“The Avengers” is written and directed by Joss Whedon and it’s the sixth installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as well as the final movie in Phase One of the MCU. After five movies leading up to it, we now have the Avengers finally forming as a group, with Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Black Widow, and Hawkeye joining together to put a stop to Loki’s scheme to unleash an alien army on Earth.
This is the movie that would’ve decided the fate of the MCU. The five movies that built up to it were critically and financially successful and this movie was the payoff to that build up that started in 2008. If this movie failed, whether it be in terms of critical reviews of box-office numbers, then the future of this universe would be very doubtful. Sure there’d probably be the planned sequels to “Iron Man” and “Thor”, but their status as being a part of the Avengers universe would be in question. Thankfully, Marvel got the right director in Joss Whedon to bring these heroes together and deliver what I still think is the best MCU movie to date.
The first half of this movie is focused primarily on recruiting all of the Avengers and bringing them to Nick Fury and the rest of S.H.I.E.L.D. What works so well is that we’re given a good look at where these characters are after their respective films and it all feels like good character progression. Steve Rogers is still adapting to the modern world, Bruce Banner is lying low and still struggling to get a handle on the Hulk, and Tony Stark is still using his technology to pursue genuinely good achievements despite his arrogant nature. This movie actually puts its focus on these characters that we’ve grown to love and not only do we get good development with them, but it all flows very well and it doesn’t feel convoluted in the slightest.
This is also a cast the works amazingly together, Robert Downey Jr.’s quick-witted and conceited Stark playing off of Chris Evans and his good-natured, but still serious demeanor, along with a capable Scarlett Johansson playing a developed Black Widow as opposed to just being a walking, talking advertisement in “Iron Man 2”. But the big standout in terms of performances is Mark Ruffalo, replacing Edward Norton in the role of Bruce Banner/Hulk. I much prefer Ruffalo simply because I buy him much more as a vulnerable and struggling scientist who still has a brilliant mind that’s constantly dealing with the pressure of controlling his anger and making sure the Hulk doesn’t see the light of day. Whenever Banner mentions his struggles with his alter-ego in this movie, I simply can’t see Norton delivering those lines in the way that Ruffalo does. Banner is a well-developed, fleshed out character and Ruffalo plays a big part in that.
The Avenger who gets the short end of the stick is obviously Hawkeye, played by Jeremy Renner. Hawkeye briefly appeared in “Thor”, but he was more or less just an Easter egg in that small appearance. Now he’s in this movie, but he spends a good majority of it as a brainwashed slave to Loki. It certainly gives Black Widow a good emotional anchor in joining the Avengers seeing as how close she and Hawkeye are, and I think that this was a decent enough place to start with Hawkeye, especially since a lot of people probably knew him as “bow and arrow guy” at the time. He still gets his moments to shine in the movie, though, and it’s worth noting that he’s given much more to do later in the universe.
As far as the villain goes, Loki is every bit as good as he was in “Thor”, and possibly better. He still has that tragic backstory of feeling betrayed by his family and not having that sense of belonging that he wants, but he’s able to mask it much more in this movie and he ends up being much more conniving and menacing as a result. He relishes in getting inside the head of each Avenger, whether it be Thor or Black Widow, and his ability to bring the Avengers on the brink of fighting one another is a defining part of his character. He still manages to have some fun in his role as a villain, but he also knows that the goal at hand is to overthrow the Avengers and establish himself as the ruler that he’s always wanted to be.
The comedy in this movie works because it’s pure Joss Whedon writing. He’s a very witty and quick writer when it comes to his dialogue and that snappy, frenetic delivery blends in perfectly with these characters. You have great moments of humor with Tony Stark and Steve Rogers displaying their very different temperaments, (something that’s all the more enjoyable to watch when you look at their futures) Agent Coulson being a complete fanboy over Captain America, and of course the legendary confrontation between Hulk and Loki. If ever there was a movie in this universe that has perfect humor, it’s this one.
I’d be remiss not to mention the “death” of Agent Coulson, a recurring character in Phase One. He’s ultimately killed by Loki in the middle of the movie and while his death is used as effective motivation for the Avengers, it’s undermined by the fact that he’s apparently not really dead. He’s revealed to still be alive in the Marvel TV show “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”, however it’s easy for me to ignore seeing as how I’ve never watched that show. Still, I don’t like that they would just bring Coulson back in a cheap way and it undercuts the meaning behind his death.
As an action movie, Joss Whedon gives us everything you could ask for in a movie like this. He gives us the fights such as Iron Man vs. Thor and Thor vs. the Hulk, but that’s all just mere teasing compared to the grand finale that is this movie’s battle in New York. It’s the Avengers finally coming together as a legitimate team (with Alan Silvestri’s epic and memorable theme to boost things up even more) and taking on Loki’s army. Every character gets their moment in the spotlight, Captain America finally taking the role as leader, Hulk and Thor teaming up momentarily, and Black Widow and Hawkeye utilizing their skills as special agents, it all being capped off with Iron Man destroying the mothership with a nuke in a moment that shows his willingness to sacrifice for the greater good, because that’s who Tony Stark really is deep down beneath his conceited exterior.
After everything is wrapped up and Loki along with the Tesseract are sent back to Asgard with Thor, New York is saved and the Avengers are now a recognized group in the eyes of the public and S.H.I.E.L.D. This leads into two post-credits scenes, one being the introduction of Thanos, the definitive villain of the entire Universe who we’ll see plenty more of down the road, and the other scene being a humorous moment of the Avengers eating shawarma together. But let’s face it, we all care more about Thanos and we has to offer in this universe.
Overall, “The Avengers” is my personal favorite entry in the MCU so far. This near impossible task of putting these heroes together after years of build up was pulled off seamlessly by Joss Whedon. This is one of the most enjoyable movie-going experiences I’ve ever had at the theater and this movie still manages to be the very definition of entertaining and fun, but it also doesn’t shy away from actually being a solid look at these characters and how they interact with one another in this expanding universe. I guess it goes without saying that Phase One of the MCU ended as a monumental success.
Rating: Better Than Sex!!