So, the “day unlike any other” came along, and The Avengers were born, or at least the film franchise was. This film has been in the offing for years, since the easter egg at the end of 2008’s Iron Man featured Nick Fury telling Tony Stark that he lived in a bigger world than he realized (and, er… which I spoiled for someone… sorry again, C.!). We’ve had Agent Coulson and Nick Fury turning up in each film since then, creating a common thread between Thor, Captain America and The Incredible Hulk (actually, that was Robert Downey Jr…) that let us know that we’d one day see all the heroes of those films would “find themselves united against a common threat, to face the foes that no super hero could face alone!” (to quote the comic book), and was eagerly awaited by just about everyone who was a Marvel fan or just walked in and thought “hey, this is kind of cool!”.
For anyone who isn’t familiar with the premise of the Avengers comics, it’s this: you’ve got your individual superhero comics about Spider-Man, Captain America, Iron Man, etc. and then you’ve also got the Avengers comics where you see all of them facing bigger, grander threats than they might face alone: e.g. Spider-Man spends most of his time trying to save New York from things, but when he’s with the Avengers he could end up on a time-travelling quest to save reality. Basically, this is what you get here although the tone is somewhat more like the yearly Marvel epic crossover events such as Siege or Avengers vs. X-Men as sometimes issues of the Avengers can feature half an issue of Captain America and co. worrying about rent cheques (no lie).
So the film features Iron Man, Thor, Black Widow, Captain America, the Hulk and Hawkeye (introduced in a shadowy cameo in Thor, the guy with the crossbow) brought together by Nick Fury to foil the plans of the evil Loki, who steals the Tesseract and threatens to cause a much bigger crisis. I’m just going to stop there as otherwise I’ll spoil the film, but there are a few things I’d like to discuss still without going too specific.
One issue here might have been that you could have ended up with Iron Man and his Amazing Friends, where the film essentially becomes Iron Man 3 with appearances from all of the others in bit-parts, but no – they all get their time in the sun and get given something to do. This is mainly down to the fact that the movie’s writer/director, Joss Whedon is an old pro when it comes to things like this from his Buffy days. That show had a main cast of interesting characters, all of whom deserved the spotlight but ended up bouncing off each other in a way that simply worked like magic. Here it’s the same – no-one is neglected and Iron Man, Thor and co. spark off each other in ways both spectacular and hilarious. Also, if you’re a Joss Whedon fan there’s plenty of his trademark “Whedonisms” in there – Robert Downey Jr. has an especially good time with them…
The other is the that the problem that other Marvel films have suffered from somewhat – the building up of a huge threat for the finale, only for it to be more of a fart than an explosion – isn’t present here. Normally, you’d have a strong opening, some character development and then a final showdown that feels a bit lacking compared to some of the spectacular set-pieces earlier in the film. Well, in Avengers you get one spectacular set piece, another that in a lesser film might have been saved for the end, and then the final act goes a hell of a lot bigger and for the first time watching a Marvel film you feel completely satisfied. The final confrontation is indeed everything it’s been built up to be, and if you are or were once an Avengers fan it pretty much gives you what you were always hoping for – the comic leaping right off the screen.
It works as a satisfying conclusion to the long running saga that’s been building since 2008 and does a good job of showing us the “wider world” that’s been hinted at all along. One thing I had wondered about upon hearing the Avengers was being adapted to the big screen was whether they might water it down a tad as I thought some of the threats the Avengers face in the comics might appear pretty outlandish on screen, but after seeing this done so well I’m confident that if they take the franchise in the more fantasy-like directions it goes in the comics they’ll pull it off.
I saw it in both 3d and 2d (I was kind of like that kid who goes on an amazing rollercoaster, I had to go around again when the opportunity presented itself) and I can say that the 3d doesn’t add too much to it. It is a quality conversion from 2d to 3d, and it avoids the Ivor the Engine-like paper cut-out look that’s typical of piss-poor conversions like Clash of the Titans. There was one bit with a giant flying thing that I thought “wow” at, but you can go see it in 2d confident in the knowledge that you’re not missing much.
tl;dr: go see it. It’s easily the best film of the summer so far, and The Dark Knight Rises now has a hell of a job to do if it wants the title of “best comics-related film ever” people were preparing for it because The Avengers is a very, very strong contender for it. And no, I’m not calling it Avengers Assemble – that sounds like a shit 90s kids show…