The Avengers

Directed by: Joss Whedon Written by: Joss Whedon (screenplay/story), Zak Penn (story)

Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Renner, Samuel L Jackson and Scarlett Johansson

Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and S.H.I.E.L.D must enact the ‘Avengers Initiative’ when an intergalactic power threatens humanity. Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth) the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and the Black Widow (Scarlett Johanssen) are all that stands between Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and his alien horde and the earth’s total destruction.

There's an element that fundamentally separates The Avengers from any of its predecessors and that is writer/director: Joss Whedon. This man's a televisual auteur genius of the highest calibre; an uncredited Hollywood script doctor; comic book writer and geek Renaissance man. Marvel Studios head Kevin Fiege put the weight of four franchises (and subsequent billions of dollars) into the hands of the exactly right person.

Mondo Thor poster

Now for those of you familiar with Whedon's directing up to this point, you're not going to recognize how the T.V auteur relishes gargantuan scope of this undertaking. I suppose the only way I can describe it is to say - imagine a man very well versed in the comic visual sensibility and a Michael Bay budget (instead of the 'cancel your show 14 eps in' budget that you're used to). You are visually bombarded with some of the biggest action set pieces committed to film. It does justice to the medium from which the characters originate.

The fear initially is how to assemble the four leads together into an ensemble. The synergy between the leading characters is wonderful. Whedon's experience in iconic T.V Series like Buffy that require balancing strong individuals that comprise an ensemble suits him down to the ground with the titans of the Marvel universe. The scripting and dialogue is outstanding. Whedon has a great deal of fun balancing the fun and the tongue in cheek 'meta reference' while sincerely living out our collective fantasies with the characters. Whedon's love of the characters shines through - despite the action, they don't drown in it - they're put in the rough to shine so-to-speak.

Robert Downey Jr is built for Whedon scripting, and returns to Tony Stark the glory of his original Iron Man portrayal. Chris Evans distances you from the legend of 'Captain America tool of propaganda' and constantly reminds you that he's the sincere, courageous soldier Capt. Steve Rogers underneath. Chris Hemsworth's tortured with his immortal brother meddling across the universe and feels the weight of responsibility for his activity. His Thor mutes his bravado compared to his previous portrayal. Finally Mark Ruffalo absolutely crushes it as Bruce Banner and in the motion capture of the Hulk. It's easily the best performance of the character committed to any sized screen. I would be remiss to not mention Tom Hiddleston's Loki, who is a fantastic villian that's grown immensely in stature since Thor. He's far more maniacal and unhinged in The Avengers and it's great to see him think of himself as indestructible and untouchable throughout...(as I said - no spoilers).

The flaws in this film are "puny" - you begrudge not being with characters for longer, but that's really a product of this kind of undertaking for cinema.

The Avengers is one of the best comic book films ever made; but it's also one of the most accomplished action, special effects bonanzas that I've ever seen. The story is epic, but rooted in humanity. The direction is slick and large for the set pieces, but intimate to contextualise the heroes. "We have a HULK" of a film and we have Joss Whedon to thank.

Blake Howard - follow Blake on Twitter here: @blakeisbatman

The Avengers was released in Australia on the 25th of April 2012, and in the U.S.A on the 4th of May 2012. 

BLAKE HOWARD IS A FILM CRITIC & THE EDITOR-IN-CHIEF/CO-FOUNDER OF AUSTRALIAN FILM BLOG GRAFFITI WITH PUNCTUATION . BLAKE IS THE HOST OF THE ONE HEAT MINUTE PODCAST. BLAKE IS ALSO A MEMBER OF THE PRESTIGIOUS ONLINE FILM CRITIC SOCIETY (AND A MEMBER OF THE GOVERNING COMMITTEE), IS A CO-HOST OF GAGGLE OF GEEKS ON SYDNEY'S 2SER COMMUNITY RADIO, A COLUMNIST AT THE AUSTRALIAN ONLINE INSTITUTION DARK HORIZONS AND SWAYS THE TOMATO METER WITH ROTTEN TOMATOES APPROVED REVIEWS.