Review: Avengers Assemble

The modern glut of comic book hero films that I’ve watched usually promise a lot and deliver much less, like a guy in a shiny suit and stylised hair who strides onto your screen with a city burning behind him only to reveal that his special ability is that he intuitively knows the last three digits of your phone number. That's a disappointment, isn't it? “The fate of the world is hanging on us calling the president, but we haven’t got the last three digits of his mobile.” [Cut to hero, eyes narrowed, knowing smile, classical music stirs] “Oh yes we have.” [Cut to American city being destroyed then rescued.]

So Thor was a bit boring and pointless by itself, the Fantastic Four were not fantastic, Iron Man thought it was as clever as Tony Stark himself did, and the less said about the racist, misogynistic, script-vomit of Transformers the better. This last series saddened me the most because making a film in which things turn into robots should be impossible to get wrong, and yet the films have been every kind of wrong. Plenty of other offerings didn’t tempt me past their trailers: Green Lantern, really? There are honourable exceptions: the underrated Superman Returns, the bits in the X-Men films when the British actors do thoughtful things, and Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight series, which doesn’t really count because he’s doing a completely different thing.

Avengers Assemble, especially after seeing the trailer above, looked like yet another opportunistic movie set to spin some money and win no love from me, its USP being “So many heroes! They’re everywhere! Look, no too late, you just missed FIVE of them!” It even brought in a Transformers-looking enemy robot creature and sound effects, and used the same Clint Mansell track that every action film uses with a bit of Dark Knight/Inception “braaaam” thrown in for good measure. How many films was this trying to be?

The good news, from my perspective, is that it turned out to be one film, and an enjoyable one at that. After all the disappointments, I wasn’t looking for unique characters with sparkling dialogue, I just wanted them to have bit of integrity and a bit of interest when they interacted, other than how hard they could hit each other. Avengers Assemble does all that, and makes the hitting a lot of fun too. They’re not much more than their stereotypes but they’re just enough, likeable, and sufficiently diverse to make their interactions enjoyable. Yes there are clunky lines about the nature of humanity, and most moments of tension are resolved by one of the heroes flying across the screen out of nowhere to rescue someone, and the whole thing is ridiculous... but it is good humoured: I laughed aloud for the first time in ages at the cinema thanks to the Hulk. And, unlike most 12As I’ve seen, it doesn’t have the seemingly mandatory single use of the F-word its rating allows (despite Samuel L. Jackson being in it).

No-one comes to a comic book film expecting Shakespeare (unless you’re Nolan casting Wayne/Batman as Hamlet), but it was great to find something in the spirit a true comic book: bright, bold, and ephemeral. If you’re going to make a film like this, you should make it like this.