Avengers Assemble Movie Review 6 79

The Avengers Assemble movie review

Marvel has been very clever with the way they’ve been building up to Avengers Assemble. Instead of rushing into things and doing the big movie right away they, with the exception the two lesser known members, dedicated a movie to each of the heroes (or two movies in the case of a certain billionaire hero), exploring their respective back stories thoroughly and giving them purpose and, most importantly, giving us purpose to invest ourselves in them.

So after five movies and more hype than just about any movie to be released this year short of The Dark Knight Rises, does Avengers Assemble live up to the hype? Absolutely.

Picking things up some time after the events of the last Marvel movie Thor, the God of Thunder’s evil brother Loki is following through on his plans to attack Earth using the Tesseract, a powerful object he has stolen which could be the source of unlimited energy but also has the potential to destroy the planet. Headed by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), S.H.I.E.L.D. assembles a team of superheroes including Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) to fight back and save mankind.

It’s a pretty simple premise on the surface, but as I said Marvel has done such a great job of laying the groundwork for this, the mother of all superhero team-ups. And that allows for the film to not waste any time getting to the point – we don’t need a ton of back-story in this one as we’ve already had five movie’s worth. Having said that, it doesn’t feel like it’s rushed either. Director Joss Whedon – an excellent choice for the material – finds a brilliant pace and mixes the action and humour extremely well.

Speaking of which, in true trademark Whedon style he injects a lot of genuine humour amidst all the chaos (as he also did recently with The Cabin in the Woods). It’s not exactly a comedy as it indeed keeps its eyes on the action almost at all times but the comedy, whether that be Robert Downey Jr’s trademark quips (in the way only Downey can deliver) or Dr. Banner joking about his “condition,” comes as a welcome bonus.

There’s also a great chemistry between the team members, which was absolutely essential for making this movie work. Whedon finds breathing space for the characters to interact on a level beyond assisting each other fighting off the bad guys, and seeing them go from reluctance (snarky remarks and in-team fights are very much on the menu here) to the team we all know they’ll become is a joy.

There are mightily impressive action set-pieces peppers throughout the film that, while they are in essence teasers for what’s to come later, are still completely memorable and substantial on their own. One sequence in particular, which I won’t spoil, hints at the teamwork we’ll eventually behold and actually contains some moments that gives the impression not all of the heroes are going to survive the turmoil. Of course we know they will but it’s rare for a blockbuster to make you forget that, if only for a moment.

The Avengers Assemble review

Although impressive in their own right, the earlier action sequences don’t really compare to the big one at the end. Essentially one giant set-piece, it is truly spectacular stuff, delivering on all fronts imaginable for this type of movie and giving each of the Avengers their time to shine in their own fun and unique ways. Iron Man’s suit, Thor’s hammer, Captain America’s shield and, of course, the Hulk’s sheer brute force (etc.) are all on full display here, turned up to 11 if you will, and to see them work together to fight off an extremely formidable foe is an absolutely blast.

There’s a plus that, despite its resemblance to the Transformer’s franchise, the end set-piece features none of the annoying shaky cam and, you know, you actually care about the characters battling it out. Comic and blockbuster movie geeks in particular will be clapping and open-mouthed with aww and enjoyment at some of the action and money shots found in the last half hour.

What surprised me most about the movie was just how much the Hulk steals the show. His two films so far have been mixed (though I enjoyed them both in their own ways) but it’s ultimately when he’s part of a team that he really gets the chance to shine. Whedon finds inventive ways to utilize his power and in a city sitting he causes maximum carnage while helping to save the day. Mark Ruffalo, taking over where Edward Norton left off, does a fantastic job portraying the non-Hulk Dr. Banner, with just enough of the snarky humour that Downey brings to the table while still maintaining a more grounded, serious footing. And the fact that he also played “the other guy,” as Banner refers to him, via motion capture gives it strange believability (if such a phrase can be used for a film like this). At the end of the day the Hulk is the one that leaves the biggest impression (no pun intended).

Any sort of major issues to be had with the movie lies with the army that Loki has enlisted to destroy Earth. They don’t leave much of a mark, both in how they look or how they attack (a sort of B-grade Green Goblin), and scenes which attempt to explain who they are and why they’re helping Loki are a little weak. But when there’s so much else done right this ends up as a blip on an otherwise potently entertaining radar.

As it turns out all the fuss and anticipation has paid off. Avengers Assemble is an exhilarating blockbuster experience that pulls together some of the most iconic comic book characters ever and utilizes that team-up in a way that’s as satisfying as a whole as it is thoroughly entertaining in the moment.

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I’m a freelance film reviewer and blogger with over 10 years of experience writing for various different reputable online and print publications. In addition to my running, editing and writing for Thoughts On Film, I am also the film critic for The National, the newspaper that supports an independent Scotland, covering the weekly film releases, film festivals and film-related features.

I have a passion for all types of cinema, and have a particular love for foreign language film, especially South Korean and Japanese cinema. Favourite films include The Big Lebowski, Pulp Fiction and 2001: A Space Odyssey.

6 Comments

  1. Awesome review man!!! I still have to wait a little over a week before it comes out here in the US. My interest in it has diminished a lot but your review has kind of picked me back up a little. You didn’t say much about Hawkeye(Jeremy Renner), who I am most excited about seeing as he is one of my favorite Marvel characters. Was he not as big of a player in the film? Was it not acted very well by Renner? Or was he just overshadowed by others, namely Hulk?

    1. Thanks a lot man! Really appreciate it. It’s weird it’s being released here first, that seems to have happened with a few of the Marvel movies though (Thor and Captain America did I believe).

      I knew someone would pick me up on the Hawkeye thing 😛 No it wasn’t at all that Renner wasn’t great (he was) and they did a great job of integrating him into the team considering we’ve only had one scene of him before (in Thor) but my review was already going beyond the 1000 word mark so I wanted to wind it up 😛 Plus yeah, the other’s overshadow him (that’s not necessarily a bad thing).

  2. Awesome review for an apparently awesome movie.

    Still don’t understand why we Americans have to wait til May 4…ah well, sure the wait will be worth it.

    1. Thanks Max. Yeah, not sure why it’s being released elsewhere a week in advance. Didn’t they do the same with Thor and Captain America?

  3. Great review Ross, completely agree with you across the board. Ruffalo’s Hulk was the best of what was a fantastic bunch, each holding their own and given their fair share of screen time (which I loved). The final set piece was superb and the film certainly sets the bar for other blockbusters.
    Great work!

    1. Thanks James! Glad you liked the review. I agree, it will be hard for any other blockbuster this year to beat it for pure popcorn fun.

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Movie Review: Home Again 0 414

This review was previously published at The National.

Despite an obviously talented leading lady in Reese Witherspoon and a family pedigree behind the camera in making this sort of rom-com flutter sweetly off the screen, Home Again struggles to finds its way out of cloying cliché and narrative contrivance.

This is the directorial debut of Hallie Myers-Shyer, daughter of genre stalwart Nancy Meyers (The Holiday, What Women Want). It focuses on the life of Alice Kinney (Witherspoon), a single mum who has just turned 40 and tries her best to raise her two daughters Isabel (Lola Flanery) and Rosie (Eden Grace Redfield) in Los Angeles with her job as an interior decorator.

Freshly separated from her British music mogul husband Austen (Michael Sheen), she embarks on a drunken birthday night celebration that leads to her meeting a trio of 20-something lads – Harry (Pico Alexander), George (Jon Rudnitsky) and Teddy (Nat Wolff) – who are trying their best to break into the Hollywood movie business.

The young men improbably end up staying in Alice’s guest house while they work on finishing the script for their first film. Before long they become an integral part of her life, from Alice embarking on a romantic relationship with Harry to George helping out Isabel with her school play. To quote the title of the director’s mother’s 2009 film – it’s complicated.

Except the film mistakes the kind of enjoyably frothy complexity exemplified by the best of the genre for skin-clawing convolution that renders much of the romantic and comedically-tinged drama of Alice’s life lacking in authenticity. Not that it needs the ring of truth that comes with, say, a Ken Loach picture but you need to be able to invest and believe in these characters’ lives as presented.

The approach to gender and generational relationships is simplistic which, of course, is nothing new to a genre that, at least in its Hollywoodized state, so often throws up films meant to be taken as easy-going fluff. But it’s particularly frustrating here when it squanders the potential thrown up with the initial concept of a woman trying to find herself again once she’s out of a stale relationship by entering into one with a much younger man.

It strangely seems far more interested in the plight of the three young men working as three cogs of one creative machine – director/producer, writer and actor – to get ahead in the movie business.  But even then it smacks of implausibility, like a cheap rom-com version of the bromance found in Entourage but without any of the snarky wit or Hollywood satire. Despite decent chemistry between a likeable assembled cast, Home Again is a tough pill to swallow as it rings false through and through.

3.5 out of 10

Movie Review: Goodbye Christopher Robin 0 447

This review was previously published at The National.

The world of celebrated children’s author A. A. Milne and the creation of his beloved Winnie the Pooh stories are chronicled in this frightfully polite biopic from director Simon Curtis (My Week with Marilyn) that flirts with dipping its toes into darker waters but steadfastly clings to safe tropes and always with its top button firmly fastened.

We start off in 1941 where we find an ageing Milne (Domhnall Gleeson in questionable make-up and greyed hair) and his wife Daphne (Margot Robbie) living on their secluded East Sussex farm. They receive a telegram informing them that their son, C.R. Milne, is missing presumed dead after heading off to fight in World War Two.

We then jump back in time to Milne on the front lines of the First World War. He returns from the fighting a changed man; suffering from PTSD (popped balloons evoking sudden gunfire et al.), becoming increasingly sick of just making people laugh with his West End plays and the general hustle-bustle that comes with big city life.

He convinces his reluctant wife to move to the country for some peace and quiet and where his infant son, Christopher Robin (played by Will Tilston at the younger age, Alex Lawther as he gets older), can go on the childhood adventures he deserves with the support of loving nanny Olive (Kelly Macdonald).

Settling into the kind of serene life he craves, he is inspired to create Winnie the Pooh and the rest of his soon-to-be-beloved friends inspired by the stuffed animals with which his young son has become so enamoured. Unfortunately for Christopher – referred to by everyone as “Billy Moon” – his father uses his real name in the stories, turning him into one of the most famous boys in the nation.

Despite the obvious attraction of it exploring the world famous Pooh stories, it’s a film much more interested in the effect it has on a fractured family clinging on to peacefulness, not least the unwanted attention thrust upon a young boy who simply isn’t equipped to handle it and how his parents carry on oblivious.

If anything it takes a curiously bleak outlook on what these stories mean to the world once they’ve been put out there, conveying a somewhat confusing message for a film that ultimately wants us to celebrate these stories as immortally cherished tales; that the Winnie the Pooh embraced immediately by the public and has now stood the test of time for almost a century is in some way missing the point of what it truly means to the author and a son who, inadvertently or not, was used as a tool of innocence to sell the idea of an idyllic childhood in Milne’s Hundred Acre Wood.

It’s bolstered by almost uniformly moving performances; Gleeson plays Milne with a kind of damaged empathy that makes you feel like you get to know the author beyond the public persona. Macdonald is oftentimes heart-breaking as Christopher’s devoted caregiver and Tilston walks away with the film as the adorably sweet-natured young Christopher. It’s only with Robbie that the film makes a misstep; she’s miscast as Milne’s wife and never stepping out of the shadow of cold motherly cliché.

In spite of its darker leanings, the film remains too buttoned up to properly wrestle with those themes in any sort of lasting way, far too polite to ever dive head first into the murky waters into which the drama intermittently peers.

Wrapped in Ben Smithard’s handsomely old-fashioned cinematography and soaked in Carter Burwell’s perpetually swelling score, it’s an aesthetically and emotionally appealing but nevertheless fairly vanilla period biopic best suited to being enjoyed on a rainy Sunday afternoon with tea and biscuits.

6.5 out of 10