No one had ever done it before, and few people expected it would turn out so well. Avengers Assemble is a benchmark in superhero movies, an extravagantly fun team-up for Earth’s Mightiest Heroes that works far better than it has any right to, absolutely layered thick with the inimitable character and story work of director Joss Whedon. We knew what Avengers Assemble was going to be, that much was clear from the five films of build-up – we just didn’t quite expect this movie to be so spectacular a tribute to the bastion of Marvel.
Statistically, you’re likely to have seen Avengers Assemble based on its near-$1.5 billion box office takings, but here’s a refresh: Earth is under threat from devious trickster god Loki (Tom Hiddlestone), who with an object known as the Tesseract (seen most prominently in Captain America), can open a portal to a mystery part of space, where an intergalactic army waits. In response to the coming threat, SHIELD boss Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) activates the Avengers Initiative, gathering billionaire Tony Stark, aka Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr), god of thunder Thor (Chris Hemsworth), thawed-out WWII supersoldier Captain America (Chris Evans) as well as unstable scientist and part-time green giant Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) into one unit alongside SHIELD agent Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson). With agent Clint ‘Hawkeye’ Barton (Jeremy Renner) brainwashed to Loki’s side and the threat of Earth’s destruction imminent, this ragtag group of powerful people need to work together in order to save us all.
It’s a classic comic-book-style plot, complete with the giddy child-like glee of seeing these champions slug it out. What has proven to be interesting about Avengers Assemble is that it functions beautifully with or without its preceding individual movies: Whedon essentially irons out the kinks of these clumsier side stories, rewriting the Hulk into a fun and likeable figure, whether in his human or big green form, while characters who had lost touch with their original appeal, like Tony Stark, who came across as fairly detestable in Iron Man 2, are made appealing once more within seconds of appearing. It obviously stems from Whedon’s ability to tap into these superheroes’ DNA, uncovering the tics, personas and flaws that still make them compelling today.
The dynamic between the heroes is electrifying, and is certainly the secret of how Avengers Assemble holds so many disparate elements together, tied up in a classically Whedon-esque rhythm of dialogue that manages to be both funny and expositional. This elevates what is a beautifully paced action picture, meaning there’s no downtime between the considerable amount of punches. Whedon’s dialogue proves a great match for Iron Man’s sarcastic arrogance, Cap’s inspirational leadership, Thor’s slightly ludicrous godliness and Hulk’s ongoing effort to keep things in balance. Most crucially, however, he enlivens the previously eye candy-only Black Widow – one of his best efforts in giving everyone on the team the time they deserve (only Captain America gets slightly short-changed in this regard).
It’s not a masterpiece, but it is a perfect summer blockbuster, the sort of film Marvel aficionados have dreamed of. It’s a miracle that something as large-scale as Avengers Assemble managed to happen – let alone from the hands of someone as talented as Whedon. We’re a lucky lot, aren’t we?