There are those who seem to think that Joss Whedon is the saviour of modern cinema, based on his recent post-modern horror movie, Cabin in the Woods, and now this get together of all the Marvel superheroes. I'm something of a sceptic, since although he does inject some flashes of humour, at the end of the day, this is still a big noisy movie in which (mostly) men bash each other endlessly.
For those who have not been following the various strands, we have Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr), who has had 2 films, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) who has had one – and brings bad brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) to this one, Captain America (Chris Evans) also a one film hero, plus Black Widow (Scarlett Johannsson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) who have not yet broken their duck. Plus The Incredible Hulk/Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) who's had a film, but not as part of this franchise – if that makes sense.
Whether or not there was always a notion to put them all in the same film matters little, because here they all are and the question is – how do you give them each something of a story without taking all day about it? I would say this has partially solved, although some characters do better than others. But by the end of the two hours plus, I don't think anyone could say they've been shortchanged. As for the plot, well, what plot? There's a bad guy (Loki) who wants to take over/destroy the world – it's not quite clear which – and Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) has the job of getting all The Avengers to play ball at the same time before it gets too late. So although we know that Bruce Banner doesn't want to turn into The Hulk, we know that he will, otherwise what's the point of having in the film? All the spiffy one liners and little jolts of comedy (Whedon's trademark) are, when you get down to it, simply a way of delaying the inevitable, and giving the audience permission to enjoy themselves, because they're not not really slumming it.
I am not, never have been and never will be a fan of superhero movies. They seem fatally flawed by the fact that superheroes never die, however much they're bashed about by the baddies; and that the bad guy(s) always lose, even when they are in a position of total supremacy. It's like watching a football match when you know one team will never lose, even if they're 5-0 down with 30 seconds to play. And because they're superheroes, or have special powers, it's hard to identify with them, to care about them or to make an emotional investment. But they are the currency of modern cinema. We have a Spiderman and a Batman to come this summer, and no doubt they will all rake in millions upon millions of dollars (or pounds).
I hope you'll understand if I'm not more enthusiastic. If you already like films about men in tights or tight costumes, then you'll have a good time, but I doubt that you'll be converted to the Lycra Cause if you aren't by now.
By Phil Raby
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