I love comic book movies. I expect it is a given being a geek but having said that, I have never actually read or been in the possession of a traditional comic book. By comic book I mean the conventional sense, not the comic strip you used to get in The Funday Times kids supplement with The Sunday Times. There is nothing quite like an action movie based inside the Marvel or DC universe. While my favourite superhero is Superman, my favourite stories have always been from rival outfit Marvel. The characters are just so much fun to watch! I also enjoy movies/tv shows on the lesser well known heroes, such as The Phantom, The Shadow or even The Champions. The movie experience in my mind, is always about escapism. For two hours we want to be taken away from our boring sedate lives and parachuted into a world where we can believe that anything is impossible. Bad things happen but the will of the good men and women will prevail.
Four years ago (almost exactly to the day) I went to watch Iron Man with my bestie, Pav. Marvel Studios are keen to be the first to reach the summer blockbuster summit every year. (Does this really matter any more? Perhaps not, I always thought it was about being the best, not about being the first!) Little did I know at the time that this was the start of a long four year journey that would bring all the Marvel characters together on the big screen for the first time. I cannot recall now, if it was Pav himself or some obscure web posting but we stayed until after the end credits of Iron Man. (I would subsequently do this with all Marvel comic book movies). Sure enough, Nick Fury, (Agent then, Director now) of S.H.I.E.L.D made his first on screen appearance. I was pleasantly surprised by the selection of Samuel L. Jackson in the role but anyone would have been an improvement on David Hasslehoff in the poorly received TV movie. The stage was set but I was apprehensive. Could a director really pull off a movie with more than a single superhero? Over the years, each hero was introduced in turn, with Tony Stark having the privilege of a second outing before finally we arrive to 2012 and the release of The Avengers. (Avengers Assemble in the UK due to various legal rights issues but I still prefer the original American and international title). Of all the Marvel films, the only I did not see in the cinema was Captain America, which I do regret after watching the Blu-Ray some months later. I was skeptical if Chris Evans could fill such a major role. Particularly after his rather arrogant turn in two Fantastic Four movies as The Human Torch (which although part of the Marvel Universe, I have opted to not cover here). However, that was a supporting role in a team dynamic, would he cope on his own? May last year I went to see Thor which was perhaps a movie highlight, I felt underwhelmed by Iron Man 2. The weight of expectation lay very high on The Avengers. Early reviews and blog posts posted the most favourable of reviews. I was looking forward to this movie even more now. Yesterday morning, my colleague Harps also gave hints of a awesome movie in prospect (without revealing anything) even adding that he was excited for me to be seeing it on Tuesday night.
There was a time that I went to the cinema on a Friday night on the week a movie was released. That was back when the cost of tickets were as little as six pounds. My venue of choice was Vue in Reading, particularly as they had the advertising contract with Pearl & Dean at the time. However times change, particularly when you move out from home and have the reality of additional outgoings. Having moved to Slough last April, my local multiplex is the Empire in the High Street. Not my first choice of venue but they had taken the Pearl & Dean contract from December 2010. The few redeeming features are the fact that the parking is free (a mute point as I live only ten minute walk away) and on Saver Tuesday the tickets are just a shade under three pounds. (Obviously 3D is slightly higher, but half the price you pay on a weekend screening). We had the 3D glasses from our last visit which we have kept, particularly as they cost a pound to replace. I was bursting with excitement throughout the day, as you can tell from my various tweets. Would this be a false dawn? Would I be left disappointed?
After a quick dinner, we jumped in the car and headed to the Observatory car park. We were early but I was keen to get good seats. I am quite particularly about my seat, it has to be in as close as possible to the centre of the auditorium. The showing as at 8pm, we had fifteen minutes to wait and I had left my mobile at the flat. Michelle used the time wisely checking Facebook. While I made a start on the popcorn. The film started, I was tense, how would it all pan out?
At the end, I sense people might start applauding as the credits rolled. Even on this school night in a half full screening. The verdict – one of the best movies I have seen this year and without question one of the best comic book superhero movies adaptations of all time. It just worked and everything came together perfectly in the end. The humour was there, the action started from the first scene and the characters were perfectly cast. In particular Mark Ruffalo as The Hulk, a quiet and rather understated performance as Dr. Banner but perfect as the angry green beast. I enjoyed the battle between Thor and The Hulk, a relatively equal matchup of sorts. The Black Widow had a great deal of screen time and I can never tire of seeing Scarlett Johansson in a tight PVC body suit. Overall the movie did not take itself too seriously but the tension was well placed in pulling the characters together to fight a joint cause. There is the rivalry and suspicions you expect but in the end they work together to defeat the villain Loki but it is not easy job. The film is so good, both Michelle and I want to go and see it again, yes it really does deserve a second viewing at the cinema! My favourite character? It has to be billionaire playboy and philanthropist Tony Stark. If you want to talk about upgrades, his introduction to the piece is breathtaking and I love how his suit disrobes itself. (Difficult to explain in words, check out for glimpses in the trailer).
Joss Wheldon had a mammoth task to bring together four major comic heroes (all of whom have had their own cinematic outings in the recent past) along with some minor but nevertheless important characters in Black Widow and Hawkeye. He somehow managed to pull this off with some panache. The action is timed to perfection with the story never stalling and the humour scattered throughout, much of it with no dialogue whatsoever, just the characters reacting to one another. All done without having to resort to the campy feel of Batman & Robin. Overall and most importantly it was entertaining, it had the audience fully engaged with every second of the story as it unravelled on the screen in glorious 3D. This was a movie that did not really need the gimmick of three dimensions, if anything I would have preferred to watch in 2D to fully enjoy the experience of the story. The movie was shot in 2D and then converted in post-production into 3D and you could tell which scenes (generally action based) had been enhanced by the extra dimension. However it was not a significant factor for me, unlike other movies such as say Avatar. Easily one of my favourite comic book heroes of all time and perhaps the best movie of the year (so far). The Dark Knight has some mighty big shoes to fill. Surely Christopher Nolan is up to the task!