MARVEL AVENGERS ASSEMBLE
Matt C: This shouldn't have been possible. Even five years ago the idea of an Avengers movie seemed like a wild fanboy pipe dream. It was inevitable, given the popularity of superhero movies, that we'd see Iron Man, Captain America and Thor on the big screen sooner or later, but the probability of them all showing up in the same movie seemed very, very remote. And then Samuel L Jackson walked out in the post-credits scene of Iron Man, and suddenly the impossible appeared to be edging closer to reality. From there we've seen various characters get their own movies (or, in the case of Black Widow and Hawkeye, their own cameos) to introduce them to the wider world as a big team-up extravaganza began to loom larger on the horizon. And, finally, we're here: Marvel Avengers Assemble (its title in the UK to ensure punters don't expect Emma Peel to start strutting her stuff) has arrived, and even with the ridiculously stratospheric expectations, it delivers the goods, and then some.
The not-so-secret weapon Whedon has here is a phenomenal cast. Downey Jr deploys Starks’s wise-cracking persona and genius to startling effect; Evans gives real potency to Cap's old-fashioned, wartime values, particularly in the climactic battle. You can see the responsibility Hemsworth's Thor feels for the situation simmering under the surface along with the character's warrior arrogance, and the subtle melancholia of Ruffalo's Banner results in the best take on the Angry Green Giant yet. Even amongst these icons, Johansson and Renner aren't short-changed, with Johansson in particular having more to dig into during her opening scene than she did in the entirety of Iron Man 2. Hiddleston absolutely owns Loki now, his lips-smacking evil turn still retaining the residue of a son who feels abandoned by his family displaying his anger on a catastrophic scale. Samuel L. Jackson now IS Nick Fury, Coby Smulders does a decent job as his second in command and the redoubtable Clark Gregg returns and provides the movie with its most poignant moment.
It's an incredible thrillride that ups the ante considerably from the previous single-character movies, laying the gauntlet down for the guys helming Iron Man 3, Thor 2 and Captain America 2. For now, Whedon wears the crown and it's very possible that no other film this year will match the blockbusting, grin-inducing maginficence he's corralled here. A genuine triumph in every respect and a reassuring example of how sometimes those impossible fanboy dreams can come true. 10/10