Six Marvel Comics superheroes, four of whom have had their own film franchises, come together in one great big action adventure movie. Hulk. Iron Man. Thor. Captain America. Black Widow. Hawkeye. Brought together by Nick Fury, head of S.H.I.E.L.D. Ever since the after-the-credits scene in Iron Man teased the idea, fans have been eagerly awaiting The Avengers, hoping it would live up to its potential.
It’s not an easy task. The film has to balance the different characters, making sure they play off well against each other, making sure each has plenty of screen time and “awesome moments”, and making sure it builds just enough on each characters’ own film franchise. It has to be exciting, it has to be inspiring, it has to be at least a little witty, and it has to have just a bit of emotional depth. It has to make the audience want to see more Avengers films, more films from the established character film franchises, and hopefully films with the characters who didn’t have franchises before. It has to do a lot.
It does it.
It also blows things up, which is always important.
The film’s plot mostly builds out of elements from Thor and Captain America, with Loki (Tom Hiddleston) stealing the Tesseract from S.H.I.E.L.D. This, coupled with an interstellar alliance with the Chitauri (an alien race from Marvel’s “Ultimate” line of comics), elevates Loki from a threat to a single hero to a planetary threat. The film establishes the threat that Loki poses simply by himself very early on, with him easily gaining the advantage over S.H.I.E.L.D. With such a threat, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) quietly assembles the Avengers, against the wishes of his superiors, under the guise of recruiting them for consultants under their various areas of expertise.
Even when the action isn’t going full bore (and such “lulls” are infrequent), the character dynamics keep the movie highly entertaining. Joss Whedon directed the film and co-wrote the screenplay, and his input is very apparent in the dialogue. This is a very witty, funny film for an action movie; in fact, it was sometimes difficult to hear dialogue thanks to people in the theatre laughing at something that had just been said. Chris Hemsworth and Robert Downey Jr. are obviously the most dynamic and engaging actors in the film, but everybody has their moments to shine; Chris Evans as Captain America does particularly well as the less-vainglorious hero playing off of the others. Mark Ruffalo makes a fantastic Bruce Banner — and not that we’ve really had a bad one, but he does well enough to make it seem that his recent six-picture deal is going to work out very well for Marvel fans. I also loved the way the film progressed his character; of all the franchises, the Hulk movies probably contribute the least to the set up of The Avengers, no doubt because of their lackluster reception. But The Avengers contributes a lot to the likely success of future Hulk movies.
Hulk very excited to be a part of this picture.
I thought the film particularly excelled at its handling of Black Widow (Scarlet Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner). Neither of these characters had films of their own, nor huge parts in previous movies (Hawkeye’s screentime in Thor is only a few minutes). So The Avengers had a tricky balancing act on how much screen time and attention to give them since the audience wouldn’t necessarily have any attachment to these characters. But it gives both of them a lot of screen time without ever making it seem as though they’re taking the spotlight away from the other characters. They’re integral, important parts; equal to, not lesser or greater than, the other parts. And both get their moments to shine in action scenes as well (and Hawkeye has his trick arrows in play, which is important.) I don’t know if Marvel plans to spin either of these characters off into films without the rest of the Avengers, but it’s at least a possibility now — or even a S.H.I.E.L.D. movie with the pair of them and Nick Fury.
Other characters also have their moments. Agent Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) is introduced and while not as prominent as other roles, is still given enough interesting screen time that she’ll be easily recognized in any future installments. Clark Gregg continues to be great as Agent Coulson — in fact, he’s a lot more fun here than he was in Thor. Supporting characters from the character-specific films are in short supply — fans of Natalie Portman will have to wait for Thor 2 to see her again — but a few reprise their roles to great effect. Stellan Skarsgård returns as astrophysicist Selvig from Thor, and while his role isn’t especially large, it’s important. And Gwyneth Paltrow plays Pepper Potts once more, and actually manages to steal the scene from Robert Downey Jr., which is no small feat.
Action movies in general, and superhero movies in particular, have to rely a lot on special effects. The Avengers manages to hit this out of the park as well. The aliens look great, their ships look terrific, as does S.H.I.E.L.D.’s headquarters. The special effects from the Tesseract energy are as fantastic as they were in Captain America: The First Avenger, but more varied in their use. The CGI Hulk looks yet more lifelike than before, helped by a resemblance to Mark Ruffalo, and although the first transition from Banner to Hulk is just a tiny bit off, the last one is about as close to perfect as it can be. And all the explosions and random destruction are both exciting and believable.
You get the dustpan, I’ll get the broom.
There really isn’t a weak point in this film. The plot is solid, the dialogue fantastic. All the actors turn in great performances. The special effects work very well. It draws on the established franchises, and sets them up for further adventures — without, I might add, doing so in a way that requires you to have seen The Avengers to enjoy Thor 2 (for example). Since I have seen all the lead-in films, I’m not 100% sure how well The Avengers works for someone who hasn’t, but I also didn’t see anything where people absolutely had to have seen prior films to understand what’s going on. Seeing Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger certainly helps illuminate the gravity of the situation with Loki and the Tesseract, but the film does a pretty good job of establishing that on its own.
The Avengers is exactly what the fans were hoping it would be.
Be sure to stay through the entirety of the credits, as there are two post-credits scenes; one after the first batch of credits, the other after the full credits. The first is setup for the next Avengers film, and is intriguing — and is going to have a lot of Marvel fans losing their collective gourds. The second is just plain funny in a very low key way.
Liked this one a lot and I can’t wait to see what they are able to do with the sequel. Or should I say, I can’t wait to see what Joss Whedon can do with this sequel. Good review.
Thanks, Dan. I really hope Whedon sticks around for the sequel. I think it’d be a big, big misstep for Marvel if they let him go.
This was an excellent review, and I agree entirely. The film was just brilliant! I have seen only half of the “preceding” films (Iron Man and Hulk), but never found myself thinking that the film would be better if I had seen all of the origin movies.
Of course, the success of “Avengers” has buoyed these films, as I am now rather keen to see them all. And then rewatch “Avengers”. Twice. Maybe three times. 😉
I think if you enjoyed The Avengers, you’re very likely to enjoy all of the lead-ins. Especially Thor.
Great review! I thought every scene with Ruffalo and anytime Black Widow kicked some ass were the best things about it. Stupidly I missed the second post-credits bit duh! Teach me to be impatient! Loved the action but didn’t feel that the dialogue for most of the first half was as strong as it could have been.
Yeah, a lot of people missed the second post-credits bit, just judging from what I saw in my own theatre. I probably would have as well if I hadn’t heard in advance that there were two of them. I will say that the second post-credits scene isn’t important in any way, it’s just kind of funny, so you didn’t miss out too badly by missing it.
So much to say about this one isnt there? From the incredible character work (which you covered well) and the special effects to the great blending in of comedy… I mean, this flick was incredible. Totally a reminder of what I love about going to the movies. Exciting, fun, funny. Fantastic. Just phenomenal.
Nice review, CO. Good one.
Thank you, Fogs. Knew you were just trying to get a rise out of people with that “The Avengers SUCKED” twitter comment. 😀
Truly a great film. Maybe not quite in the “all time classic” sense if we’re comparing across all genres, but for the superhero genre? Absolutely raising the bar.
Oh yeah. That tweet was sarcasm… but it was totally brought on by the crazy unbearable love I had to watch people showering on it without having had seen it. I needed to be reactionary. LOL.
Very good film, though I think I loved it a bit less than everyone else. Great review man.
Thanks, P.G. I read your review, and I can sort of see your point about the plot not being especially complex. I just felt that it didn’t really need to be for this film. It’s more of an “it could have been more” rather than “it needed to have been more”.
Well, you already know what I think about it.
Two weeks has passed and the enthusiasm hasn’t worn off yet. I want to go see it again!
Just a thing: “Hulk… Smash!”
That’s the sign of a great film there… still feeling hyped up weeks afterward. If I could justify the cost to myself, I’d probably see this two or three more times on the big screen.
And Cap giving that as an order was great, wasn’t it? 😀
Just saw this Morgan. Awesome film! I loved every minute of it and found the Hulks comedic bits particularly funny. I am not a huge comic book guy by any means but I was caught up in this film from the get-go. Very well done flick.
Hey, Jake! I’m glad you liked it; I figured you probably would, but I wasn’t sure just how much since you’re not a big comic book guy. You’re right about the Hulk… lots of comedy there.
The fact that it’s still getting so talked about and people just haven’t been able to forget this film weeks after its initial release means something.
Glad you enjoyed the film – I loved it too! Just everything I hoped it would be. And yet, I didn’t expect it to be anything like this. Even I don’t understand that!
Yeah, it’s still pretty new here in the U.S., but you European residents have had it for a while, and don’t seem to be sick of it yet. 😀
I think I do understand what you mean; there’s a difference between how high our hopes are, and how high our expectations are. I hoped for a great movie, I expected a decent one. Got a fantastic one.
Great review here, Morgan. Glad that you liked it so much. You’re right. It met up to so many expectations!
I, too, thought it very appropriately handled the stories of Hawkeye and Black Widow.
I also really liked too how it sets up for future Hulk films as well. Glad to see another great review for The Avengers!
Thanks, T. Yeah, the Hulk is in better cinematic shape after this film than, well, arguably ever. Audience expectations are certainly better than after either of his solo films, and very likely better than they were before he had a film to his name.
Very good review. Heck, I count this movie as a success in that it made me give a shit about the Black Widow, something the comics never have done for me.
Funny how that works sometimes, isn’t it?
Loved this, unabashedly and without reservations. At least once it got me sucked in. I’d been dreading this for weeks leading into its release, just because a) I’m burned out on superheroes in general, and b) I was burned out on hearing hype for The Avengers; it got to the point where I just wanted to see it for the sake of seeing it, so I could close that chapter of my life.
But this blew my expectations away and I couldn’t be happier. It’s a sterling display of big FX spectacle and superhero cinema done perfectly right, and– for me– a revitalizing tonic for superhero malaise.
Favorite parts: anything involving Hulk and Ruffalo.
I hear you on the hype burnout; I was deliberately avoiding any hype for about a month before release simply because I didn’t want to get that point. Fortunately, the film lived up to any hype about it.
And I think the Hulk was just about everybody’s favorite part. They really got the Hulk right this time around.
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