As you can tell from the title above, in the UK this movie has two names.
In the opening title-card, it's Marvel's Avengers Assemble. In the end credits, it's Marvel's The Avengers.
Apparently some accountant got afraid that British viewers might confuse the original name The Avengers with the slightly later 1960s ITC series starring Patrick MacNee. Really, I think that ship sailed fifty years ago now.
Mind you, Avengers Assemble is clearly the better title, even if it does appear to have been spliced in a bit harshly.
Quibbling over, I can't remember the last time that I saw a film which I enjoyed so much right from start to finish. My expectations had been set high over the past few years, and blow me if when this multi-crossover-sequel finally showed up, it didn't go and meet all of them.
Sorry, double negative - it met my high expectations!
With so many leads already established, very little time gets invested in introductions. Even Nick Fury - who's only really appeared before now in little-seen cameos - shows up in scene one and immediately carries the film.
Despite a huge returning cast, everyone gets plenty of screen time to themselves. Even the individual films' styles are paid attention to. Bruce Banner's appearance in South America comes with a similar sweeping tracking shot to in The Incredible Hulk. Tony Stark and Peppa continue to get plenty of wordy banter as they had in Iron Man and Iron Man 2. When Thor shows up, it's initially to battle in a dark bleak landscape not unlike Asgard in Thor. Even Captain America, who really should look out of place after his movie was set during wartime, admits that he fits right into another military setting.
However this movie isn't a disjointed jigsaw of different films. All the connections that I wanted to see made were. Thor has a fight with Iron Man. Then… well heck, at some point everyone has a fight with everyone else. It's sort of the comic book way.
Not to suggest that comic books are all about fighting. If you ask me, a lot of Marvel's success has been down to the amount of talking the characters are apt to do, and again, much of this movie is dialogue based. I dare say there are reviews out there that accuse the film of dragging during these scenes, but I found this a huge opportunity for the characters to breathe. When our arguing heroes begin to speculate that SHIELD is keeping stuff from them, the volatile politics of Thor begin to emerge again. Yes the plot is simple, and all the exploration of these scenes is the benefit.
Yet the comic book way is also about working together, and here the movie excels too. They partly form The Avengers because they have to, but also because they are unknowingly manipulated into it, both by Fury, and by Colson from beyond the grave. Tragic to see him die by the way - Colson's multiple appearances have made SHIELD more synonymous with him than with Fury. Still, a literally compelling loss.
The enormous battle across downtown New York just goes on for ages, and had my attention throughout. Five years ago at Trans Formers (another Marvel title!), when CGI robot battled CGI robot, I admit that I turned my brain off and carelessly drank it in. Not so here. There is tons going on, ingeniously led by Captain America, who as in the comic book knows everyone's strengths and how to maximise them.
Captain America: "Hulk? Smash."
The 3D throughout is awesome, but never more so than in this sequence. The Avengers whizz around the war-zone on various flying ships and pieces of debris, and we fly with them. What else is an action movie for?
Nitpicks, why sure I have a few, but again that's arguably part of the comics. Why didn't Iron Man let go of the nuclear missile earlier? Didn't Nick Fury get shot at the start? How did Loki know that that board was going to fly past at that exact moment for him to land on? And how are they supposed to have unwittingly captured a hologram?
Well, this film has a heck of a lot more answers than questions, which is a good ratio.
Hawkeye's good too, and Black Widow? She gets some great manipulative scenes, but in an otherwise male line-up, never overcomes looking like the token female. I don't know what to suggest there. Still, at least the writers don't seem to have noticed, and have written her as just another task-oriented bloke. I fully expect prequels for these two presently.
Alas, the New York location does make a few other recent Marvel movie characters conspicuous by their absence. The Fantastic Four, and Marvel's other more-famous-than-the-Avengers hero Spider-Man. Correct me if I'm wrong, but weren't Spidey's three movies the most popular Marvel film series ever? They so should not be rebooting that.
There were ten of us in that cinema. Yep, just ten. Three-tenths of our number saw the post-credits tag scene, for some reason moved up to between the 'opening' titles and the start of the end credits. (as is often the case these days, both shown at the end of the film) That scene was nothing to write home about, but nonetheless a reward for those of us who stayed.
And Stan Lee, still in Spider-Man 3 mode, shamelessly playing himself.
He's still the Avengers' biggest hero.
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