FILM: The Avengers

Patrick Hetherington reviews the highly anticipated superhero gathering ‘The Avengers’, directed by Joss Whedon.

avengers black widow captain america chris evans chris hemsworth hawkeye hulk iron man jeremy renner joss whedon loki mark ruffalo Marvel robert downey junior samuel l jackson scarlott johansson thor tom hiddleston

*Potential Spoiler Alert*

Does anyone remember ‘The Avengers’? That ‘classic’ of British telly in the 1960s about spies which Diana Rigg was in at some point? No? How about the 1998 film adaptation with Ralph Fiennes and Uma Thurman. No recollection? Me neither, so exactly whose idea was it to rebrand one of the most anticipated cinema experiences of the 21st century thus far, ‘Avengers Assemble’, so as to ‘avoid confusion’? Still, at least we got it a week before the Americans. It still doesn’t make up for them having Harry Potter world though.

Unless you’ve been banned from going to the cinema for the last 5 years, you should have an idea what all the fuss is about with this one. Following a cheeky little post-credits cameo by Samuel L. Jackson in 2008’s ‘Iron Man’, playing the part of super-secret-organization S.H.I.E.L.D Director Nick Fury talking to about the ‘Avenger Initiative’, the ball started rolling on what has become a truly unprecedented franchise of filmmaking. From ‘The Incredible Hulk’ also of 2008 to 2010’s ‘Iron Man 2’ and last year’s ‘Thor’ and ‘Captain America: The First Avenger’, each film has served not only to establish a strong independent story for each main character, but to build upon the universe they collectively create. Sure there was a recasting here and there, most significantly Mark Ruffalo taking up the reins of Hulk (not an enviable task), but never has any change proven detrimental to the process culminating in this year’s ‘The Avengers’ (I’m calling it what it is).

The plot is simple enough if you haven’t been following these films, and yet filled with enough nods to the remarkable effort that has gone into making the very nature of this film possible, a feat in itself deserving of extensive praise. When god-of-mischief Loki, Thor’s exiled brother, arrives on Earth to acquire the Tesseract, a cube of unlimited power, Nick Fury assembles the team of ‘Earth’s Mightiest Heroes’ to prevent the deranged deity and his hired legions of alien warriors from conquering humanity. Simple enough, epic enough. Here’s a film that knows its plot is not of paramount importance, at no point attempting to indulge itself with an overly-complicated narrative.


This film is about the characters, with a razor-sharp script, stellar performances and chemistry between all the leads that proves a genuine joy to watch. Whether it’s the appropriately imprecise relationship between Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow and Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye (S.H.I.E.L.D’s master-assassin team members), Downey Jr’s Tony Stark and Bruce Banner pallying up with science techno-banter or Chris Hemsworth’s Thor and Chris Evans’ Captain American comparing their ‘fish-out-of-water’ situations, the wait for seeing all these characters together has been beyond worth it. Action-wise, the varied abilities of the Avengers and the situations thrown at them provide genuinely breath-taking sequences that are the definition of kick-ass. As if all this weren’t enough, diehard fans will scream with delight and newcomers will nod impressively at the final showdown, in which a single shot tracks all over Manhattan to show each Avenger delivering hell to any and all assailants. Just…awesome.

Have you got a favourite TV series where the finale has all the characters you’ve met that season come together, neatly tying up all the plot points in the process? That’s what you really get with this film, and that’s what makes it a genuinely unique experience, I’ve never watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Avengers-director Joss Whedon’s arguably most reputable work, but it’s clear this film was in exceptionally capable hands, hands experienced in balancing an extensive cast with compelling storytelling. In Whedon’s own words, “these people don't belong together and the whole movie is about finding yourself from community. And finding that you not only belong together but you need each other, very much”. As it turns out, it’s the heart, soul and genius all in one.

P.S. Stay for the credits, you didn’t think this was the end of the road for our heroes did you?

P.P.S. If you want a shortcut to understanding everything pre-Avengers, this should do the trick.