Once in a while it's nice to go to the cinema and escape from the real world, get sucked into a fantasy so vibrant, so beautifully constructed you feel like you can touch it. Sat three rows back at the IMAX last night I felt like I could touch, smell and taste The Avengers. The 3D (post production) only added to the sense of immersion as the giant screen put Captain America and all so in my face I felt like my head might explode. It would have been a joyous explosion though, my grin splattered around the cinema.
The Avengers could so easily have been a much cherished ball dropped. There was much vocal concern over Joss Whedon as director, but many of us knew what the man was capable of with an ensemble cast. The worry was more that the studio would take over, not realising, once again, that Joss gets cool. Well, he gets geek cool and he gets that his heroes need to feel real. To be fair the preceding movies, with the possible exception of The Hulk franchise, have helped to set that up, but the balance between the headline acts is brilliantly executed. They all get one liners, they all get to kick the crap out of the bad guys and they also get room to breathe and grow. That's some achievement when you have six Avengers and Samuel L Jackson to juggle.
Hulk is the standout. Here he's both menacing (you'll jump out of your face) and heroic. Mark Ruffalo is the finest Banner yet, and lets face it, there's been a few. Best of all Whedon brings out the humour in the character and also lets Hulk loose. Properly loose. I'm still grinning at a couple of his best scenes a day later.
Iron Man is the coolest but you knew that. Awesome suit. Check. Best lines. Check. Nice beard. Check.
Captain America is the serious one, only recently defrosted in the movie's timeline, he's yet to establish himself as a leader, but the signs are there.
Thor? Thor is ace. But then they established that with the the Thor movie. Here we get more of him hitting people with his hammer. Who's not gonna like that?
There are others of course. Scarlett Johansson is Black Widow once again and we get a bit more of her back story and a great scene with her being interrogated early on in the movie with a kick ass resolution. Jeremy Renner is Hawk Eye, building on his brief appearance in Thor.
Best of all though, the movie is funny throughout. Even the evil Loki (Tom Hiddleston) gets some great lines. (He actually comes close to stealing the show, Hiddleston is clearly having a blast from start to finish.)
There's heart here, classic Whedon really and I kept smiling as I recognised him hitting those beats of his from way back when and he must be delighted to finally have a blockbuster under his belt that is so clearly his.
It's a superhero movie that knows how ridiculous each of its crazy premises are and doesn't give a toss. It's better for that. We know our heroes can't lose, but this is still edge of the seat action infused with brilliantly timed humour. There's so much to love, from the insane flying SHEILD base, to its relentless pace. Two hours and twenty minutes never went by so fast.
Even at what felt like a foot away I never lost track of what was happening in any action sequence and that wasn't from a lack of them being insanely hectic. Whedon keeps control, never asking the audience who just hit who or what just flew into what. There's a few directors that could learn from that. *Looks at Michael Bay*
I make no bones about being a Joss fan but I also love my comic book heroes. I loved them on the page when I was a kid and this, this was the best I have ever seen any of them brought to life. Truly outstanding.