Avengers sets the bar high for superhero blockbusters

The Avengers

Robert Downey Jnr and Scarlett Johansson star in thrilling comic book adventure

LAST UPDATED AT 08:34 ON Fri 27 Apr 2012

What you need to know

Avengers Assemble is based on characters from Marvel Comics' superhero team. The film was written and directed by Joss Whedon, co-director of the recent horror hit Cabin in the Woods and the creator of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly TV series. It's the sixth in the Marvel Studios film series which includes Ironman, Thor, Hulk and Captain America.

The ensemble cast features Sherlock star Robert Downey Jnr as Iron Man, Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow, Hurt Locker's Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, Chris Evans as Captain America and Mark Ruffalo as the Hulk. Tom Hiddleston is Loki.

In Avengers Assemble, Nick Fury, director of the peacekeeping organization S.H.I.E.L.D., recruits the Avengers team to stop Thor's evil brother Loki from destroying Earth.

What the critics like

The film is a "lavishly enjoyable assemblage of everything that's good about contemporary popcorn cinema," says Robbie Collin in The Daily Telegraph. As the first of this summer's superhero blockbusters (The Dark Knight Rises and The Amazing Spider-Man follow) Avengers "sets the bar impressively high" and does it with a smile. A lot of this stuff has been done before – "but never quite as well as this".

Drawing together the meaty back-stories of a half-dozen iconic heroes is no easy task, says Henry Barnes in The Guardian, "but Whedon proves himself a master plate-spinner". Each hero is given a convincing story arc. The "wise-cracking id" of Robert Downey Jnr's Iron Man is balanced by "a beautifully honed performance" by Marc Ruffalo as the Hulk.

Whedon's trademark off-kilter wit and attention to character set Avengers high above your average multiplex crowd-pleaser, says Tom Huddleston in Time Out. "This is as close as cinema gets to a fairground ride: it's shiny, noisy and exhilarating." The six characters are beautifully delineated, and while "the macho-bullshit quotient" is high, there are also "quieter, sweeter touches", notably from Ruffalo's Hulk.

What they don't like

The critics have found very little to criticise in Avengers Assemble. Empire's James White, however, admits that the film's baddies are "little more than intergalactic cannon-fodder" and the whole plot hinges on "the old MacGuffin narrative trick".

The Telegraph's Robbie Collin warns that those who haven't seen, or can't remember, the earlier Marvel films "will find the talky first act utterly bamboozling" while the Guardian's Ben Child warns the film is "a bum-numbing" two hours and 23 minutes long. Nevertheless, they give the film a big thumbs up.

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