Movie Name: The Avengers
Studio: Marvel Studios
Release Date(s): April 11, 2012 (World Premiere)/May 4, 2012 (U.S.)
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Loki (Tom Hiddleston) has returned to Earth and stolen the Tesseract to open a portal for an inter-dimensional army. It is up to Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and his agents Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) and Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg) to gather his warriors to stop Loki who has also enchanted Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard) to do his bidding. With the help of super-spy Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), World War II patriot Captain America (Chris Evans), Asgardian god Thor (Chris Hemsworth), playboy genius Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.), and a reluctant Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) who houses the deadly Hulk, the Avengers set out to stop Loki’s plans, but does Fury have an agenda of his own?
Written and directed by Joss Whedon, The Avengers (or sometimes called Marvel’s The Avengers…so you don’t get it confused with the British Emma Peel and John Steed version I guess) is the first big blockbuster film of the 2012 summer movies. It brings together plotlines from Iron Man (2008), Iron Man 2 (2010), The Incredible Hulk (2008), Captain America: The First Avenger (2011), and Thor (2011) making it probably the first super-human team to manage to build such a massive cast. It was released to positive reviews and big box office numbers.
I know it is a bit of heresy, but I find The Avengers to be ok at best. The movie is about thirty minutes too long and has multiple dull points. It would have been a childhood dream to see this movie at ten or eleven, but now I notice some cheesiness in it that is inherent with comic books…simply pointing out that it is cheesy in the case of Captain America’s uniform doesn’t make it better. That doesn’t mean every comic book movie is cheesy, but some of the dialogue which is required for the plot and some of the looks of the film just have a cheese-factor that can’t be surpassed.
There is a lot going on in the movie to even get it going which is the problem. You have to get Thor back to Earth, Hulk off the run, Captain America back in society, make Hawkeye and Black Widow real players in the game, and get Tony Stark to play nicely with them all. For the most part it is done pretty well. The script is too clever for itself with too many one-liners, but in some casese the one-liners are perfect. Biggest laugh (from myself and most of the audience) came from Hulk just beating the crap out of Loki after a grand speech. It was that type of humor that worked because it was how Loki behaved and it was how Hulk behaved. Some of the other characters like Black Widow couldn’t pull off the humor because it was out of character for the comic (but not for movie viewers).
There were a lot of fun interactions in the film. The most redeeming part of the Thor movie was Thor’s relationship with Loki and his father and you get to see more of Thor’s relationship here. It however is cut short by the fact that the movie isn’t Thor 2 but The Avengers. The relationship between Hawkeye and Black Widow fell flat (and her talk with Loki just felt like a bad Silence of the Lambs rip-off), but I did enjoy Natasha’s relationship with Bruce Banner and Bruce Banner’s interaction with Tony Stark. Though I liked the Captain America movie much more than the Thor film, I thought Captain America was too moody and depressing for this movie. Samuel L. Jackson just played his normal yelling role, and it was so-so.
The whole cast was improved by Robert Downey, Jr. as Tony Stark…once again showing that the strength of the whole series lies in the Iron Man films at this point. Iron Man 2 might not have been the high mark of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but Downey and Iron Man work together to make a character that I never cared about interesting. In this movie, the short moments where Stark was solo with Pepper Potts said more than most of the movie, and anytime Downey was in a scene, it did elevate the moment.
****SPOILER ALERT**** As with most Marvel films there is the extra scene at the end. After the battle with the Chitauri (I wish they could have used Skrulls instead of the Mark Millar creation from The Ultimates but the weirdness of Marvel’s studio ownership rights prevented this), the leader of the Chitauri reports to its leader about the fate of Earth…Yep, it’s Thanos. Now I half-way suspected that he would be revealed to be the real leader (despite no real comic book ties to the Skrulls or Chitauri) because the Cosmic Cube (the real name for the Tesseract) was always tied to Thanos. If you had told me in the ’90s that I would ever see a live action Avengers fighting Thanos my mind probably would have exploded. It was good to see it here, and I look forward to see the continued plans Thanos becoming a real threat.
The Avengers definitely has its ups and downs. Overall it is ruined by a bloated runtime and attempts to perk up the comic book dialogue with humor and generic sweeping music. More than anything, it is amazing that it exists. As Marvel continues to unveil more and more of its cinematic universe, DC Comics falls farther and farther behind. The Avengers proves to be an early entry into a film franchise with real legs…I just wish that the cohesion of script, characters, actors, and visuals would come together better…or the bubble will eventual burst as the market becomes super-saturated. The Avengers was followed by “Phase Two” of the Marvel Cinematic Universe which began Iron Man 3 in 2013 but also contained The Avengers’ sequel Avengers: Age of Ultron in 2012.