There was a time when you could depend on the summer blockbuster to be a good source of entertainment. Lately though the quality of this once brilliant escape from reality has dwindled. There are a few exceptions but for the most part it’s not been a great time to be a blockbuster movie fan. Michael bay is one of the worst culprits. His recent Transformers movies have stretched credibility to the limit. They have zero characterisation and are generally soulless. I am not just hating for no good reason, I was a fan of Michael Bay’s once. I love Bad Boys, The Rock and The Island. All three had great characters, great stories and great action. I honestly don’t know what has happened to him.
Anyway Bay bashing aside, a few weeks ago I was one of the lucky people blessed with the opportunity to see Avengers Assemble at an exclusive fan screening and I can assure you that this is the blockbuster of the summer, it has everything a fan of the series and any ordinary filmgoer could want. It begins it’s set up, a threat to the people of the planet Earth from Thor’s brother Loki. He breaks into Shield headquarters and steals the cosmic cube or the Tesseract as it is known in the recent series of films. He escapes with the cube and his place is established as the films villain as he attempts to use the Tesseract to bring forth an army of aliens to destroy the earth.
So we now come to SHIELD, they have a problem; one that it seems can only be fixed by bringing together a team of superheroes known as The Avengers. It would seem however working together is the last thing this team has on its mind. Tony Stark in his own words “does not play well with others.” Bruce Banner is in hiding, all the heroes have gone their own ways and will not be easy to find. Eventually though they all come together and it is here the real fun begins.
Joss Whedon has done an amazing job bringing all the characters together, weaving all their personalities through the story in interesting ways. There is conflict among the characters (particularly between Loki and Thor), drama as Black Widow has to deal with the possibility someone she loves may be helping Loki. She also finds herself amongst a group of all male egotistical characters but she more than holds her own among the chaos and even finds ways to keep the men in line at times. (A symptom of Joss loving his all strong female characters) The characters have so much depth to them, helped by the fact that we all know their backgrounds but also that Whedon has woven real personality into the characters. There is tension, comic relief, moments that will move the audience, moments when characters doubt themselves and their abilities. It has a level of depth seldom seen in a Hollywood blockbuster and I really think that the films that have come before have really helped make this film so special as by now you’ve really built a rapport with the characters whether you have read the comics or enjoyed only the screen outings of them over the years. This really does feel like a film made by a fan for the fans, Joss Whedon definitely falling into that category.
When it is all said and done however characterisation and tension will always take second place to the set pieces and action in a film like this and they too do not disappoint. There are huge scale action sequences and once it all gets going, the pace is remarkable. You barely have time to catch your breath as the frenetic editing (courtesy of Jeffrey Ford and Lisa Lassek) takes the film from moments of intense character drama to a showdown between the forces of good and evil that is breathtaking to behold. The screen is filled with so much action it is impossible to know where to focus your eyes at any one time. We switch from one character’s fight to another so quickly that it really cranks up the adrenaline and you really fail to notice the time fly as you are truly drawn into the plight of the characters and their fight to save the Earth.
Crucial to the film is the main cast who all play their characters enthusiastically. It really is inspired casting with additional fantastic performances from the supporting cast members. Samuel L Jackson imbues Nick Fury with a sense of righteousness and duty but also finds himself equally at home taking on the bad guys. Cobie Smulders (she really does) and Clark Gregg enthuse their agent characters with as much depth as the main characters and even people who have not read the comics will find themselves drawn to and moved by their performances. We also have a great performance from Swedish actor Stellan Skarsgard, a long time favourite actor of mine and it is great to see him deliver one of his amazing performances as a scientist charged with looking after the Tesseract who finds himself at the centre of a major part of the storyline. With surprise guest appearances from veteran actors Jenny Agutter and Powers Boothe as members of a council advising Samuel L Jackson, it would seem no expense was spared on putting together this powerhouse cast.
And so, there it is, the first of this Summer’s exceptional blockbusters. It really has it all, comedy, special effects, drama, tension, adrenaline filled action and rounded, engaging characters who each have all got sufficient screen time to tell their own stories and contribute to the overall plot of the film. Avengers Assemble is brilliantly written, perfectly paced and will leave you wanting more for days and weeks after you see it for the first time, thankfully with the now obligatory post credits sequence and since the film is virtually guaranteed success it would appear we won’t have long to wait to see more. One thing is certain, the partnership of these actors and Joss Whedon is a winning formula and one that I (and I am sure all of you) hope to see more of in the coming years. So go on people, stop reading how much I loved this film and go and see it for yourselves, it really is flawless film making with something for comic book fans and fans of action movies alike and it is all topped off with one of those awesome Stan Lee cameos that we have all come to know and love. It really is the icing on the cake.
Now. Go. Watch the film and enjoy it. (I assure you that you will.)