So it’s now a fact. Spiderman 3 had no excuse for being so bad. The “too many villains” angle was a criticism frequently levelled at Raimi’s third spider-flick. And yes, there were too many villains, there was too much going on, but no, that’s not why Spiderman 3 was so bad. Spiderman 3 was so bad because it didn’t blend all its ingredients together properly. What we got was too many disparate elements, carelessly juggled onto a page and then thrown together for a finale as if it would make up for the previous 90 minutes of messy neglect. A smoothie, if you will, whose ingredients were all blended separately and then tossed together in a mixing jug of disappointment, resulting in them all sitting flat on top of one another.
On the other hand, The Avengers is the exact kind of smoothie you would want to drink and proves that you can have too many ingredients and still make it taste delicious. I promise I will now stop talking about Spiderman 3 and smoothies.
The Avengers, as if you don’t know, is the icing on Marvel’s master cake, which has been four years in the baking (I promise that’s the last food metaphor). Captain America, Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, Hawkeye and Black Widow, all in one movie. Not to mention Nick Fury, Agent Coulson, Maria Hill and Loki.
This was a massive and terrifying undertaking, and let’s be honest, most of us didn’t think it could be done. But Marvel’s streak of smart director choices continues and it’s hard to imagine anybody being more suited to the task than Joss Whedon, king of the quick-witted ensemble piece.
The Avengers, (or Avengers Assemble, if you’re reading this from Ireland or the UK and can’t tell the difference between superheroes and bowler hats), is fun, pacy, cool, witty and an all-round great action-blockbuster. It is the very definition of fun comic book movie.
Whedon can’t receive enough praise for not only keeping this movie from spiraling out of control, but injecting everything with his renowned sense of humour. We all know Iron Man can make us laugh, but the jokes are evenly distributed and pretty much everyone gets a comedic moment (even Agent Coulson), with Hulk turning out to be a surprising source of hilarity.
There are problems and they are blatant. Without going into spoilers, some key plot-points feel like they were skipped over and it often feels a bit unclear what is happening and why, almost as if some crucial bit of exposition was dropped to the cutting room floor in favour of another shot of Hulk smashing something (not that I’m complaining). Some things are clearly not explained as well as they could have been and if you didn’t leave the cinema with a few questions, then you’ve probably made some assumptions and joined some dots you really shouldn’t have had to.
Despite the amazing efforts of Tom Hiddleston, who is a superb villain, the main threat is in the form of some faceless aliens who receive very little introduction beyond “here are some aliens.” We’re not given enough information to feel anything towards these Gears-of-War wannabees and while the climactic action scene is mind-blowingly cool, there is little sense of threat. In fact, threat is noticeably absent throughout the movie (does anyone really care about the tesseract or what it can do?)
But it’s further testament to Whedon’s writing and the actors’ sense of fun that you don’t miss or need the threat. This film has issues, but who cares? It’s ridiculously good fun and watching these characters interact together is every bit the payoff we had hoped for. It’s going to be hard to go back to solitary sequels after tasting just how good a Marvel ensemble movie can be.