In this long-awaited Marvel blockbuster, Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Thor’s half-brother, aims to destroy Earth using a powerful, glowing blue cube, known as the Tesseract. In the opening sequences, Loki brainwashes Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and other SHIELD agents into joining his side, stealing the Tesseract from them in order to open a space portal. To put an end to Loki’s evil plan, SHIELD boss, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), must unite the talents of Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain America (Chris Evans), Bruce Banner aka The Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson).

Avengers Assemble is certainly a film for Marvel fans. Brimming with references to the earlier franchises, as a stand alone movie, Avengers Assemble is likely to leave newcomers wondering what it was all about. Yet Avengers Assemble does try to make itself amenable to both camps, diehard fans and newbies alike. What this means is an awful lot of back story to cram into the movies opening act. Whilst writer Joss Whedon (Buffy, Cabin In The Woods) packs this in succinctly and with much comedy for fans, it is likely to remain too scant for newcomers to enjoy Avengers Assemble at its full potential.

As Iron Man, Robert Downey Jr gets the best of Whedon’s script

As Iron Man, Robert Downey Jr gets the best of Whedon’s script. Iron Man’s dialogue overflows with quips and arrogance, including a particularly amusing exchange where he describes Thor as ‘Shakespeare In The Park’ and another where he refers to himself as a ‘genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist’. This dialogue and Robert Downey Jr’s natural charisma in delivering it, have a large part to play in making the union of these disparate characters believable.

Cleverly, Whedon does not ignore the difficulties in bringing these heroes, so used to their own limelight, together to share the same one. And so, early on, we see Iron Man vs Thor and a number of other entertaining inter-Avenger battles sure to spark debate among fans.

Neither does Whedon favour one character over the rest. Instead he balances the four main franchises (Iron Man, Thor, The Hulk and Captain America) with dexterity. For fans who already have their favourite hero picked out, this is likely to be a relief rather than a problem, but newcomers may find it difficult to get under anyone’s skin. Bruce Banner, with his ‘other guy’ The Hulk, is Avengers best explored character. Ruffalo compassionately portrays Banner’s battle with depression and rage while also having a decent share of the comedy.

As for the bad guys, Tom Hiddleston’s Loki frequently shifts from incredibly sinister to flimsy and unconvincing. Meanwhile, his accomplices appear dark and menacing until they are unleashed on New York, when they become all too familiar. The destruction of New York is similarly unoriginal and much too lengthy.

For Marvel fans, Avengers Assemble has a lot to offer but, as a stand alone movie, it’s over-reliance on backstory and in-jokes make it relatively inaccessible to newcomers. A must see for fans of the Marvel franchises and best enjoyed after the heroes’ own movies.

VERDICT: ✪ ✪ ✪

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