Monday, 7 May 2012

The Avengers 2012

I am not a comic book geek. But I love films that are based on comic books (well, the good ones, at least).

And I love Joss Whedon. Very much.

So The Avengers (or Marvel's Avengers Assemble in countries where the original title may be confused with the British spy series from the 1960s) was a film I was excited about. It's true that Iron Man 2 was not as good as the first instalment; Thor (2011) was so bad, it really upset me; and Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) though not unbearable, was not really awe-inspiring either. Yet, I believed in writer/director Joss Whedon, the man who can do no wrong (let's pretend he had nothing to do with Dollhouse). And he did not let me down!

The film is set in a time after the end of the three afore-mentioned films. We find that Thor's brother Loki has conspired with an alien race to bring an army to earth to subjugate human beings. As he starts putting his plan into action, and steals the Tesseract (immensely powerful energy source) from a S.H.I.E.L.D. facility, and turns Agent Clint Barton into his minion, director Nick Fury is forced to put the Avengers Initiative into action. With some subtle arm-twisting, Dr Bruce Banner, Tony Stark and Captain Steve Rogers are all brought together. Just as Iron Man and Captain America manage to capture Loki, Thor arrives to confront his brother and the ensemble is complete. Though Loki escapes, Agent Natasha Romanoff (Black Widow) breaks the mind control 'spell' over Agent Barton (Hawkeye) and all six of our good guys unite to save the world from Loki's evil plans. When the Tesseract is used to open a cross-dimensional portal, allowing the alien army to enter our world (NYC to be specific), it takes all the efforts of the Avengers to fight against the unimaginable mighty forces of another world in a mind-blowing finale.

While the first half is used to re-introduce characters and set the scene, with another few minutes dedicated to conflict, the last 40 minutes of the film are a full-blown ride through mayhem and madness - the scale of which I can not describe. Suffice it to say, that I watched the entire film with a stupid grin on my face, but during the battle I just did not know where to look, it was that amazing.

Joss Whedon's ability to write exceptional scripts and his track record as a master of ensemble casts, made this the ideal platform for him to showcase what he is capable of. The 220-million-dollar budget definitely helped towards the effects, but it is his imagination that made it work. As usual, every bit of dialogue is a punchline-fest (before you're done laughing at one line, two more crack you up), every scene is painstakingly planned (unusual camera placements creating beautiful shots) and every character gets to leave a mark (if you have seen Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel or Firely, you will know what I mean). I suppose his work on Firefly has contributed heavily towards this film, and there are various scenes where I was reminded of that very brilliant, short-lived series (characters placed at different heights on the aircraft to give a scope of the space, shots of characters taken from outside the 'ship', unfocused, hand-held camera shots to heighten the feel of the action).

Above all, it is the characterisations and the acting that make this an excellent film. We all know that Tony Stark is a smart-mouth, but Whedon's script gives everyone, including the dry Steve Rogers, moments of pure comic genius. His Loki, Thor, Captain America and Iron Man were so much better written than in previous films. And Black Widow and Hawkeye get their fair space to shine. But as Joss Whedon had revealed in some interviews before, it is Hulk who comes as the biggest surprise. Not only is Mark Ruffalo an excellent choice for Banner (and using him to create the CGI version of the green monster was the best decision ever), but he also gets the best scenes, for which the film will be remembered.

This may just be my best cinematic experience of 2012! For a predominantly action-packed film, The Avengers has unusually well-written characters, some brilliant comedy and more than the requisite dose of perfectly-choreographed, awesome stunts. Even the 3D is thought through and well-executed. Mr Whedon has surpassed expectations, despite his very limited prior experience of working for the big screen.

This is a 5-star film that had better spawn sequels - hopefully all under Joss Whedon's command!