The Avengers (Assemble)

Thank heavens The Avengers was renamed The Avengers Assemble in the UK. That way all my hopes and dreams for the resurrection of Emma Peel could be knocked on the head straight away. So with all my expectations adjusted, this weekend I squeezed myself into a packed multiplex while a storm raged outside to enjoy a film that I was sick of two years ago. I should state at the beginning of this piece that I am not a superhero fan. I usually go and see them because lurking therein are some fine actors who clearly can’t afford to eat at the moment. To be fair, the Marvel movies have been on the whole much more enjoyable than the run of Batmans and Spider-Mans and they don’t feature Christian Bale, which is another bonus. And so, with the knowledge that I may never ever ever again have to sit through another Samuel L Jackson post credits teaser sequence, I went in.

The plot is simple even for me – Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Thor’s adopted brother, otherwise known as the Ugly One, decides to wreak vengeance on his more attractive brother by destroying the planet he cares so much for – Earth. To do this he needs the cosmic cube Tesseract, which scientist Dr Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) refers to as ‘she’. This blue cube is a gateway through which all manner of hybrid organic robotic auk-like creatures can descend to destroy the planet. After Loki steals the Tesseract from Shield – rather easily – Director Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) must call in his scattered ‘team’ of megalomaniac misfits, the Avengers. Admittedly Dr Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) isn’t a megalomaniac but he does transform into a monumentally destructive and angry green Hulk monster, which creates its own problems for the mission.

The Avengers, then, assemble – and we’ve seen them all before: Thor (Chris Hemsworth looking as gorgeous as ever), Iron Man or Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr with, I’m glad to say, an awful lot less Gwyneth Paltrow), Captain America (the boring one played by Chris Evans), the Hulk (but actually only Dr Banner was invited), the Hawk (Jeremy Renner and not hugely reliable), the Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson, the token woman). After an hour of testosterone-releasing posturing, in the second half we get down to business with a spectacularly fabulous battle between the invading aliens (riding something like aerial segueways) and our Avengers. And they are put through it. As expected, the rest of the world can rest easy while New York City takes an alien hammering.

What surprised me is that after all these films, the battle sequence of The Avengers is an edge-of-the-seat, heart-thumping bonanza of a battle. It’s violent, bloody, exciting and quite literally jaw-dropping. The kids near me in the cinema were literally jumping up and down (which was a little annoying). Without doubt, The Avengers is well worth seeing for its second half alone. It was brilliant.

But what also surprised me – although it shouldn’t have done considering that The Avengers was directed and written by Joss Whedon of my beloved Firefly – was the style, quirkiness and humour. It’s not often a moment in a superhero movie makes me laugh so loud and unexpectedly with just a little moment that passes in an instant but is so, so funny. There were at least three moments like that here. One in particular. I’ll get the blu ray just so I can rewind it over and over.

It’s hard to complain about a film when it has actors as good as these. Robert Downey Jr is at his best – much, much better than in Iron Man 2 – and as for Mark Ruffalo… What an actor.

Largely, then, my experience of The Avengers was positive, which did surprise me because my expectations were low, especially after Captain America. But, I did leave the cinema hoping (and I know I’m onto a losing bet with this one) that this is the end of it, that the series will put itself to bed on this high, and not do an Iron Man 2. I do not want to see Samuel L Jackson in this Fury role again. Robert Downey Jr seems to revel in his Iron Man persona and I’d hate to deprive him of it but Mark Ruffalo deserves so much better than playing the Hulk. As for Joss Whedon, he is a master of original scifi. I’d love to see more of that. I have a whimsical hope that the success of this film may allow that to happen.

Obviously, Chris Hemsworth can return as Thor as often as he likes.

So, there you go, I liked a superhero movie and the chances are you’ll like it too, but please…. NO MORE!!!

A spoiler PS so please don’t read this bit:

What did all that business about the cards being in the locker and not in the pocket mean? Is this an in-joke that can only be understood if you’ve read all the comics backwards?

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