Science fiction and fantasy
directed by Joss Whedon
My favourite character by far was Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow. She's more of a spy than a superhero, and she gets what she wants through a combination of psychological manipulation, good acting and martial arts. She's one of the most human of the set, but this vulnerability also makes her more interesting because we can never quite tell where the truth ends and the lies begin.
SHIELD are based on a massive aircraft carrier that can fly as well as sail, an impressive spectacle that's just a small part of the vast special effects effort. Giant centipede-things trash Manhattan. There are secret underground bases, airborne superhero fights, other worlds, Loki's illusions, and Tony Stark's AI-controlled tower. Every second of this movie has had money lavished on it, and it shows. The action is fast, shiny and overlaid with a pumping soundtrack. Why, then, did I find it so underwhelming?
One of the problems is the ensemble cast, none of whom get enough screen time to dominate the story. However all the heroes have to take their turn at breaking stuff, so there's too much fighting overall, and too much posturing in costumes. Frankly it's a bit dull after the first several. Then there's the issue of their adversaries. Loki is completely crazy, with an added bonus of narcissistic megalomania, so we're never invited to feel much sympathy for him. His alien allies are even less likeable, they ooze badness and corny evil lines straight out of comic book pulpville.
Since there are so many minor characters no overall theme stands out. Hawkeye looks like a high-tech Robin Hood, but other than that we aren't shown much about who he is and what he's about. The Hulk smashes, sometimes to comic effect, and the impression I got was of a movie relishing the violent bits rather a lot. Avengers Assemble glorifies violence with its snazzy costumes, its heroic pep-talks, and its massive, pretty destruction. Presumably people die, and occasionally we hear body counts but those dead people are rarely shown and the concept of the horror of war doesn't come across at all. The main characters appear indestructible, the aliens are too ugly to matter, and the little people who may get squished don't seem to merit our attention, that seems to be the message. I walked out of the cinema with an urge to hit the gym after watching all of this glossy turbo-charged action. But its effect is entirely visceral, and when you stop to think about the story it's clear how unfocused and light on challenging issues it is.
30th April 2012
If you like this, try:Thor by Kenneth Branagh
The god of thunder is cast down to Earth to learn a little humility.
Iron Man 2 by Jon Favreau
Iron Man faces threats from upstart technologists, the military, and his own health in this sequel.
Iron Man by Jon Favreau
An arms manufacturer has a change of heart and builds a suit to help him fight injustice in the world.
Review © Ros Jackson
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