*Please note that the screening we attended wasn't presented in 3D and, as such, there will be no discussion of the post-converted 3D aspect in the review*
Among one of the most anticipated films of the year Ė if not the most anticipated Ė Marvel Avengers Assemble (official title) has left Joss Whedon carrying a mighty weight of expectation on his shoulders, but more fool anyone who ever doubted him as his epic superhero team-up is little short of magnificent. Delivering geektastic moments for fans Ė no one need wonder who would win in a Thor/Hulk face-off anymore Ė alongside stunning action sequences and an extraordinary climactic battle, the film puts in a strong claim to be the best superhero flick ever. That being said, comparisons to the moody brilliance of Nolanís Batman instalments cannot really be made as, in keeping with the Marvel canon to date, Whedon is purely focussed on fun with a script that zings with one-liners and some wonderful interplay between our heroes, resulting in a nigh-on flawless summer blockbuster.
If thereís any slight flaw to be found is that it takes some time to fully hit its stride after a thrilling opening where weíre re-introduced to Loki (Tom Hiddleston in deliciously evil form) as he attacks a S.H.I.E.L.D. base. With the plot set out Ė Loki is looking to use the Tessaract, last seen in Captain America: The First Avenger, to bring an army to Earth to enslave the human race Ė the film focuses on bringing together the titular heroes, but itís not really until the first battle with Loki that the film lifts up a notch.
Once this happens though, itís an absolute joy; a constantly entertaining thrill ride that gives each character their moment to shine. Newcomer to the gang Mark Ruffalo comfortably fits as though heís always been there and, perhaps surprising to some, itís his Hulk Ė captured for first time in motion capture with Ruffalo playing both Banner and the Hulk Ė that steals the show once he gets angry. Robert Downey Jr. gets to deliver his wisecracks as usual, but itís Hulk who gets the so-funny-you-miss-the-next-line moments in the climax that will provoke applause in even the most restrained viewer.
The entire cast are uniformly brilliant though, from Tom Hiddlestonís deliciously evil turn as Loki to Scarlett Johanssonís seductive Black Widow, and when the Avengers are all on screen, it positively fizzles with chemistry to the extent that itíd be a delight just to watch them debate the weather. Whedonís the jewel in the crown here though as his screenplay channels his not-inconsiderable wit, alongside the more dramatic moments that are quintessentially Whedon: there are times where youíre truly not sure who will survive and, yes, not everyone makes it out alive.
But even with this easy charm, the film would have been nothing more than a pleasant distraction if it didnít deliver the action goods as well as it is, first and foremost, a blockbuster. With an estimated budget over $200m, itís little surprise the special effects are superb but where the film truly succeeds is that its action sequences arenít just a series of money shots, such as in the likes of Transformers. Instead Whedon, bolstered by an unashamedly grandiose score from Alan Silvestri, has crafted action sequences that are compelling and coherent, while boasting more than their fair share of awe-inspiring money shots captured gloriously by Seamus McGarvey, none more so than in the peerless final battle.
All told, Marvel Avengers Assemble laughs in the face of expectation and instead sets its own bar that all blockbusters need follow. Smart, funny and pulsating, itís careful enough to appease its core fanbase Ė including a, now standard, post-credits scene Ė without deterring anyone with little to no prior knowledge of the comics, aside from perhaps the recent Marvel movies. Quite simply, itís a smash.
*Please note that the screening we attended wasn't presented in 3D and, as such, there will be no di...