Friday, 24 April 2015

Marvel's The Avengers

Joss Whedon brings his ensemble cast skills to bear on The Avengers, a billion dollar victory lap for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Whedon finds plausible perspectives for each of his heroes as they find themselves unwittingly enrolled into the financially lucrative collective. Dr Banner wants to stay in the lab, Iron Man and Captain America rub each other up the wrong way, a bemused Thor acts like he's working with a gang of tall monkeys.

Although no individual hero (or constituent franchise element, to be more exact) gets special treatment, Whedon puts work in elevating Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow from the haircut we saw in Iron Man 2 to an indefatigable linchpin. Johansson gets the real hero moments - shaking herself out of Hulk-induced shock to go punch some memories into her amnesiac friend or impressing the living embodiment of the Greatest Generation with her suicidal enthusiasm. While the guys call and play a cosmic game of gridiron, it's notably Widow who zeroes in on the source of the threat and sets to trashing it.

Come the finale - Thor's bad-egg brother Loki summons an anonymous intergalactic army to level New York - Whedon uses action to express character beats, demonstrating how the team works instead of just telling us. It's all faintly reminiscent of the Nuke in Hell's Kitchen interlude in Daredevil: Born Again, a page full of grimey panels blown up into a chromed, forty-minute setpiece. Cap shouts strategies, his team dutifully obey. It's Hulk who steals the show though, moving with the same soaring, anvil like grace as he did in Ang Lee's gem. Hulk is Mark Ruffalo scaled up into a ferocious hybrid of Lou Ferrigno and a Sal Buscema drawing, his gleeful lack of restraint is easily the film's giddiest thrill.

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