.H.I.E.L.D head honcho Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Agent Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner).
Now, in a race against the clock, it’s up to Fury to assemble a force that can stop him, beginning with the recently thawed out Cap (Chris Evans), a man out of his time. Next we have Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), already courted by Fury in the first two Iron Man movies, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) – who’s not best pleased about his brother’s antics – and Dr Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo, effortlessly stepping into Ed Norton’s shoes), ‘persuaded’ to join by Black Widow (the smouldering Scarlett Johansson).
But with so many big personalities – and even bigger muscles – clashing, can they ever hope to work together? As Banner puts it himself: “We’re not a team, we’re a time bomb!” And just what secrets are S.H.I.E.L.D hiding themselves? With the extraterrestrial horde on its way, will these heroes really be able to put aside their differences for the common good?
With Avengers Assemble (renamed for theUK market to avoid confusion over our own bowler-hatted and leather-clad heroes), Whedon reaches the pinnacle of his ensemble storytelling. He knows just how much time to devote to each character to make them shine, from Stark’s quips to Cap’s gung-ho leadership; from Thor’s impetuousness and boyish charm to the Hulk’s anger management problems. Even the humans in the team get more than enough screen time, with some much needed character depth given to Fury, Black Widow and Hawkeye.
There are also some great fun moments, which makes it a wonderful family outing too, plus a super fight that makes the one in Superman II with Zod and co. look like a minor disagreement. If there’s one criticism it’s that the alien army wasn’t fleshed out enough, outshone by Loki from the get-go – but then their real purpose is to provide spectacle during the battle scenes anyway, which they do in spades. Even the 3D is pitched perfectly, enhancing the experience rather than drawing too much attention to itself. The likes of The Amazing Spider-Man and The Dark Knight Rises really will have to go some to top Avengers; what’s more, a final teaser during the end credits promises an even bigger and better sequel.
I gave Cabin in the Woods an unusual 11/10 when I reviewed that, and this movie goes even further. I really can’t recommend it highly enough – go see it, right now!
Quite simply the best superhero movie ever 12/10