For the first time on the big screen, Earth's mighties heroes The Avengers have been assembled by writer-director Joss Whedon. Or rather, by one Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) of S.H.I.E.L.D, no longer resigned to cameo roles but instead taking centre stage. Building upon the past Marvel films, including 'Iron Man', 'Thor' and 'Captain America: The First Avenger', 'Avengers Assemble' opts for the explosive rather than the cerebral.
In a desperate attempt to salvage Earth from extra-terrestrial attack, Fury recruits Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain America (Chris Evans), The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Black Widow (Scarlet Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner). All this to fight Thor's vengeful adopted brother Loki (the absolutely superb Tom Hiddleston), who comes into possession of a limitless power source. (And an army of space creatures.)
Whedon's challenge has been to bring all these characters together, and deliver a cohesive, entertaining movie - to satiate fans of each superhero as well as the more casual viewer. In many respects, he has succeeded, generating a hype in line with one of the most popular films of the last decade, 'The Dark Knight'. Much like the latter film, I feel like the outpouring of love is overstated.
Whedon's trademark sharp dialogue and witty jokes (both visual and verbal) permeate throughout 'Avengers Assemble' but the emotional beats often fail to connect - lacking the heart of other superhero movies like 'Spider-Man 2' and 'X-Men: First Class'. Similarly, the tone of the film jarringly veers from the melodramatic into the comedic. More egregious is the final third of the film, with its penchant for explosions and CGI, a pale imitation of Michael Bay - presumably the first time this phrase has been uttered.
To give each of these powerhouse characters significant depth is a near impossible task so Whedon does an impressive job in balancing the characters - introducing backstory, tension and teamwork with relative ease for the most part. Of particular joy is the portrayal of the Hulk, a character of such gravitas that even his fellow Avengers fear his awesome power, contrasting the engaging calm of Ruffalo as Bruce Banner.
Despite its wealth of characters, 'Avengers Assemble' feels bloated at 142 minutes in length, largely lacking in emotional depth. Dry humour and periodic action set pieces only go so far, especially when supplanted by inane bickering between characters - an obvious set up to later reconciliation. Nonetheless, Joss Whedon deserves credit for the manner in which he has completed a challenging task yet ultimately, 'Avengers Assemble' isn't quite the sum of its parts.
'Avengers Assemble' (aka 'The Avengers') is out in the UK now on Marvel.