A week ago I attended an opening where I got into conversation about the pros and cons of 3D films. Lumbering uncomfortably from foot to foot in a shifty manner nearby was a gatecrasher chancing upon the free wine. He kept glancing towards me, eavesdropping on our chat.
I mentioned I was planning to see Avengers Assemble at which point Mr Nearby sprang into action, stuck his face in mine and with trembling emotion grabbed me and exclaimed ‘Do you realise I’ve been waiting to see this film since I was six years old?!’.
I thought he was going to hit me but instead he went onto describe his lifelong passion for Marvel comics and how this film would be the defining moment of his life, having anticipated it for over thirty years. I cast my mind back to my own excitement about the new trilogy of Star Wars films and the eventual crushing disappointment I experienced upon their arrival.
So it is with some relief for his sake that Avengers Assemble is a very pleasant surprise indeed and will be cleaning up quite comfortably at the box office, even the early afternoon preview I attended was packed. Obviously Mr Nearby wasn’t the only superhero fan frothing at the mouth in anticipation.
Perhaps it couldn’t fail, with multiple popular franchises meshing together - Thor, Hulk, Iron Man and Captain America have all done well but getting them to gel onscreen together is the real trick. And who better to steer such a band of enhanced renegades into a coherent unit but Joss Whedon, already a master of the witty ensemble action needs of Buffy, Firefly and the latters cinematic spin off Serenity.
I wont bore you with too many details, all you need to know is that Thor’s impressionable brother Loki decides being master of planet Earth and enslaving the human race for their own good would be terrific fun and boost his demi god ratings back home in mythical Asgard. So he sets about doing just that, arriving via a secret high-energy portal device, then promptly stealing it from under the nose of Nick Fury, director of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Samuel L Jackson reprising his role).
With much prodding, the initially reluctant Avengers are assembled tasked with saving the world once again, and the motley superhero combo swiftly set about not saving the world but teasing, bickering and fighting amongst each other.
It’s this very point that makes the film a delight. It’s not the epic canvas, special effects and action (although it’s all thoroughly well executed), it’s the dialogue, the cheeky or bitter banter between superheroes sizing each other up and dressing each other down, all vying for recognition that makes this one an absolute hoot.
This I suspect comes from Whedon’s influence. Although he didn’t pen the original script, his influence as a writer and I imagine giving the cast some leeway to play around has paid off immensely. There’s the right amount of testosterone and chest-beating but it's all injected with a healthy dose of self effacing humour and sparkling comic dialogue.
As one might expect, the bright star of this bunch is Robert Downey Jnr whose Iron Man continues to be an entertaining mixture of arrogance and teasing. But everyone in this cast delivers and gets their moment.
Mark Ruffalo is inspired casting as the Hulk, his gentle almost effeminate persona belying the rage within and Scarlet Johannsen returns as Black Widow flipping around nimbly in her PVC catsuit. I hate to admit it but she’s a treat in 3D.
And whilst Chris Evans solidly reprises his out of date but no nonsense Captain America and as Chris Hemsworth suitably wields his hammer as Thor, the other real notable turn is Tom Hiddleston. Last encountered in Terence Davies achingly heartfelt Deep Blue Sea, here as chief villain Loki he delivers his performance and dialogue somewhere between a Shakespearean giant and a panto villain. He pulls it off beautifully clearly relishing the fact he has all the best lines. I just wished his rooftop banter with Iron Man who offers him a drink before they commence battle had continued for longer.
All in all it’s a thoroughly entertaining romp skipping along nicely although for me the final battle was twice as long as concentration allows. But overall, Avengers Assemble contains many great little touches spiced with a lot of memorable dialogue that it cant fail to please even the most jaded film-goer.