Friday, 25 May 2012

Film Reviews: 25 May

Films about comic superheroes can be an acquired taste, unless acted by a stellar cast…

Written by Barry Norman


barry-normanBWAt this time of year when summer is about to break (or more likely pour) upon us the fi lm industry seems to believe that we've all decided to give our brains a rest for a few months. We don't want movies that are going to make us think, do we? Nah, course not. Not in the summer.

In other words, this is the season of the blockbuster. Huge, expensive productions that are – as Macbeth so neatly put it – full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

The first of this year's crop, Avengers Assemble, is already with us and I have to say that it's not at all bad. True, it's about 80 per cent action – fights, explosions, special effects, chases, mass destruction – and 10 per cent pseudo-scientific gobbledegook. But the other 10 per cent is made up of droll dialogue, welcome touches of humour and nice performances.

To bring this about, the writer/director Joss Whedon had the interesting idea of assembling a whole bunch of Marvel Comics superheroes to save Earth from subjugation. Reading from left to right they are: Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner).

What has happened, you see, is that mankind has stumbled upon a gizmo, an energy source of unlimited power, which has suddenly activated and opened a portal into space. And through that space has come the disgraced and exiled Norse god Loki (Tom Hiddleston), brother of Thor, intent on ruling the world.

What's more, he has an equally evil ally who, in exchange for the gizmo, will lend him a huge army of extraterrestrial warriors. Oh, he's a real bugger, this Loki.

He takes over the minds of Stellan Skarsgård, the scientist who understands the gizmo, and even, for a while anyway, of Hawkeye, and creates havoc. Happily however, espionage chief Samuel L Jackson is still around to organise – sort of – the Avengers' desperate defence of life as we know it.

To begin with, the superheroes don't get on too well, squabbling and even fighting among themselves. Clash of super-egos, you know. And when Ruffalo turns from amiable doctor into the pea-green Hulk and gets mad, he causes rather more damage on the good guys' high-tech fl ying aircraft carrier than the enemy attacks. I tell you, this fellow seriously needs angermanagement counselling.

The fighting action, when it really gets under way, is non-stop, edge-of-the-seat stuff and you won't believe the mess they all make of Manhattan.

But some neat bits of dialogue lighten matters up occasionally. When Thor attempts to defend his brother's actions, someone points out that he killed 80 people last night and Thor says: 'Well, he was adopted.'

Of late I've been avoiding comic-book movies because of the way special effects dominate everything. But the effects in this one are truly astonishing and, for once, a very good cast is allowed to put a bit of meat on the characters' bones.


  • Dame Helen Mirren- Dame Helen is the only actress to have played both Queen Elizabeth I and II on screen. We have five copies of this Oscar-winning fi lm to give away on Blu-Ray, courtesy of Pathé Productions Ltd. For details, visit 
  • Freya Wilson The 11-year-old actress put in an adorable turn as the young Princess Elizabeth in The King's Speech, with palace sources saying later that the monarch found her portrayal 'moving'.
  • Jeannette Charles This 'looky-likey' actress has made a career out of playing the Queen, mainly in spoofs such as The Naked Gun with Leslie Nielsen, and Austin Powers In Goldmember.
  • Queen Elizabeth II Rumour has it that Her Majesty will make a cameo appearance in a specially filmed piece for the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games, to be beamed worldwide,

awarding Daniel

Craig's James Bond

a knighthood.

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