Written & Directed by Joss Whedon
After laying the groundwork over the course of 5 films, Marvel is finally able to rally together for the largest blockbuster ever (at the time) with the team up film The Avengers. I can distinctly remember the amount of buzz around the release of this film, and how it seemed to be changing the modern day blockbuster. An A-List cast from top to bottom to include all the characters we’ve been introduced to in the previous films, coming together to battle evil as it threatens planet earth once and for all. To be honest, despite remembering how big this movie was, I was surprised at how little I remembered about the actual contents of the film. Watching it again, likely for the first time since that initial viewing in theaters, I certainly slowly remembered things, constantly saying to myself, “oh yeah!”, but I was truly surprised to not remember much of it beforehand. For such a big movie, you’d have thought it’d have stayed a little fresher in my mind, even with having only seen it once before. I think this phenomenon of forgetting large chunks of it might threaten to happen again in the years to come, however, based off my viewing, as it certainly didn’t live up to the expectations of the biggest movie of all time as I had remembered it to be. Hopefully I can get through the plot synopsis without having to use Google. No promises…
Loki (Tom Hiddleston) meets with aliens who promise him domination for the Tesseract, so he drops in on his Earth friends who have it and bring them under his spell, including Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Dr. Selvig (Stellen Skarsgaard), which prompts Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) to reboot Avengers with the help of Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) and Agent Hill (Cobie Smulders), who bring on Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Bruce Banner/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and Captain America (Chris Evans). Oh! and Thor (Chris Hemsworth) crashes the party too. So they huddle in SHEILDs super awesome invisible hellicarrier until Loki breaks out and descends hell on New York City where Stark Tower has recently been constructed. But luckily the heroes are here to save Earth from the aliens!
Honestly, this movie felt a lot like a mess. It wasn’t at all what I remembered. Perhaps I’m just not observant enough, or not well-versed enough in the comics (which is true, but this should not be a crutch to access the movies), but I barely understood the aliens and Loki’s motivations. The Tesseract is extremely valuable, but why are we destroying the earth? I understand the stakes need to be raised for a movie of this scale, but I’m not sure I followed the line to how it came to it this time. It seemed glossed over and just setup so there’d be a reason for the assemblage of the Avengers. But it does also beg the question that once the Earth is threatened, what is the next level? To have that threat level so early in the franchise, how do we come back down from that for smaller installments, and how to we get back to that height and even surpass it for later team up movies? I know some of these answers, but it will be a interesting thing to track over the evolution of the series, and see how Marvel does in this regard. Does it work? Does it not? What is their secret to getting us to care about the stakes of the films if the heroes are just always going to win, never die, and always save the world? It could get old and stale quickly.
But with that in mind, what I did enjoy a great deal about this film was how it more involved the side characters, who have been mostly sidelined in the other films. Iron Man, Cap, Hulk and Thor have all had their own starring vehicles, so to get Black Widow, Loki, Hawkeye and honestly even Fury and Coulson more involved was great to see. I would stop short of saying this is their movie more than the core Avengers, but they definitely step up here and are featured way beyond what would have been expected. And it really works as we get to know them better and connect with their characters. It always great performers to flesh out otherwise small characters to become true members of the Avengers right alongside the heavyweights. I also didn’t mind the replacement of Ed Norton with Mark Ruffalo. Honestly, I think The Incredible Hulk is forgettable enough of a movie, that transitioning to Ruffalo was pretty seamless, and he’s quite good in the role. I also enjoyed even more foreshadowing of the rift between Cap and Iron Man with their spat about how SHEILD was planning to utilize the Tesseract, which feels like a very brief footnote in this behemoth of a movie.
Ultimately, there is enough entertainment value here to walk away satisfied, and a lot of that has to do with the work done by Marvel in the films leading up to this. We’ve spent enough time with the characters and fallen in love, that spending even more time is an enjoyable proposition. However, the plot seems muddled, and the big action scene of the invasion in New York City which caps the film is just another CGI mega battle that drags on perhaps a bit too long. It’s staged alright, but there is very little in signature moments other than the prominent shot of our heroes circled together. It’s better than the atrociousness of something like Transformers, but I can’t exactly applaud it for achievement either. Perhaps I’m the wrong viewer, as mega battles have rarely been worth it in my eyes, though I recognize their importance and necessity when it comes to these blockbusters. The Avengers should have been so much more given the legwork done beforehand, so in that sense it’s a disappointing outing that feels much more like a stepping stone in the franchise than a marquee attraction, but it delivers enough Marvel magic and character development to satisfy for now.