First, a confession: I haven’t seen any of the movies leading up to The Avengers. I’ve never watched an Iron Man, avoided Captain America like the plague, didn’t see any of Hulk’s various screen incarnations and didn’t fancy Thor at all. None of those films appealed to me in any way. I feared them to be a little too cartoony and camp. I prefer the dirt and grime of DC to the primary colours of Marvel. With that in mind, I approached The Avengers warily...
The movie brings together all the aforementioned characters under the guidance of Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) in order to save the planet from deposed alien god Loki (Tom Hiddleston). He steals the tesseract, a powerful cosmic cube (!) with which he intends to enslave mankind.
As plots go, it’s familiar stuff. And the assembling of The Avengers group is similarly predictable. Each character has their own ego/flaw and getting them to work as a team first relies on getting them to stop arguing and point scoring with one another. Luckily, writer/director Joss Whedon has a good ear for dialogue and there are some snappily witty exchanges. A burgeoning bromance between Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr) and Bruce Banner/The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) is a particular highlight, although Hiddleston’s Loki steals all the best lines. It’s a welcome return for that old favourite Hollywood favourite: the slightly camp British villain. Hiddleston plays the role excellently, combining childish petulance with snarling menace to great effect.
In the end, though, it all gets a bit ‘Transformers’ as aliens attack and things get smashed to smithereens. It’s all done well, but as a non-fanboy, I failed to understand why charisma vacuum Captain America (Chris Evans) was there at all, and spent long periods just hoping that Banner would be transformed into The Hulk.
Of course, The Avengers has been wildly successful. It will spawn numerous sequels and offshoots, but other than the whizz-bang pyrotechnics and the clever dialogue, there’s little originality or interest here. The characters are not as interesting as the X-Men and Whedon’s world is less involving than Nolan’s Gotham. For me, superhero franchises work best when they explore the darker side of their protagonists. Here, the touch is too light and, as a result, I’d forgotten The Avengers before I’d even finished watching it.