THE AVENGERS. Starring: Robert Downey, Jr.. Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Tom Hiddleston, and Samuel L. Jackson. Directed by Joss Whedon. Rated M (Action violence). 142 min.
The title of this film is not to be confused with the same title given to the classic television series, built around two British agents, Emma Peel and John Steed. This movie comes from the series of super-hero films produced by Marvel Studios, and based on the Marvel Comics super-hero team of the same name. The film is the sixth instalment in the Marvel series.
The director of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Samuel L. Jackson), an international peace-keeping organisation, recruits a group of super-heroes that includes Iron Man, Captain America, The Hulk, and Thor, who work together to save the world from destruction. Robert Downey, Jr. is Iron Man, Chris Evans is Captain America, Mark Ruffalo is The Hulk, and Chris Hemsworth is Thor. Scarlett Johansson, a trained spy working for S.H.I.E.L.D., plays the role of Black Widow.
All of the Marvel films send a super-hero into action to battle evil, which inevitably threatens the survival of the universe. Here, a team of super-heroes is assembled, the assumption being that certain foes are so evil and so powerful, that no single superhero can be expected to beat them. As groups of super-heroes have hit the cinema screen through time (think, for example of the "X-Men”, 2000; and the "Fantastic Four", 2005), the characteristics of comic-book inspired super-heroes have manifested a rich diversity of personality problems. Super-heroes in the Marvel series might battle evil, but they are also "volatile, self-obsessed, and don't play well with others". Never, however, are they anything but driven nobly to respond to need.Their defining trait is the willingness to fight for what they know is right against incredible odds. The super-villain of this film is Loki (Tom Hiddelston), who shows up in multiple Marvel movies. He is the adoptive brother and arch-enemy of Thor, and he brings his vengeance feud with Thor to Earth to hold it to ransom. His plan is to control Earth, where he would reign as king, and get access to "tesseract", an unlimited power source that everyone wants.
It is debatable, however, whether the whole Marvel team is needed to cope with Loki's specific villainy. It is more that the presence of the whole team guarantees that the special effects associated with each of the Marvel group look particularly good. After some internal team rivalry and fighting are over, the combined impact of Marvel skills makes for an entertainment package that never lets up in terms of energypacked excitement that will appeal to a market hungry to notch up action fantasy to the next level of fight-intensity. As the team starts to pull together - and that takes some considerable time - the film stops at nothing that the Marvel characters seem capable of doing. Scenes of them trying to save New York, under attack, are dazzling, and it is all done with a remarkable degree of fantasy-realism.
All the favourite Marvel identities are united in this film to fight evil in the way that each knows best, and the special effects created for them by the movie's production team are spectacular. The staged battle scenes in the air on the mother ship, and on the ground in bustling New York City are particularly impressive, especially in 3D. One doubts that the next movie in the series that stars the whole Marvel team (which is already being planned) could be expected to top the action pulse of this film. But one never knows.
Peter W. Sheehan is associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.
Out April 25th. 2012.