Avengers Assemble, Joss Whedon, 142 mins (12A)
Albert Nobbs, Rodrigo Garcia, 113 mins (15)

A little less conversation, a little more mighty superhero action, please

In case you ever wondered what Scarlett Johansson was doing in Iron Man 2, or why Jeremy Renner popped up in Thor, or why Samuel L Jackson had a cameo in Captain America, here's your answer.

For years, Marvel has been laying the groundwork for a blockbuster which would bring together several of its most famous superheroes, and now it's arrived: Avengers Assemble features Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain America (Chris Evans), and the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). Also on board are two assassins, the Black Widow (Johansson) and Hawkeye (Renner), while Jackson is back as Nick Fury, the head of their secret organisation, Shield.

In the movie, it's Jackson who gets the superheroes to join hands for the gamma-irradiated equivalent of an all-star singalong at the end of a charity concert, but in reality the man with this job is Joss Whedon, the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and the co-writer of one of this year's most entertaining films, Cabin in the Woods. I can't imagine a better choice. Whedon is a past master at co-ordinating numerous characters, and he makes sure the Avengers all have their moment in the sun, as well as a sizeable portion of his trademark screwball dialogue. In scene after scene, someone thinks they've had the last word, only for someone else to top them. Even the Hulk is funny, and he gets precisely two words.

But as snappy as his film is, Whedon can't quite make Avengers Assemble seem anything more than a marketing novelty, principally because he hasn't come up with a story that's big enough to squeeze in this many larger-than-life characters. The plot of Avengers Assemble is as follows: there are some superheroes called the Avengers, and they assemble. They do most of their assembling on board Shield's flying headquarters, while the film's baddie (Tom Hiddleston as Loki, last seen in Thor) is safely in custody, which means that, even with a two-and-a-half-hour running time, Avengers Assemble doesn't have the colossal scale it needs. Why unite Earth's Mightiest Heroes, as they call themselves, only to have them chatting in a succession of grey boardrooms and corridors? And why make those corridors even murkier with post-production 3D?

It's not until the grand finale that the Avengers properly get to strut their superpowered stuff. And even then, their opponents are a swarm of indistinguishable, digitally rendered alien goblins whose idea of invading the planet is to buzz aimlessly round and round New York. It's common knowledge that a hero is only as interesting as the villain he or she is up against, so when the sequel comes along – and it will – the Avengers should pick on someone their own size.

Another film about people in costumes with dual identities, Albert Nobbs snagged Oscar nominations for two of its actresses, Glenn Close and Janet McTeer, both of whom spend the film in drag. Close, who first performed the role off-Broadway 30 years ago, stars as a woman who's been living as a man for her entire adult life, while working in a Dublin hotel at the end of the 19th century. The film's immediate problem is that her disguise isn't very good. It's not just that Close doesn't look like a man, it's that she doesn't look like a human being: her coating of prosthetic make-up is so smooth and waxy that, with her stiff stance and her outsized bowler hat, she could be the Butler-bot 3000. Close is also too old for the role. When she starts courting Mia Masikowska's opportunistic chambermaid, her cross-dressing seems less of an issue than the four-decade age gap.

For all that, Albert Nobbs is a sweet, tender tragicomedy, and Close is so winning that you soon stop worrying about her androgynous android appearance. She plays Albert as a timid, vulnerable innocent who gets a belated glimpse of a wider world: she's the aunt (or uncle) of Chaplin's little tramp.

Critic's choice

The life and times of a reggae legend are revealed in Marley, the new documentary from Kevin Macdonald. Love, sex and self-deception are the themes of Beauty, a hard-hitting gay-themed drama from South Africa with an unnerving lead by Deon Lotz. Austrian director Karl Markovics makes a powerful debut with Breathing, about a teenager let out of jail and starting a new life.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Summer nights: ‘Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp’
TVBut what do we Brits really know about them?
Arts and Entertainment
Dr Michael Mosley is a game presenter

TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

    Britain's Atlantis

    Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
    The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

    The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

    David Starkey's assessment
    Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

    'An enormous privilege and adventure'

    Oliver Sacks writing about his life
    'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

    'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

    The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
    Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

    Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

    Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
    Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

    Orthorexia nervosa

    How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
    Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

    Lady Chatterley’s Lover

    Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
    Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

    Set a pest to catch a pest

    Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
    Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

    The dark side of Mexico

    A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
    Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

    Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

    Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
    A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

    A nap a day could save your life

    A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
    If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

    If men are so obsessed by sex...

    ...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

    Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
    The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

    Rolling in the deep

    The bathing machine is back but with a difference
    Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

    Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

    Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935