As promised here are my comments on the Avengers. I’m going to try and avoid spoilers so rather than dwell too much on the plot I’ll stick to some general comments on the characters.
The move clocked in at well over two hours long but it was a “didn’t look at my watch once” movie. It hits the ground running. If you haven’t seen at least some of Iron Man, Thor or Captain America you may well be scratching your head wondering what a Tesseract is. It’s very much the McGuffin with Thor’s half-brother Loki and his alien minions getting their hands on the Asgardian artifact.
I’m pretty amazed at how Joss Whedon managed to give everyone in the team as much screen time as he did. I was going to write that he gave everyone their moment but that wouldn’t be accurate as wach of the characters got a good chunk of the action. There was no fifth wheel. Everyone had their important job to do.
There are lots of Marvel goodies here and it does feel like a big-screen version of the comic books. A case in point is the inclusion of the SHIELD Helicarrier where much of the action takes place. Sam Jackson finally has a lot to do as Nick Fury, director of SHIELD, after his endless cameos. Watching Iron Man 2 I was kind of rolling my eyes when he turned up as he was Sam Jackson BEING SAM JACKSON against Robert Downy Jr who on the other hand does a lot by doing very little. So I had my worries that Sam might be too much. But no, he was perfect. We also get to see Cobie Smulders as Maria Hill who has been quite a mainstay with any SHIELD-related story over the last few years in the comics. In the opening sequence she gets to do some action-packed things. That’s Maria hill! I was thinking, slightly stunned. The fact that I’m enjoying a secondary character so much bodes well, I thought. (To be honest I was probably thinking EEEEEEKKKKKK!!!!!!!! but it translates to the previous sentence.)
The team is gradually, well, assembled. When the Tony Stark/Iron Man scenes arrived it felt like a Iron Man movie, but not in a jarring way. It was effortless. It was just comforting and familiar. They even got Gwyneth Paltrow to turn up as Pepper Potts for a fairly sizable cameo.
From Thor we have Thor himself of course, Loki, who is responsible for the mayhem and Stellan Skarsgard’s doctor Erik Selvig who is researching the Tesseract. There’s even a screenshot of Natalie Portman to remind us of her.
Interestingly we get some brief flashbacks to the closing scenes of Captain America when we are being reintroduced to Steve Rogers, a man out of time who even Agent Coulson pesters to sign his trading cards. Vintage trading cards, he informs Steve.
And then there’s Natasha Romanov, the Black Widow. As noted before on this blog (you might just have noticed) I am quite a fan of the Black Widow so I wanted them to. Get. Her. Right. They did. Oh boy, they did. Scarlett Johansson was suitably badass and in control through the movie, even when other characters make the mistake of thinking otherwise. And to my eyes she wasn’t short-changed by being in the presence of the bigger hitters. It seemed like she was constantly on screen. As was Cap. As was Tony Stark. As was Nick Fury… How did Joss Whedon do that anyway?
Rounding out the team is Agent Clint Barton, aka Hawkeye, the team member we’ve probably seen least of up to now, his scene in Thor notwithstanding. He shows what damage you can do with a bow and arrow. His character acts as a good counterpoint to Natasha, who we discover owes him a debt as she has a ‘lot of red in the ledger’.
Ah, hang on a second, I’ve neglected to mention the big guy. Hulk. If anyone stole the show it’s the big guy. He got the three or four biggest laughs of the movie. You’ll know them when you see them. Mark Ruffalo was nicely twitchy as Bruce Banner, trying to keep the ‘big guy’ locked away. (As I write this Edward Norton must be sobbing into his cornflakes.)
If you’ve seen the trailers then I’m not giving too much away by saying there’s a climatic fight in and above Manhattan against an army of alien minions. It has to be the most epic comic book battle yet filmed, or at least rendered in a computer. And everyone in the team plays their part in battle.
There is a post-credits scene as is traditional, but to be honest it meant nothing to me. I like to think I know my Marvel comics but I had to get someone to explain who that was. Your mileage may vary.
So in summary…