Film Review: Avengers Assemble (Jonah’s Take)

Directed by Joss Whedon
Starring Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson & Chris Hemsworth

When details of this film first surfaced, my initial response was one of apprehension, because let’s face the facts here, the recent onslaught of Marvel romps have been somewhat of a shambles. I feared Avengers Assemble would be an exhausting and incoherent mess but once I saw Joss Whedon’s name attached to it, I started to feel somewhat more intrigued. Whedon might not be fully consistent, but what he lacks in consistency he more than compensates for with undiluted creativity and razor sharp wit. After actually seeing the film for myself however, it’s a shame to say that my standpoint reverted back to its origin. In all honesty, although I seem to be the contrarian on this one, I thought it was a disaster of epic proportions that no amount of ironclad rescuers could salvage from the rubble.

The story, if it even deserves such a description, is the kind of thing that a team of uninspired writers would scrape together for a Saturday morning cartoon. Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Thor’s well-spoken wet-blanket of an evil brother, arrives on Earth unannounced with his new favourite toy: a blue cubic mcguffin with the ability to turn innocent civilians into his slaves. Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) decides that there’s too much motherfucking power in this motherfucking cube and decides to recruit a team of superheroes to defend humanity.

From here on in we’re forced to endure the laborious assembly whereby each character is entitled to a pedestrian scene of exposition. It’s something that could have been accomplished with a punchy montage but sadly this is not the case. First up there’s Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner)who’s only power is his extremely accurate archery, but he’s the first to fall victim to the glowing blue cube of death. Then we have Black Widow aka Natasha Romanov (Johansson): a Russian super-spy who has the ability to uncover motives of the world’s deadliest villains…by blatantly asking them a series of simple questions. Next up we have The Hulk played by Mark Ruffalo even though I swear he used to look a lot more like Edward Norton…no wait Eric Bana. Then there’s Captain America (Chris Evans) who’s possibly the world’s cruddiest superhero. I never understood how this hollow human embodiment of propaganda got his own film. He’s a pompous, witless square who’s only weapon is a shield that he throws at baddies like a frisbee. Seriously, what a tool. Iron Man (Downey Jr.) brightens up the proceedings a tad by throwing a bit of humour and style into the mix and Thor‘s (Hemsworth) naive arrogance is a necessary asset to any team. So finally there we have it: The Avengers, and it took me long enough to get there in writing, imagine how long it would take on screen. Okay now try again without yawning.

Avengers Assemble is fundamentally flawed in a variety of ways and one of the most glaring of which is the story. With six different superheroes all carrying their own personal baggage its virtually impossible to know who or what to care for. Bear in mind these aforementioned Avengers are pretty much indestructible; it’s not like Captain America is going to suddenly die in combat (although it would be great if he did) so why on earth should we invest our emotion in such a linear narrative? Might I add that, in order for the film to make proper sense to you, it’s kind of necessary that you’ve already seen both of the Iron Man films, ThorCaptain America: The First Avenger and, to an extent, The Incredible Hulk.

Whedon‘s script is surprisingly dull and lacking in humour which is confusing considering he’s the mastermind behind the genius The Cabin in the Woods. For a film with such a ridiculous premise at its core it’s bafflingly self-important. There’s almost no dynamism between The Avengers and nearly every attempt at a wisecrack feels forced and falls flat as a result. Robert Downey Jr. is as wry and charismatic as ever but the material he’s working with here is so lazy that it undermines his abilities. The same can be said for the rest of the cast which, if you step back and look at it objectively, is stellar. Chris Evans has the ability to be genuinely funny (as demonstrated in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) but as Captain America he appears to be on autopilot. Chris Hemsworth evoked several hearty chuckles in Kenneth Brannagh’s Thor but here his comedic scenes are terribly misjudged. But the most unforgivable of all is the underuse of the Oscar-nominated Jeremy Renner: an actor who possesses an admirable amount of restraint. As Hawkeye his talents go to waste as he plays a character with almost nothing to do except be a nought-point-five-dimensional version of Legolas.

What I was most looking forward to with this film was seeing the heroes work as a unit to stop evil but this happens all to rarely. If you’re seeking dazzlingly choreographed teamwork and camaraderie you’ve come to the wrong place as the characters here concentrate too much on their own personal missions. The film would have functioned just as well, if not better, with just Iron ManThor and The Hulk.  The others are almost completely unnecessary and serve no purpose but to inflate the running time.

I feel like I could go on for hours but I’m not going to if only to be courteous to you. Safe to say I found Avengers Assemble to be a mindless, sloppy addition to the Marvel franchise but you may disagree wholeheartedly and a few people I know already do. But I’m going to leave you with a bit of advice which is to save your hard-earned pennies for The Dark Knight Rises, or even The Amazing Spider-Man for that matter, and avoid this punishingly tedious cluster-fuck of a superhero flick.

1.5/5

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