I donned my superhero cape and 3D specs to check out Avengers Assemble, the new film featuring Earth's mightiest heroes, The Avengers. Is it worth seeing in 3D?
Based on the Marvel Comics characters, Avengers Assemble sees leather-coated Samuel L Jackson recruit a roll call of superheroes when a powerful energy source is stolen, or somesuch. The Avengers are supersoldier Captain America, super spies Black Widow and Hawkeye, flippant philanthropist Tony Stark who suits up as Iron Man, brilliant scientist with rage issues Bruce Banner, who hides the Incredible Hulk inside, and Thor, the Norse god who puts the Pantene in pantheon.
I have to admit I had my doubts about uniting all these characters on screen. In a comic you can get away with a colourful cast of far-fetched superfolk pootling about in flying aircraft carriers and biffing aliens, because the medium just lends itself to gleeful, overblown ludicrousness. Suspension of disbelief isn't an issue the way it is in a film, which needs to be more grounded to sell itself.
And even setting aside the issue of whether we believe in all these colourful characters, there's just so many of them. But in the artful hands of Joss Whedon -- himself a comics veteran, as well as creator of Firefly and Buffy -- each character gets something to do.
So the cumulative ridiculousness is grounded by Whedon's deft sketching of each character with their own problems, their own agendas -- and their fair share of zinging lines. In fact the whole thing is surprisingly funny, keeping things light rather than getting too bogged down in geeky detail.
But despite the even-handed treatment of the main cast, Robert Downey Jr inevitably steals the show -- until the Hulk shows up, that is. We're finally treated to a decent outing for the big green smashing machine, and even though he's still a little rubbery in the CGI department, he provides many of the film's best moments. As the Hulk's human side, Mark Ruffalo's assured turn shows no trace that he's the new boy among the cast.
The only weak link is Hawkeye, Jeremy Renner's master archer. As the only Avenger we haven't met before -- aside from a brief cameo in Thor -- we have little empathy for his plight when he's turned to the dark side just moments after we meet him.
Avengers in action
Fortunately, the crowded cast actually benefits and adds to the action. The action-packed set pieces are a joy to watch as we follow each character using their different skills in different aspects of each scrap. CGI often makes characters look weightless and unrealistic -- especially the dull rent-an-alien-horde in the final showdown -- but here it's less off-putting than the uninvolving and hard-to-follow CGI slugfests that end most previous Marvel outings.
Should I see it in 3D?
You'd think 3D would be perfect for a larger-than-life film like this, but the 3D element is curiously undercooked. There's barely any sense of depth during non-action scenes -- which is a shame, as there are a couple of flashes of how good 3D can be when used in an understated and thoughtful way. These moments include Hawkeye as an isolated figure standing in the back of a gunship, giving us a sense of scale as he flies towards the S.H.I.E.L.D Helicarrier, and Captain America running into a damaged engine room now yawning open to the sky.
In fact, my favourite 3D effect involved an evil scientist talking from behind a translucent plastic curtain, which had a real feeling of depth and added a sinister dimension to an otherwise relatively insignificant scene.
There are a lot of reflections adding subtle depth to scenes, including a scene where Downey Jr and Ruffalo get emotional through a transparent touchscreen. 3D movies sure do love their holographic user interfaces!
Unusually, I'd have liked more gimmicky 3D. Sure, I usually tire quickly of gimmicky shots of stuff flying towards me -- but when the stuff flying towards me is Scarlett Johansson
sprinting out of an explosion pursued by a roaring Incredible Hulk, how
could I not want to see that in three dimensions?
At least you can watch in 2D without being put off by stuff that's clearly meant for 3D audiences. But while 3D doesn't add much, if you do choose the 2D option, you're missing out on a treat: the Hulk hulking out in 3D.
Avengers Assemble is in cinemas now in 2D and 3D. I saw the film at Cineworld, where if you book online you get 10 per cent off -- and pay no booking fees.
What did you think of the Avengers movie? Is it the best comic book movie ever, or an overcrowded mess? What 3D movies are you looking forward to? Assemble your thoughts in the comments or on our Facebook page.