We both knew I was going to love The Avengers. Even if Marvel did insist on calling in by the wrong name in the UK. The question is – how much?
Well, a lot.
Marvel Avengers Assemble is a fitting climax to the epic saga that started with Iron Man in 2008. There's practically no exposition, it's as lean as Chris Hemsworth's abs. It's a relentless 135 minute action sequence that's exciting, exhilarating and exhausting to watch. Joss Whedon has effectively weaponised film.
It's a movie that almost defies rational reviewing. Plot and character development are both realised in terms of action. It's so packed with incident that any bald description of the plot risks dropping giant clanging spoilers and it's so exuberantly action packed that it's almost impossible to define any overarching theme. Stuff just keeps happening. For over two hours.
Then there's a credit sequence. And then something else happens.
There's almost too much to take in. My notes for this film read like the babbling of a madman. What did I mean by "COULSON!!! SUNGLASSES!!!" ? Frankly, I'm as in the dark as you are.
But you're naturally going to have questions. So I'm going to try to anticipate them, and answer them as best I can. Here goes.
So, Is The Avengers worth seeing?
Absolutely yes. It's as good as any movie I've seen.
Will it win a Palme D'Or?
My Magic 8-Ball says no.
Do I need to have seen the other Marvel movies to understand this one?
Thor, definitely. Captain America, ideally (although we do get a short re-'cap' of the supersoldier's origin). The Iron Man flicks are helpful and Leterrier's Hulk is a luxury.
Who is the standout hero of the movie?
Early reports said that it was Captain America's film, but I didn't see it that way. Mark Ruffalo's Hulk is incredible. As Tony Stark, Robert Downey Jnr gets most of the laughs and for pure visceral action Scarlett Johannson's Black Widow is hard to beat.
Does Whedon manage to balance all of the heroes equally?
He does a pretty good job. Hulk is too overpowered to use much, and his screen time is dialled back accordingly. In the classic Marvel team-up style everyone faces off against almost everyone else at some point and the power balance is neatly done. Jeremy Renner's Hawkeye, who has been the most underexposed member of the team in the previous movies, is given a chance to show just how capable he is with an extended solo sequence. And, later, he does that River Tam 'shooting without aiming' trick from Serenity, which made me very happy.
What about S.H.I.E.L.D?
It's great to see Samuel L Jackson stretch out in the rôle after all those little cameos. Cobie Smulders is impressively kickass from the outset as Agent Maria Hill and Clark Gregg, as Agent Phil Coulson, is the emotional heart of the movie.
Is the villain badass enough?
Tom Hiddleston is brilliant as Loki. He has to be. He's up against four superheroes, a super-spy, a deadly assassin and the might of S.H.I.E.L.D. Loki is a more powerfully physical foe then he was in Thor, and just as dangerously deceptive. Loki's army, who are revealed in the opening minutes of the film to be The Chitauri, fall into the faceless goon category but my word there's a lot of 'em!
How's the 3D?
No idea. I saw it in a 2D presentation. Some of the action is very fast-moving. I'd be interested to see how that translated to stereo. I will be paying actual money to see this film again.
How's the CGI on the Ruffahulk?
A 10 foot tall green guy in purple trousers is always going to look a shade out of place, but it works pretty well.
Whedon's known for his smartass dialogue: Is Avengers funny?
Oh my goodness yes. The byplay between Tony Stark and Pepper Potts is pure screwball comedy, Some of Cap's reactions to the 21st Century are priceless. Hulk delivers a sight-gag that I'm still chuckling about. Even Thor gets a terrific one-liner. And all this is seamlessly woven into the middle of an epic superhero fight that never once descends into that regrettable CGI phenomenon I like to call 'Action Figure Smackdown™'.
Single funniest line?
There are three contenders. I'm torn between "Shakespeare in the park" "He's adopted" and "there's only one God Ma'am, and I'm pretty sure he doesn't dress like that".
Is there a Stan Lee cameo?
There is. And if I'm being honest it's a bit unnecessary but it's hard to begrudge a bit of fun for a man who has given us so much.
Any other notable cameos?
Not in the way that I think my imaginary reader means. Harry Dean Stanton turns up in an odd moment. The script seems to be unsure at that point whether Harry's character knows that The Hulk is human or not. It's probably the weakest moment in the film but it's barely long enough for a bathroom break so don't worry about it and don't buy the extra-large Pepsi.
Does anyone say 'Avengers Assemble'?
No. Although someone does manage to squeak in 'Earth's Mightiest Heroes'
I've heard a major character dies in the movie? Is that true?
There is a death in the family. And it's the turning-point of the entire film. It's absolutely integral to the plot and very well-handled.
Is there, by any chance, some other incredibly cool moment that you haven't mentioned?
I'm glad you asked. There is a successor to Iron Man's suitcase armour that will make you whoop and cheer. And then there's the Helicarrier. Love the Helicarrier.
There must be one thing you didn't like.
Well aside from that odd little scene with Harry Dean Stanton there isn't much to criticise. Once the bad guys are taken down things do wrap up a shade abruptly, perhaps too abruptly. But then maybe that mysterious extra scene that was being filmed as the previews were screening addresses that.
Is there an after-credits scene?
Who's in that?
I am trying to avoid spoilers so THAt's NOt for me to Say.