You’d be hard pushed to find someone at the moment who isn’t aware of the Avengers movie. Everywhere you look, from the IMDb top 250 to the sides of buses, you will see the Avengers. In truth, it was a little hard to know what to expect; on the one hand, this could be the same but bigger, with Iron Man, Thor, et al just doing their individual bit and leaving. On the other hand, this could have been something a bit more complex, a film that explores relationships within the group and ditches the recent Blockbuster conventions to deliver something deeper, that does justice to the decades of character that sprung from this film’s source, the Stan Lee Marvel comics.
This film lies somewhere in the middle, and is quite the disappointment. In fact, it actually bears more resemblance to the big, dumb, ‘explodey’ films such as Transformers and GI Joe, with the added gut-punch that this one tries to take itself seriously (at least those films are aware of what they are). It comes off as one big advertisement, a showcase for thinly explored characters, and the climactic 45 minutes provide a truly breath-taking orgy of destruction, a silly, preposterous, nonsensical denouement that doesn’t fall short of throwing WMD’s into the mix, for added tension. I don’t know about you, but when WMDs are needed to up the ante, it is a telling sign that something has gone terribly wrong.
This is not the only thing that went wrong, though. The opening 25 minutes in particular make no sense whatsoever, and have more technical jargon than those massive fold-out instructions you get with televisions. The film is riddled with holes and nonsense dialogue, and is also ludicrously excessive. One sequence sees an army ship grow propellers, take to the sky, and turn invisible, for no good reason at all. I thought to myself, as this happened, that the several million spent making that shot would have been better spent in a small African country, or on the NHS, or on getting someone else to write the script (the usually brilliant Joss Whedon severely drops the ball here, as both director and writer).
The plot centres around a cube called the Tesseract, which is a source of ‘pure power’, and is desired after by the evil Loki (Tom Hiddleston) to lure an army from his world called the Chitauri, to destroy the earth or to enslave it, we’re not quite sure. This calls upon Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson showing his age) to instigate the Avengers Initiative, which is when all the Marvel superheroes from the last five films are collected and called upon to kill everything that poses a potential threat. This is where it could have gone two ways, and settled for the middle ground. Of the group, the excellent Mark Ruffalo as the Hulk, and Robert Downey Jr as Iron Man are the only two with any sort of relationship, and everyone else is content to hit each other.
I talk of hitting, because there is an abundance of it. For a 12A, this is extraordinarily violent, with a sense of threat that is beyond what you would normally expect for a film like this, and scenes which see unprecedented levels of destruction, and also, bizarrely, giant worms, which reminded me of the addictive Flash Game ‘Deathworm’ (play it), which was the point at which I realised this film had failed to work for me.
It’s not so much that this film is bad; it’s just disappointing, silly and several large elements are pointless. I wasn’t expecting an art film, but something a little bit above the low-brow atrocities of Transformers would have sufficed. This contents itself with placing itself in that bilge, and it almost seems proud of it.