The Avengers (M)

ON DVD & BLU-RAY

It’s not often these days that one walks out of a cinema having actually being entertained. Director Joss Whedon has pulled off Marvel’s ultimate mash up with his excellently directed ultimate assembly movie with The Avengers.

All the films in the Marvel canon have brought the films to this point. And some would argue this was the hardest film to pull off.

Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, CaptianAmerica, Hawkeye and the Black Widow. All in the same movie. This was always going to be a kick for fans of the comics.

At the premiere screening the publicist for Disney dared to suggest that this is the greatest superhero ever made. And after seeing this amazingly entertaining thrill ride I have to agree it comes very close.

The story in some ways is almost inconsequential, because what you want from this movie is for the heroes to interact in the way that befits their characters and super egos and this is achieved with humour, camaraderie and full-tilt action sequences that are unrelenting and give viewers exactly what they want.

Each heroes’ backstory is cleverly bought up to speed.

Captain America(Chris Evans) has been thawed from his frozen grave and is not dealing with the 21st century too well. Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), who has spent time off the radar is bought in to deal with his demons and assist in locating a dangerous new weapon – the tesseract – found in the ice with CaptainAmerica and promptly stolen from its housing facility. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) has the unfortunate problem of his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) wanting to enslave humanity and must do all he can to thwart his efforts. Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr) has been designing a fuel source that will ensure there is no need to use fossil fuels and is in charge of finding a way of locating the tesseract in time.

Avengers assembler and S.H.I.E.L.D head Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) along with Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and The Black Widow (Scarlett Johanssen) must assemble this ego-centric lot in order to bring down Loki from enslaving the planet.

This 142-minute romp between gods, monsters, men and supermen packs so much crowd-pleasing colour and humour that it’s impossible not to walk out grinning.

What Whedon has achieved well is giving each character time and space to make a mark as part of this ultimate assemblage of heroes, although Downey Jr., does have the lions share of the comic lines. His brief scene with Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) reveals just why their chemistry has made his films work and makes him the brains of the operation.

Far from being second-string heroes, Hawkeye and Black Widow play integral parts in this behemoth of a film as well, with Johanssen particularly getting an excellent story arc and lots of action as the only female in this ultimate alpha male pack.

The most refreshing surprise in this film is the humour and there is a lot of it. Upon learning S.H.I.E.L.D. need him to come in Hulk remarks “What does he want me to do, swallow it?”

Iron Man gives both barrels to Thor, whether it’s his cape (“Doth mother know you weareth her drapes?”), his kingly lingo (“What is this Shakespeare In The Park”) or the fact he hasn’t had a haircut since his own movie came out (“No hard feelings, Point Break”).

And from there, the zingers keep coming.

Key to the film was getting all the characterisations right, something Whedon has achieved even with Hulk. As Ruffalo is the third actor to play him, Whedon has done an excellent job of jettisoning the previous films and with Ruffalo’s excellent hand rubbing Bruce Banner, capturing a far more dangerous (and humourous) Hulk in the few scenes he has. And once Bruce Banner bursts into “the other guy” it feels more seemless and the CGI matches his real-life counterpart. In a few very funny scenes Hulk even steals the show fromIronMan.

As Whedon has both written and directed this film, he has achieved a lightness of touch as well as an excellent meld of previous films to bring these gigantic egos into a team working together to save the world.

If the woops and clapping during the screening are anything to go by, Whedon has achieved a sort of fan nirvana with this film. It’s a crowd pleaser in every sense of the word.

And if there was a danger of hero overload with this film it’s not evident in the final product.

This 142-minute romp between gods, monsters, men and supermen packs so much crowd-pleasing colour and humour that it’s impossible not to walk out grinning.

Just don’t walk out too soon. Like every other film in the series, there are a few tantalising post-credits seconds revealing a villain who’s ready for the sequel(s)…

Adrian Drayton

DISCUSSION STARTERS

1. Captain America jumps out of a plane in one scene as Natasha/Black Widow says “be careful, these guys are gods,” to which Captain America quips back, “the God I know doesn’t dress like that.” Can the Marvel Universe make way for a higher power than those who inhabit Asgard?

2. Bruce/Hulk describes his battle to overcome his anger and the beast within. How does Tony/Iron Man respond? How is Tony wrestling his own inner demons? How are we strengthened by weakness? How does that become part of our testimony?

3. Natasha/Black Widow and Clint/Hawkeye share a bond from previous experiences. Why is Natasha so loyal to Clint? What does she means when she talks to Loki about “wiping the red from her ledger”? How does this contrast with the Christian understanding of grace?

4. Steve/Captain America and Tony/Iron Man argue over what it means to be a hero and the willingness to sacrifice. What does Steve know of sacrifice? Do you think Tony fully understands sacrifice at the beginning? How does he change by the end of the film, and what prompts him to do so?

5. What brings these heroes together? Are they a team voluntarily or by assignment? What makes them work well? What lessons about teamwork can be learned? How would you apply them in school, at work, at church, in the family?

Adrian Drayton

Adrian Drayton is the Director of Reel Dialogue. A film critic and commentator on culture for 20 years, he believes in the power of cinema and the power of God to start conversations about faith and culture. He is also a massive Star Wars nerd.

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