The Avengers is my all time favorite Marvel comics superhero movie. As the sixth installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, The Avengers delivered on the promise of a massive crossover. Such a monumental feat was unprecedented. As a lifelong Marvel fan, my anticipation was through the roof. The Avengers were first formed in 1963 by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby. Much like the Justice League, Marvel sought to have their own team of superheroes with individual storylines. So the Avengers assembled with the Invincible Iron Man, the Incredible Hulk, the Mighty Thor, Ant-Man, and the Wasp as founding members in The Avengers #1. The roster was ever-changing, but maintained popularity for many decades with all sorts of animated appearances. A live-action movie simply couldn’t be done without solo movies setting up each hero.
It was extremely fortunate that Marvel foolishly selling their rights had no effect on the team’s core members. Producer Kevin Feige was a master craftsmen who ensured Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Black Widow, and Hawkeye would all work in what would turn out to be Phase One of the MCU. Nerd master Joss Whedon was chosen as writer & director and almost every actor was on board for the ensemble. Not even Disney unexpectedly buying the rights to Marvel Studios was enough to make me doubt the risky venture. I was 16 when The Avengers hit theaters. The experience was so indescribable that I saw it once with my family and a second time with a friend. I even endorsed the movie at school just to ensure Marvel’s never before seen billion dollar box-office gross. I knew if any Marvel movie was deserving of being number three on my “Top 10 Favorite Movies” list, it had to be a game changer like The Avengers…
The Avengers assembles Earth’s Mightiest Heroes the same way they were formed in the original Avengers #1. Loki is the supervillain responsible for unintentionally bringing his brother Thor, a gold suited Iron Man, Ant-Man, the Wasp, and even a loose cannon like Hulk together. The team changed immediately when Hank Pym became Giant-Man and Hulk left in Avengers #2. Avengers #3 featured Iron Man in his new red & yellow armor and Avengers #4 finally brought Captain America back as the team’s leader. Hawkeye and Black Widow didn’t join the team until Avengers #16 & #111 respectively. Which is why the movie also takes inspiration from The Ultimates. The Ultimate version of the Avengers from the early 2000’s is where the black version of Nick Fury is responsible for bringing the team together under the guidance of S.H.I.E.L.D. The Avengers begins with the always awesome Marvel logo minus the Studios part. The Paramount Pictures logo remains intact since no one wants to see the Walt Disney logo before a Marvel movie.
Both logos are shown on the all important Tesseract. The blue cosmic cube was the central weapon used by Hydra in World War II. Since Loki obviously didn’t die when he floated off into eternity, the Asgardian is recruited by a mysterious alien simply known as the Other. The Other supplies Loki with a blue mind controlling staff and an army of Chitauri. Rather than utilize a more well known alien race like the Skrulls, Marvel instead went with the lesser known Chitauri introduced in The Ultimates. It made much more sense for the Avengers to face a faceless CGI army. Since Loki isn’t exactly the kind of villain who can be fought by all Avengers at once. S.H.I.E.L.D. makes its most lasting impact by having the first 11 minutes focus on Nick Fury, Maria Hill, and Agent Phil Coulson dealing with the Tesseract at a secure compound.
In the comics, Maria Hill is a short haired agent who frequently comes to blows with her superior. Coulson has always been an original creation meant to be an everyman for S.H.I.E.L.D. As promised from the after-credits scene in Thor, Dr. Erik Selvig is the one working on the Tesseract directly. All of which is being overseen by agent Clint Barton. Despite his first appearance as a sharpshooter in Thor, Hawkeye really makes an impression in The Avengers. Not enough to understand having someone with a bow & arrow on the team, but he proves his worth. Loki is transported through space on the other side of the Tesseract. The Asgardian truly becomes a villain with his sinister smile and ruthlessly killing several agents. In Thor, Loki was much more regal and fueled by jealousy. In The Avengers, Loki is more like a pirate who seeks to rule Earth instead of Asgard. Loki mind controls both Selvig and Barton in order to enact his master plan to release the Chitauri on the world. As Nick Fury calls in the war, The Avengers logo dramatically appears on-screen alongside a heroic theme by Alan Silvestri.
Like any other movie crossover, it’s beyond awesome to see so many different iconic characters interact for the first time. The Avengers is a perfect balancing act that gives each hero a proper reintroduction before letting them act off each other. After introducing herself in Iron Man 2, Black Widow is first seen in an ingenious sequence where Natasha Romanoff is tied to a chair in a sexy dress speaking Russian to her enemy captives. Her highly acrobatic scissor kicking take down more than qualifies her amongst monsters and magic. Like the comics, Black Widow and Hawkeye are former villains with a strong non-romantic bond. Romanoff is tasked with bringing in Bruce Banner due to the Tesseract giving off a gamma radiation signature. After The Incredible Hulk, Banner remained in hiding in different parts of the world. Using his science to help people while avoiding incidents as the Hulk. Banner is on edge, but he reluctantly agrees when Romanoff persuades him.
Nick Fury answers to the World Security Council. A shadowy monitor of board room members that go against Fury’s plans for the Avengers Initiative. After Captain America: The First Avenger, Steve Rogers was unfrozen in modern day New York. All it takes is several swings on a punching bag to show Steve’s pain of losing everyone he’s ever known. Of course Rogers deals with being a man out of time, but it’s never done to an extreme. The after-credits scene from The First Avenger is shown when Nick Fury personally delivers the mission to Cap. After Iron Man & Iron Man 2, Tony Stark has made an effort to rebrand Stark Industries. He continues to wear his Mark VI armor when refitting his New York Stark Tower with clean energy. Pepper Potts is the only MCU girlfriend present since she’s just too important in Tony’s life. Coulson personally arrives to recruit Stark with all the information he needs to know about his teammates. Coulson also fanboys over Captain America and even worked on his snappy new costume.
Everyone meets on an aircraft carrier that turns out to be the famous S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier complete with Quinjets. It’s there that agents are finally dressed in comic accurate blue uniforms. Loki’s mind controlled team is in need of iridium in Germany, so they ruthlessly break in to steal it. After forcing a crowd to kneel with an eloquent speech about subjugation, Captain America heroically drops in to save the day. Cap’s one on one fight with Loki is highly athletic, but it ends when Iron Man flies in to the tune of “Shoot to Thrill.” It’s then that polar opposites Captain America and Iron Man finally come to together. Their victory is short lived with the dramatic arrival of Thor summoning lightning & thunder. After Thor, the Bifröst was destroyed and Thor was stranded on Asgard. The only explanation is Odin using dark magic to bring Thor to Earth in order to secure his brother.
Thor and Loki’s sibling rivalry reaches a standstill when the brothers have words with each other. It’s just humorously interrupted by Stark. It’s an unspoken rule that superheroes have to fight when they first meet each other. Thor vs. Iron Man is a delightful display of magic vs. science that matches the power of a metal suit with the might of a literal god. The Marvel trinity successfully come together when Cap intervenes and Thor’s hammer is no match for Cap’s shield. Loki is imprisoned on the Helicarrier in a high tech cell meant for the Hulk. The main theme of The Avengers is setting aside differences and learning to work together as a team. The Avengers assemble on the Helicarrier just to be torn apart by Fury’s Phase 2 plans to make weapons from the Tesseract in order to face greater threats.
Their heated argument is interrupted by Loki’s mind controlled forces unleashing the Hulk the way he planned. This Hulk out is much more emotional for Banner as he unwittingly attacks Black Widow. Although it does lead to a long awaited fight between the strongest Avengers Thor and Hulk. The attack keeps Stark and Cap busy with Helicarrier repair, but Natasha sees some action by fighting her mind controlled best friend Clint. Loki crosses the line by killing Coulson as he tries to attack with a weapon made from the Destroyer. With Thor sent hurtling down to Earth, Hulk jumping out of the S.H.I.E.L.D. base, and the rest of the team affected by Coulson’s death, it’s finally enough to properly assemble the Avengers. Now that you know the story, this is why it’s my all time favorite Marvel superhero movie…
Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor reach a standstill
The Avengers is one the most comic book accurate superhero movies I’ve ever seen. I accept changes that are made for the sake of a cinematic adaptation, but a Marvel or DC movie will always win points for sticking to the source material that I grew up with. The Avengers was a far cry from fellow superhero team up movie X-Men. Fox was only concerned with introducing the Mutants in a way that felt believable. By 2012, audiences were more than willing to accept a team of superheroes with colorful costumes and a sense of humor. We have Joss Whedon to thank for turning The Avengers into more than just an action-packed big screen spectacle. Whedon has a long history of appreciation in geek culture. With TV hits such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Firefly. Despite only ever directing Serenity, hiring Joss Whedon to direct was a stroke of genius. He understands superheroes better than most and his unique Buffy style of writing was perfectly suited for the already comedic MCU. My theater erupted with laughter on several occasions thanks to the hilarious banter. None of it would’ve worked if the cast wasn’t already endearing to the audience.
As I said in my Iron Man review, my brother and I were completely clueless about the intended Marvel Cinematic Universe until The Incredible Hulk featured a Tony Stark cameo. Suddenly I was on the edge of my seat waiting for each additional actor to be cast in Iron Man 2, Thor, and Captain America: The First Avenger. I was definitely way more excited than my friends who were only casual fans that didn’t constantly stay up to date on sites like comicbookmovie.com. I was still a little confused about whether or not Tony Stark would appear due to him not qualifying at the end of Iron Man 2. Turns out the consultant thing was just to explain his meeting with General Ross that made it seem like he was putting the team together to fight the Hulk. After three separate appearances, Robert Downey Jr. was Iron Man. He was definitely the biggest crowd pleaser with his continued snarky charisma. Hence placing Iron Man at the center of The Avengers poster. Stark is a bit more serious with running his company, but his jokes and nicknames are perfectly suited for the rest of his team. Putting Gwyneth Paltrow in the movie was Downey Jr.’s idea since Tony & Pepper are now a loving couple.
Stark Tower is a crucial building in the comics that places the movie squarely in New York City. The primary location for almost every Marvel superhero. Although I was hopeful, Edward Norton didn’t reprise his role as Bruce Banner since he was either too difficult to work with or unwilling to commit to one character. So Norton was transformed into Mark Ruffalo instead. I wasn’t too familiar with the actor, but Ruffalo’s reserved approach quickly made him the Hulk I waited years to see. Scarlett Johansson gives her best possible performance as sole female member Black Widow. Johansson simultaneously pulls off Romanoff’s mysterious nature, seductive appearance, expert fighting skills, and even honors her routes by speaking Russian. Her best scene after the the interrogation is easily her deceptive talk with Loki. Jeremy Renner was quickly becoming a rising star, but he’s somehow the least comedic character despite Hawkeye being a jokester in the comics. We don’t really get to know him much due to his mind control.
Chris Evans was well liked, but Captain America didn’t become an instant favorite after The First Avenger was released. I was still more than happy to see Captain America lead the team the way he was supposed to. Instead of Tony leading the team because he was more popular. Evans is at his best as an old fashioned man trying to adapt to the modern age. Most of his best comedic bits are subtle jabs at him being from the 40’s. Chris Hemsworth was mostly a favorite amongst female fans since Thor was also a modest success that audiences were still trying to understand. This is actually my second favorite version of Thor, because Hemsworth really feels like a powerful God of Thunder. He’s also pretty funny without all the jokes being at the expense of his Asgardian ways. Tom Hiddleston was simply born to play Loki. Whedon was wise to really play into Thor and Loki’s glorious Shakespearean dialogue. Hiddleston gained tremendous popularity with his mischievous charm. Loki will always be a delightfully sinister villain no matter how likeable he is.
The Avengers has more action than most superhero movies, but you’re never bored thanks to all the team interactions. Tony gets along with Banner thanks to both of them being scientists, but the Iron Man and Captain America rivalry has always existed in the comics. Since Cap fights for others and Stark mostly fights for himself as a genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist. Thor challenges Stark’s world view, but their fight is purely circumstantial. Since Vibranium can absorb lightning, Cap and Thor (the two Chris’s) get along better as fellow warriors. Thor and Hulk are naturally placed in combat thanks to the never ending debate of who’s stronger. Romanoff has good chemistry with Rogers due to Evans and Johansson already knowing each other from past movies. Banner actually has a surprising amount of scenes with Romanoff since he needs someone to appeal to his humanity. But it’s Romanoff’s friendship with Barton that feels the most natural since you can feel their shared history.
Since he always appears in everything, Samuel L. Jackson was wise to claim the role of Nick Fury. Jackson sees way more action than before and gives Fury his commanding mysterious presence as S.H.I.E.L.D. director. Every Avenger has some level of respect for Fury, but they don’t fully trust him. Joss Whedon tends to reuse actors, so Cobie Smulders increased her on-screen presence as a comic accurate Maria Hill. Alexis Denisof plays the Other and Ashley Johnson has lingering appearances as a waitress. Supporting casts are kept to a minimum apart from Pepper, Selvig, and J.A.R.V.I.S. Jane Foster’s absence is explained with her being at a secure location and any Captain America characters are briefly seen in an obscured flashback. Despite being original, Clark Gregg was so likable as Phil Coulson that Joss Whedon’s need to kill off important characters felt earned.
Loki manages to make enemies of each of the Avengers. Thor wants Loki to answer to their father back on Asgard, Steve wants to end another war started by the Tesseract, Natasha feels compromised by Loki laying out her violent history, Clint wants revenge for being mind controlled, Banner is angry that Loki unleashed the Hulk, Tony is most upset about Phil’s death, and the fact that Loki is using Stark Tower to bring the Chitauri. The climax is one of the most exciting extended fight scenes in superhero movie history. It starts when all the Avengers suit up in some of their best costumes yet. The Mark VI armor was already seen in Iron Man 2, but it’s replaced in a wonderful scene where Tony threatens Loki and his staff fails to get through his arc reactor. The Mark VII armor returns to the classic circular arc reactor with a weaponized red, gold, & silver rocket pack that assembles onto Tony mid-air.
Thor looks his absolute best with far better long blonde hair and a sleeveless look during his forest fight. I’m not crazy about his capeless look on the Helicarrier, but I do love his mostly unaltered final battle appearance. Loki has his best possible look complete with trademark bended horns. Black Widow is always stunning in her skintight catsuit complete with widow’s bite and her short red hair that works for what’s essentially a war film. I don’t like that Hawkeye isn’t wearing a fully purple costume, but I understand the grounded spy look. The Captain America costume has divided fans since the beginning. On one hand, I understand people thinking the skintight primary red, white, and blue outfit looks cheesy. On the other hand, I was happy to see Cap in a comic accurate costume. The most unexpected member of the team ended up being the Incredible Hulk. Harry Dean Stanton gives Banner clothes that he rips out of on the battlefield. I honestly never thought I’d see the enormous green rage monster fighting alongside superheroes on the big screen. Marvel did just that by giving Banner complete control in one of the most badass Hulk outs of all time.
The CGI is so incredible that The Avengers was nominated for Best Visual Effects. Since Norton was no longer Banner, the Hulk bares a lot more of Ruffalo’s features. His Hulk looks like it was ripped straight out of the comics with realistically green skin and giant muscles that were motion captured by Ruffalo. The Chitauri are given a more unique alien look consisting of flying chariots and giant battle serpents. The moment with the Avengers assembling in a circular shot is so epic that the aspect ratio had to be increased just to contain it. The Battle of New York is what superhero movies are all about. It’s a fight full of fanservice that shows each hero doing what they do best. Cap gives the game plan and throws his mighty shield at any Chitauri he encounters. Stark uses every weapon in his Iron Man suit to take down the biggest threats. Thor beats down Loki, throws his hammer, and unleashes his full power over lightning & thunder. Hulk smashes everything in his path and gets the biggest laugh by tossing around Loki like a ragdoll. He is a “Puny god” after all.
Although this battle is no place for civilians, the very human Black Widow and Hawkeye prove themselves as vital members of the team. Romanoff launches herself onto a Chitauri chariot and Barton shoots a variety of trick arrows without even looking. Sure I would’ve loved to see Ant-Man and the Wasp as founding members, but that would’ve required a whole other solo movie to accomplish. Things take a turn when the Council orders a nuclear strike on New York that Fury attempts to shoot down. Stark makes the sacrifice play by guiding the missile into the portal and destroying the Chitauri mothership battle droid style. Hulk unexpectedly catches Tony and wakes him up with a roar. They won the battle, but shawarma will have to wait until they all dramatically secure Loki.
The Avengers are both loved and feared by the public in a series of newscasts that include Stan Lee’s clever cameo as a man who thinks superheroes in New York sounds ridiculous. A hopeful Nick Fury closes the movie out in a montage where Thor transports a muzzled Loki back to Asgard, Tony drives off with Bruce, Steve hops on his motorcycle, and Natasha & Clint return to S.H.I.E.L.D. But it’s not completely over when a very crucial mid-credits scene reveals the Other’s master to be the Mad Titan himself, Thanos. I was probably the only 16 year old nerdy enough to know who the grinning purple alien was long before the movie came out. The scene is followed by the much more humorous post-credit scene of the Avengers quietly eating shawarma. The Avengers was so influential that it inspired the Marvel One-Shot Item 47 where a couple rob banks with a Chitauri weapon. A tie-in video game wasn’t released for years, but merchandise sales helped the record breaking billion dollar box-office. With an impressive 91% on Rotten Tomatoes, The Avengers felt like a reward for being a dedicated superhero fan.
Loki commands the crowd
Followed by: Avengers: Age of Ultron