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Avengers Assemble (DQ)


Stars: Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L Jackson, Jeremy Renner, Gwyneth Paltrow, Stellan Skarsgard, Cobie Smulders, Clark Gregg, Powers Boothe, Jenny Agutter, Stan Lee. Voices: Paul Bettany, Lou Ferrigno

Director: Joss Whedon

As foreshadowed at the end of Thor, the hammer-wielding god's mischief-making brother Loki is on the loose again, plotting world domination (there's a surprise) with the aid of an all-powerful spear, a spectral army and the tesseract, a machine capable of producing 'unlimited sustainable energy'.

Down on Earth, SHIELD boss Nick Fury (Jackson) is far from impressed when Loki (Hiddleston) invades his HQ. 'Sir,' he commands, 'please put down the spear'. Soon disillusioned, Fury realises he needs a team of superheroes to combat this new threat to world peace.

He gathers together Iron Man (Downey), Captain America (Evans), Black Widow (Johansson), Thor himself (Hemsworth) and even the Incredible Hulk (Ruffalo). The team would include arrow-wielding Hawk (Renner), but he he's been snaffled by Loki, along with chief boffin Skarsgard, Loki putting both under his influence with the help of the spear.

The film has lots of slam-bang action, and, as a bonus, some witty and amusing exchanges, although there are also continuity lapses and times when things feel curiously flat. Biggest laugh comes when Hulk demolishes an entire alien squadron - then punches out Captain America just for good measure.

Of the cast, Downey gets most of the funny lines, although Ruffalo's dry, understated humour is also effective, making him the best Hulk to date. Even Thor gets in on the act. 'He's my brother!' he gasps at plans to exterminate Loki. 'But,' he's told, 'he's killed 80 people in two days.' Signs Thor: 'He's adopted'.

Other stars appear in what amount to little more than cameos - there's even a fleeting glimpse of Kirk Douglas - although Paltrow has a bit more to do as the invaluable Pepper Potts, lending a bit of warmth and humanity to the automated action, and going barefoot so as not to be taller than Downey; relative newcomer Smulders also impresses as Jackson's ramrod-straight right-hand woman. For most of the way, it's good, impressively assembled Marvel fun.

David Quinlan

USA 2012. UK Distributor: Walt Disney (Paramount/Marvel). Colour by deluxe.
142 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 20 Apr 2012