Ever since Samuel L Jackson donned the eye patch of Nick Fury and appeared after the credits in 2008’s Iron Man, the world has been eagerly anticipating the moment that the ‘Avengers Initiative’ Fury talked about would make it to the big screen. Four years, four films and countless minutes sitting through end credits later and writer/director Joss Whedon has brought Iron Man, The Hulk, Thor and Captain America together for the biggest superhero event movie so far.
The action kicks off right away with the nefarious Loki (Tom Hiddleston, fantastic) attacking S.H.I.E.L.D headquarters and stealing the Tesseract, an all powerful energy source that can open a portal to other realms and allow Loki to bring in his army and take over Earth. With Loki declaring war on the entire planet, Fury’s only option is to assemble Earth’s Mightiest Heroes in order to stop the God of Mischief.
Fury, along with fellow agents Hill (Cobie Smulders) and Coulsen (scene stealer Clark Gregg), assemble the band of super powered misfits on board an impressively rendered floating aircraft carrier that doubles up as an invisible spaceship. Arriving on board are billionaire inventor Tony Stark aka Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr), newly defrosted WWII super soldier Steve Rogers aka Captain America (Chris Evans), genius scientist Bruce Banner aka The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo, picking up where Edward Norton left off) and Loki’s arrogant brother Thor (Chris Hemsworth).
Of course, bringing together so many super-powered egos is going to provide plenty of testosterone fuelled tension and the clash of characters is one of the film’s biggest assets. Watching Thor and Hulk batter each other senseless or Iron Man offending Captain America’s old school patriotic sensibilities with his irreverent attitude provide some great scenes in the film’s first half.
Directing only his second feature after 2005’s cult sci-fi Serenity, Buffy-creator Joss Whedon has a massive task on his hands managing the shear scale of this movie but he copes exceptionally well. Although his dialogue is often overcooked and at one point he gives in to his most infuriating instincts, Whedon does a fantastic job of nailing the tone of the film and adroitly blends humour and humanity with the supersized action.
Perhaps his most impressive achievement is giving each character adequate screen time. All the big names get time devoted to their character without it ever detracting from the plot,. Not only do the big boys get their moment but so too does sultry red head spy Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), which is unsurprising given Whedon’s penchant for ass-kicking female characters. A lot of implied history between Black Widow and fellow assassin Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) hints at a potential deeper look into S.H.I.E.L.D in future Marvel projects, of which there are bound to be many.
As Loki’s army of giant, flying serpents and space men on chariots descend on New York, the film launches into its spectacular climax, an impressive sequence that spans the majority of the film’s last half hour, giving each Avenger the chance to show off their special abilities. Whether it’s master archer Hawkeye pinging arrows from all angles or Hulk smashing everything in his path, there’s plenty for fan boys and action lovers alike to drool over. The visual effects team does a stellar job in ensuring the action never looks less than stunning, particularly the newly-motion-captured Hulk who feels all the more alive for retaining Ruffalo’s features and mannerisms.
Kicking off this summer’s superhero blockbusters (there’s still The Amazing Spiderman and The Dark Knight Rises to come), Whedon has created a comic book epic that’s sure to keep Marvel die-hards geeking out from start to finish while also providing enough pure action thrills and spectacle to appeal to the uninitiated.
And of course, stick around after the initial credits for a glimpse at the next film’s villain…