2012 Film Challenge #39 - Avengers Assemble
Last weekend I conducted what was, to all intents and purposes, my first ever formal ghost hunt. I was seeking out the Horrifying Horseman of Belper, who reportedly appears at a windswept set of crossroads in the morning.
I didn't find him. I wasn't exactly expecting to see anything, but still I felt a weighty disappointment whilst walking home.
But my spirits were lifted immediately when not once but twice on my walk home I received compliments for the Mighty Thor t-shirt I was wearing.
One came from a passing car. It was a beep and a jubilant thumbs-up.
The other came from a young man who I think was wearing tie-dye. He shook his hands around and asked in a stammering so-excited-I-can't-talk sort of way whether I'd seen The Avengers yet.
I said no, and he did that thing Jack Black does in High Fidelity when he learns that one of his customers hasn't heard Psychocandy. “Mate,” he said, as if imparting the most sagacious counsel. “Go and see it. It's the best film.”
It turns out that he was imparting the most sagacious counsel. For, whilst Avengers Assemble wasn't exactly the best film, the amount of glee and excitement it instils is epidemic – it very briefly took the number one spot in the IMDB Top 250. People were getting so overjoyed by this film that in their droves they're saying “Why, yes. It is better than The Godfather, Citizen Kane and The Lord of the Rings”.
I don't think it's the best film ever made, but it just might offer the most amount of fun it's possible to have whilst watching a film.
I realised whilst watching this that the reason I've perhaps never really gelled with The Incredible Hulk in the past is because Bruce Banner is really hard to like. He's prissy, stoic, self-righteous and boring. Understandably, of course – he's got a lot on his plate - but who'd want to spend any amount of time with him?
Mark Ruffalo's Banner, though, is easily the best and most likeable I've ever seen. He manages to bring a great deal of charisma to the role whilst retaining his nerdy shakiness.
As a result, what could have been the weakest link in the ensemble simply acts as further chemistry. I loved how protective everyone seemed to feel towards Banner, and yet how simultaneously terrified and awestruck they were with his Hulk.
Tony Stark stole the show, and yet it wasn't the Tony Stark show.
Steve Rodgers received a lot of jibes for his age, yet never was he the irritating patriot I expected him to be. That said, I found it impossible to take him seriously once it was pointed out how much he resembles Darren Boyd.
Then there was The Mighty Thor – I will now wear my aforementioned t-shirt with even greater pride – and his evil brother Loki – who was a very mid-late nineties sort of villain. Think Richard E Grant, for whom I mistook him for the entire thing.
Add a team of incredible assassins – The Black Widow and Hawkeye – who's really good at archery – and you get an incandescent alchemy that's never, ever boring.
Let's face it: The reason Spiderman 3 disappointed has a lot to do with the fact that it simply contains too many villains. They smother and overwhelm – all is rushed, nothing's allowed to breath or develop.
Avengers Assemble could have suffered a similar fate. Too many heroes could have ruined the fun.
It just works, though, in the most satisfying way possible – everyone works together, nobody's under or over-used – it's so good that I was tempted to demonstrate my intense glee through just writing “YES” over and over again in lieu of anything else.
There's even an incredible, too-good-to-be-true continuous tracking shot showing each of The Avengers in action, in turn. As scenes go, it's on par with the dinosaurs from Jurassic Park and the lobby scene from The Matrix – it raises the stakes in terms of the sort of pure spectacle that serves to reduce all who see it to a giggling state of applauding joy.
Many will resent the attention and kudos the film's getting. They'll shirk from the Pavlovian attempts to get you to cheer and grin – or perhaps they'll just feel that something so popular just has to be attacked.
Yes, there will be a backlash, and when it comes it will be brutal and merciless.
But for the record, I wish to be part of the millions who say that this film deserves every ounce of hype, praise and hyperbole thrown at it.