A smashing achievement
Film: The Avengers
Direction: Joss Whedon
Cast: Robert Downey Jr, Mark Ruffalo
Comic-book geeks needn’t lose heart. Ditto, action aficionados. The upbeat news is that the ballyhooed Marvel mash-up is not only exciting but, surprise, surprise, also extremely funny.
For starters, The Avengers assembles the dream team of superheroes first mooted nearly half a century ago in Volume 1 of the titular series. Having appeared over the past few years in blockbusters centered on their individual exploits, Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and the Hulk finally unite to prevent earthlings from being subjugated by a malevolent demigod (Tom Hiddleston, suitably sinister).
An ace archer (Jeremy Renner) and a martial arts expert (Scarlett Johansson) capable of fighting her way out of any predicament are unleashed into the fray as well. The do-gooder sextet band together under the command of a veteran soldier (Samuel L Jackson, donning the trademark eyepatch), who may or may not have an agenda of his own.
With a budget rumored to be in the region of $300 million, director Whedon, whose only previous feature was the sci-fi western Serenity (2005), orchestrates the action set-pieces with adrenaline-pumping precision.
Throughout, too, the group dynamics are rendered with a fine balance of giggles and gravitas.
The compelling sense of storytelling never wavers, even if it demands a certain level of familiarity with the comics’ mythos. Besides satisfying the devoted fan-base, the delightful chemistry between the egocentric crime-fighters will likely appeal to an even wider audience.
Infusing plenty of laconic wit into his role, Robert Downey Jr is impressive as ever. Also reprising their characters are Chris Evans (Captain America) and Australian beefcake Chris Hemsworth (Thor). The real casting coup, though, is Mark Ruffalo as the mild-mannered scientist with serious anger management issues. First glimpsed cooling his heels on the outskirts of Kolkata, it’s his alter-ego Hulk who is smashing fun.
As an added bonus, there are brief appearances by the acclaimed Polish filmmaker Jerzy Skolimowski, who portrays a clueless Russian interrogator, and Gwyneth Paltrow as the Iron Man’s loyal assistant.
Director Joss Whedon, who has since completed a new film (The Cabin in the Woods), is reportedly slated to helm The Avengers sequel. More power to him.