The Establishing Shot: Avengers Assemble review - the unlikeliest heroes triumph! Does Joss Whedon rise to the challenge of making The Avengers film?

Posted by Craig Grobler on Google+ On Friday, April 20, 2012

Avengers Assemble is actually a Joss Whedon film that changes the game. Man I loved Avengers Assemble! I guess some of you are thinking? Well why wouldn't I? I have an enviable comic collection. I've read comics for most of my life and enjoy films. So of course the Venn diagram would intersect leaving the only possible conclusion that I would love films based on comics.
Well not so, foremost - I enjoy  films that are good. My childhood love of comics may have left me with an incredible knowledge of story arcs; characters and universes outside our reality. But it also makes the disappointments of lacklustre comic adaptations all the more bitter as my childhood idols were walked over. And let’s be honest there have been a lot of disappointments over the years. So much so that our expectations have been lowered to the point where ok, mediocre or a slight variation on the theme is enough to keep at least one segment of the audience happy.

Whilst leaving the rest of the audience wary and with distaste for over hyped, unimaginative by the numbers or out of touch super hero stories. It was this sentiment that led Mathew Vaughn to sum up the state of big super hero films for The LA Times with:

It’s been mined to death and in some cases the quality control is not what it’s supposed to be,...People are just going to get bored of it,   ...audience fatigue is already starting to set in. The subject material can’t sustain the Hollywood trample, he said, and the inevitable box-office duds and derivative projects will mark the end of the gold rush by studios.... - Mathew Vaughn 
Whilst I agree with his diagnoses of the symptoms I wasn’t total on board with the assumption that super hero films need to be made like big blockbusters, but more importantly I do believe that there are still many big super hero comic adaptations to be made and all that is needed was a smarter approach. I know - easy to say but a lot harder to get through the Hollywood machine. But as a paying audience shouldn’t our opinion count? Regardless of how simplistic it may be.

As you by now have guessed Avengers Assemble wasn’t high on my radar. Lost somewhere between Skyfall, The Dark Knight Rises, Prometheus and The Amazing Spider-Man, low expectations of another slightly better than average Marvel adaptation and the involvement of Joss Whedon - I’m not a fan. I’ve always thought his work to be derivative and this would result in a safe mash up of the previous Marvel films with the end result of me (and many other comic readers) leaving the cinema thinking something like - Well that was OK for a film, but it wasn’t a touch on the comics and I’ll guess we’ll never quite get there as a bit of my childhood slowly faded away.

All of the above adding to the logistical challenge of making a huge, special effects laden, A list ensemble film to land in Joss Whedon’s lap.

So does Joss Whedon rise to the challenge? Not only does he rise to the challenge but SMASHES it! I quite enjoyed Cabin in the Woods, more specifically the adult approach to it and it made me rethink what Whedon might do to The Avengers. But deep down I feared it would let me down. How could it not? A two and a half hour film about Earth’s Mightiest Heroes with a ridiculously fantastical villain?

For the sake of expediency and your sanity I’m not going to go into where The Avengers comics, or the individual characters fit into the wider landscape of comicdom but suffice to say that the fact that they weren’t my top favourite until the revisionist Ultimates series came out.

Joss Whedon’s direction of the Avengers Assemble is that of genius, of someone who understands the material - not just on paper but in our shared minds eye, he sees the end game and knows every nuance of the road of how to get us there, including the facets that usually cannot be seen from the driver’s seat.

I would say Whedon has been wasting his time in TV land as the big screen is where his work really flourishes and comes into its own – but the reality is that all those years of TV have helped him to finely tune his craft.

The strengths of the Avengers Assemble are almost all the characterisations are spot on and it’s hard to pick a favourite of earth’s mightiest heroes. Almost all the actors bring so much personality and credibility to their roles that they own them wholeheartedly. I did find some performances flawed which is a shame; because the script and character arc given each of the actors should have been enough to bring these fantastical characters to life. Highlights for me were Robert Downey Jr. owning it as Tony Stark / Iron Man, Chris Hemsworth bringing it as Thor (despite some dodgy Point Break hair), even Chris Evans as Steve Rogers / Captain America puts his heart in to it , none of it work would without Tom Hiddleston’s delivering as mad as a  bag of rattlesnakes Loki - but they are all overshadowed by Mark Ruffalo and Lou Ferrigno as The Hulk.

Video: The Establishing Shot: Avengers Assemble - Headcount Clip UK

My point here is that making a film about a super hero team won’t work unless the characters work and they do. Whedon weaving his magic to keep performance focused and on point. How he manages to bring the Avengers to life is astounding and everything it should be.

Regarding the story it is classic Avengers! Only updated to our modern sensibilities and it really shouldn't work on screen - but it does. The story flows like the comics I used to read and it was a marvel to watch each scene and character rollout not knowing where it was going to go. Like the Avengers comics the film jumps around a lot but keeps the narrative flow running smoothly. Whedon doesn’t allow us to linger on anything long enough to start to question it because we are moved to something else more engaging with each scene shift. Something else that helped was not having the super humans mingle as much with regular civilians this allowed us to be immersed in the fantastical without constant reminders that some of the characters were special – they are all special and can play off one another.

There were one or two minor bits that stood out as cringe worthy in what otherwise would have been an almost perfect comic adaptation that will please everyone.

Thank you Joss Whedon I sat in the cinema initially keeping my anticipation in check to ensure any disappointment was managed but very quickly I shifted to awe and the giddiness of someone experiencing a long lost joy (and the rarity) of something being presented on the big screen feeling so right.

Joss Whedon has shown that in capable hands, comics can be adapted to screen delivering fun and excitement no matter how ridiculous the story or characters. This should be a wake up call to Hollywood that it is possible to adapt comic material in a clever way.

The Establishing Shot: Avengers Assemble Thor vs Iron Man Face-off Clip

Marvel’s Avengers Assemble is released in the UK cinemas on 26th April. (in Digital 3D, RealD & IMAX 3D)

Marvel Studios presents "Marvel Avengers Assemble"-the Super Hero team up of a lifetime, featuring iconic Marvel Super Heroes Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Thor, Captain America, Hawkeye and Black Widow. When an unexpected enemy emerges that threatens global safety and security, Nick Fury, Director of the international peacekeeping agency known as S.H.I.E.L.D., finds himself in need of a team to pull the world back from the brink of disaster. Spanning the globe, a daring recruitment effort begins.

Starring Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner and Tom Hiddleston, with Stellan Skarsgård and Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, directed by Joss Whedon, from a story by Zak Penn and Joss Whedon with screenplay by Joss Whedon, "Marvel Avengers Assemble" is based on the ever-popular Marvel comic book series "The Avengers," first published in 1963 and a comics institution ever since. Prepare yourself for an exciting event movie, packed with action and spectacular special effects, when "Marvel Avengers Assemble" assemble in summer 2012.



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