Again with the Avenging

I didn’t think The Avengers was going to be my cup of tea. Strange because I really like the Superhero genre – as does my erstwhile companion to this film @wandjmas. I enjoyed Thor, Ironman I and II, Captain America (a lot) and The Hulk (a bit). So all the ingredients seemed to be there. However I got a sense from the trailer and the promos that it would not quite come together when the Superhero’s got together. That the result would be less that the sum of the parts. You know – like those insufferable ‘ensemble’ movies where a bunch of names are thrown together with a flimsy premise and it just stinks. Like that “Life Aquatic” piece of rubbish.

What really put me off in all honesty was the posters at Hoyts which looked lame and Patton Oswalt‘s joke about Jesus’s super-powers. The one where the X-Men reject Jesus and suggest he that try the Avengers as “they’ll take anybody”. So I know I should know better than to decide what movies to watch by extrapolating from stand-up routines and then comparing movie posters. The ONE thing I should have done was looked at who was directing. Yes Joss Whedon. You know. Buffy. Firefly. Serenity. Toy Story. Enough said.

So had I thought to look at who was directing it would have been no surprise that The Avengers WAS AWESOME. In this case the whole was a logarithmic product of the parts. Which sounds good doesn’t it. Seriously The Avengers is a great movie and a galaxy of fun and not a dull moment to be had anywhere in the 142 minutes running time – in fact it felt like a 90 minute film to me.

So the story very briefly. A secret government agency (SHIELD) is experimenting with “Dark Energy” in a massive underground lab somewhere in the desert. The operation is run by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson with an eye-patch). Nothing out of the ordinary so far. They are trying to develop a limitless supply of clean energy by harnessing the power of the Tesseract, a glowing blue cube that has fallen out of space somehow. No more brown coal fired power stations for earth if we could just get the pesky Tesseract plugged into the grid. However a bunch of VERY nasty aliens, using Thor’s half-brother (Loki) as a stooge desperately want the Tesseract for decidedly more martial applications.

So Loki lobs down to earth, steals the Tesseract, destroys the massive underground laboratory, hypnotises a few key scientists, almost shoots Samuel L.Jackson in the eye patch and subjugates “The Hawke” one of the Avengers. Not off to a good start. So its up to Nick Fury to assemble The Avengers – against all advice from the inevitable council of serious dudes. Fury is not to be dissuaded. This is what the Avengers were always meant to be, Plan B when you had no Plan C. So the Avengers have to come together from near and far and its a lot of fun along the way. Fury brings them together on a massive Air-Craft carrier that is more than it seems. Much more. Its here that they try and figure out where the Tesseract might be and how to get to Loki before he causes more trouble. The interplay between the various superheros is well crafted – especially with Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) getting under almost everyone’s skin. I’m looking at you Captain America.

They do catch Loki and place him in a high-tech holding cell on the carrier and he starts playing mind games – the scene where he confronts The Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) is one of the best in the film. So with Loki being uncooperative, the Tesseract unlocatable and the Avengers becoming ungovernable Nick Fury has a problem on his hands. His problem gets rapidly worse when The Hawke leads a raiding party onto the Carrier to try and free Loki and All Hell and The Hulk break loose. Loki escapes and sets up a stage on top of a very tall building in New York to command an invasion of the earth by The Chitauri. He’s using the Tesseract to blow a hole in the space-time continuum to allowing the invading force of Chitauri monsters (hello – Gears of War!) to spoil everyone’s day. The only way the earth could be saved now would be if we had a crack team of heroic mortals, unstoppable gods, giant mutants with limitless rage and eccentric genius’s with nuclear-powered suits. But wait we do! On cue The Avengers arrive, assemble and face off against impossible odds. I won’t tell you how it ends. Suffice to say not good for some.

Many things work really well in the movie. The pace, the dialogue, the acting, the effects. Everything works together to keep you inside the world Whedon has created. The reaction of each Avenger to their counterparts is kind of realistic and meshes with their persona in their previous movies. So nothing feels forced. They behave like they belong together. I loved the Shakespearean dialog between Thor and Loki, or between Thor and everyone else. Nectar for the ears and food for the soul. However, the standout performance is Tom Hiddleston as Loki. Dark, brooding, borderline psychotic and extremely unstable. Each hero needs a counterweight and Hiddleston’s performance has to be strong enough to balance six heros. And it does. Disappointing is the casting of Clark Gregg as Nick Fury’s 2IC. I find him so bland its hard to think what he’s doing there. Unless they figured they needed a bunch of bland to contrast with the incandescent talent on offer. Who knows.

Anyway 9 1/2 stars out of 10. And no insufferable Peter Parker either – bonus 1/2 star.

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Categories: Action, Films, Science Fiction

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