Before I begin please let me issue a big SPOILER ALERT!
Now that’s done, let me get this off my chest straight away – this film was a totally brilliant nerdgasm.
Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), the director of SHIELD (the Strategic Hazard Intervention Espionage Logistics Directorate) needs a team of superheroes to stop Loki (excellently played by Tom Hiddleston) from destroying / enslaving the world. Loki has an army of freaky Chitauri, aliens from another dimension, to help him take over the world. Fury has to go back to the Avengers Initiative previously ditched by SHIELD in favour of the mysterious ‘Phase 2’…
This film is the long-awaited, much-anticipated, culmination of years of Marvelous films; Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), The Incredible Hulk (Ed Norton), Iron Man 2, Thor (Chris Hemsworth), and Captain America (played by superhero veteran Chris Evans), featuring numerous in-film or end-credit references to the assembling of the team by SHIELD. I enjoyed them all and was really looking forward to this film in much the same way as Tron: Legacy or Prometheus.
Ed Norton sadly does not feature in this film, but Mark Ruffalo is an excellent replacement, and The Hulk has the show-stealing leg-slapping best scene of the film during the final battle. The lead characters of the previous films are joined by ultimate assassins Hawkeye (busy man Jeremy Renner, seen briefly in Thor) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson, featured in Iron Man 2, and sporting a new haircut and possibly even tighter suit for this one).
It definitely helps to have seen all the previous films before seeing this one especially since Thor and Captain America provide much of the set-up for Loki and the Tesseract in this one.
Joss Whedon (best known for Buffy and Serenity/Firefly) was an excellent choice of director for this film and balances all the requirements of an ensemble piece excellently – each character is given a good portion of screen time and Black Widow’s character in particular gathers extra depth. The action sequences are very well shot and the computer graphics expertly mixed in with real explosions reminding me of Michael Bay, with a massive big battle scene at the climax of the film which is very well-edited excellently portioning out the hero action. There is a lot of humour in the script as well as all the action, especially when the Hulk faces Loki as mentioned above.
There are a couple of minor criticisms (and I am struggling here). The obligatory ‘ultimate sacrifice’ scene where Iron Man risks his life to save the day was rather clumsy in that we have various clues along the way that this is going to happen – for instance Captain America more than once suggests to him that ‘it’s all about you isn’t it?’ Also it seems a bit of cliché – didn’t Heroes Season 1 finish in a very similar fashion and Batman Rises (admittedly out later) features a similar ending. However, there is some interesting argumentative dialogue between the heroes as to what actually makes a hero in the ‘team argues and falls apart’ scene which is ripped almost straight out of Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring. In LOTR:FOTW the embryonic fellowship of man, hobbit, dwarf and elf start arguing over the fate of the ring while the ring malevolently ‘looks on’ – substitute Loki’s staff for the ring and there we have it. I was surprised at the bold decision by the screenwriters to kill someone off to provide the reason why the Avengers feel the need to stick together (if saving the world wasn’t enough) in the light that they have been somewhat deceived over the nature of SHIELD’s interest in the Tesseract and Phase 2.
The excellent final city-destroying battle was very similar in places to the one in Transformers 3, but rescued I think by the giant flying space worm things from another dimension which were just brilliantly freaky. Also didn’t Transformers 1 feature a cosmic cube called the All Spark? This is very similar in some ways to the Tesseract, but the Tesseract probably predates the All Spark (or the Matrix as it was known before they changed it to avoid referencing the Keanu Reeves film).
I was also disappointed with Robert Downey Jr.’s and Samuel L. Jackson’s acting in this; I got the feeling Jr. was dialling it in in places and Jackson simply can’t act. Don’t get me wrong I love his work, but he’s no Denzil. On the other hand I thought Mark Ruffalo was excellent and I actually thought that Ed Norton would not have fitted in well with the more jokey feel of the film. I was also impressed by Chris Evans who I’m not a great fan of – mostly because I hated The Fantastic Four films – I thought he did well with the ‘man out of time’ theme and patriotic aspects of his character.
The shadowy appearance of the supervillain Thanos talking to the Chitauri leader at the end of the tale is also a great setup for the next film.
I was unsurprised to learn that my wittering regarding a Lego game based on the Marvel universe has become a reality and I will no doubt try and get my hands on it at some point in the future and see how it comapares to the recent DC Heroes.
I have also now read Philip K Dick’s short story “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale” which is included in the 5th collection of his short stories uncoincidentally called “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale”. Suffice to say that the story is Terra-bound and bears only a passing resemblence to either film. It features an amusing twist at the end where Douglas Quail (yes, not Quaid) asks for a ridiculous memory of saving Earth from a force of midget aliens to be implanted by Rekal (yes, not Rekall) to over-ride his memories of his mission to Mars only to find that this memory is also true and that he is in fact the saviour of Earth.