AccessReel Reviews – The Avengers

AccessReel Reviews – The Avengers

Nick Fury of S.H.I.E.L.D. brings together a team of super humans to form The Avengers to help save the Earth from Loki and his army.

If you’re a visitor to this planet (like the demi-god Thor) you may be unaware that Marvel’s AVENGERS are about to assemble at your local multiplex. The new movie is a culmination of the recent cycle of superhero movies: IRON MAN, THE INCREDIBLE HULK (2008), IRON MAN 2, THOR (2010) and CAPTAIN AMERICA (2011). Marvel Studios CEO Avi Arad and President of Production Kevin Feige have carefully set the scene for a big movie that would bring together their superheroes in an all-out battle for our planet’s future!

The Avengers have existed in the Marvel Comics universe since 1963 and were the creation of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. The original line-up was different to that of the current movie, in addition to Iron Man, Thor and The Hulk, there was also Ant Man and Wasp. The team’s mission was to “fight the foes no single superhero can withstand” and also to look way cooler than DC Comic’s Justice League of America.

Now a mere fifty years later, this concept has reached the big screen under the stewardship of writer-director Joss Whedon and screenwriter Zak Penn. Marvel had a lot riding on this production and we are pleased to report that THE AVENGERS is an excellent superhero film that will not disappoint.

Whedon was tasked with introducing a new actor in the role of Bruce Banner aka The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) as well as revealing the inner workings of super-covert law enforcement agency S.H.I.E.L.D.  In the previous movies the agency had been represented by its Director, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Agent Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg); in this outing we are also introduced to S.H.I.E.L.D agents Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner).

S.H.I.E.L.D. is at the centre of the action. It is working on an energy source/portal called the Tesseract. This proves to be as much a curse as a blessing because the Tesseract allows Thor’s psychopath brother Loki to enter our world and put in motion his plan to subjugate the human race and declare himself King. Fortunately S.H.I.E.L.D. has also been working on the Avengers Initiative, which is a fancy term for Fury attempting to persuade the touchy superheroes to form a fighting force in times of crisis. The only obstacle to their working together is their lack of understanding and respect for each other.

This is where Whedon’s many years as the showrunner for television’s BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, FIREFLY and DOLLHOUSE is an asset. He understands how to find character-revealing moments and to deal with multiple plot strands. The first half of the movie deals with the conflict of bringing together a demigod, a self-involved billionaire, a super-soldier from the past and an unpredictable rage monster; this is handled with wit and efficiency.

Ruffalo makes an excellent Bruce Banner. He was the top of the Actors-Who Should-Play-The-Hulk short list for both Marvel Studios and Whedon. Ruffalo nails the part of reclusive, genius scientist. Renner is strong in the role of Hawkeye. Like Black Widow he has no superpowers, but he brings off the potentially silly part of archer/sniper with his trademark intensity. Hawkeye and Black Widow have a history of covert ops together and each understands what makes the other tick. Johansson’s Black Widow was first seen in IRON MAN 2 and is a more fully rounded character this time. Chris Evans and Chris Hemsworth reprise the roles of Captain America and Thor respectively. Robert Downey Junior gets to strut once more as audience favourite, wealthy industrialist playboy, Tony Stark. As expected he gets a lot of good lines at the expense of the other superheroes, but fortunately there is much snappy dialogue to share around.

The movie also has plenty of computer-generated action. As has been the style in recent movies, New York is again subjected to the sustained attack of merciless extraterrestrials. These sequences deliver the required mayhem, explosions and spectacle. Whedon has come a long way visually since directing his first feature, the sci-fi western SERENITY (2005).

THE AVENGERS is a block-busting crowd-pleaser that also pays attention to character. It opens in Australia on Wednesday April 25 (Anzac Day) and runs for 142 minutes. We rated it 4/5.

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