Movie Review | The Avengers
Previously in the Marvel Cinematic Universe: Bruce Banner went on the run after General Ross tracked him down in Brazil, eventually coming face-to-face with Emil Blonsky's Abomination in New York and proving that the Hulk is the strongest one there is.
SHIELD Agent Phil Coulson then arranged for Tony Stark to pay Ross a visit, irritating the General so much that he would ensure the Abomination would never be allowed to become part of the Avenger Initiative.
Movie summary: Earth's mightiest heroes must come together and learn to fight as a team if they are going to stop the mischievous Loki and his alien army from enslaving humanity. (IMDb)
I still refer to this movie as The Avengers despite the fact that it was actually called Avengers Assemble here in the UK - which is actually a fitting title as it describes what the film is about. I would argue that this movie, even more than Iron Man, fully established the MCU as we know it today with how successful it was bringing all of the characters together for the first time.
Looking back from where we are today, it seems strange to think about just how huge a risk this movie was for Marvel Studios. If this didn't work, then everything changes and who knows where Kevin Feige and company would be today. Fortunately for them - and audiences worldwide - The Avengers was a phenomenal success that changed Hollywood forever.
That isn't hyperbole either - every single major movie studio has since tried to create their own shared continuity 'cinematic universe' and, so far, none have proven successful. DC especially struggled early on, but are slowly turning it around; the Dark Universe has faded into shadows and dust; while the 'Monsterverse' (Godzilla, Kong: Skull Island) is still in its infancy.
It simply can't be understated just how successful The Avengers was, nor can it be denied just how much influence it's had on the movie industry since. Hell, Infinity War is the first film to beat its worldwide take and that took six years. Essentially, people didn't just go and watch The Avengers and enjoy it, they kept going back to see it over and over again.
And, honestly, the movie really is that good. Don't get me wrong, it does have a very slow start that is doing the work of setting everything up - especially for people who hadn't seen all the previous movies - but feels like an episode of Agents of SHIELD with some amazing guest stars. Events really don't start moving into high gear until Thor finally shows up quite a way into the movie.
The thing is, I'd argue that the start would only seem slow to those who watched the other movies. Anecdotal evidence here, but I still remember friends saying how glad they were that the main characters all got their own introductions to bring them up to speed. For movie and Marvel fans, it feels a little unnecessary, but was essential for those new to these characters.
However, that is also really the only criticism I'd have for this movie and the only thing holding it back from being a genuinely all-time great. The rest of the movie is incredible, with the amazing chemistry between the actors topping it off - aided by writer/director Joss Whedon's near-impeccable understanding of group dynamics and how these characters would react to each other.
As I said at the beginning, this movie is about the individual heroes coming together to finally work as a team and 'assemble' as the Avengers, leading to one of the best third acts in blockbuster history. The central antagonist, Loki, isn't as much of a threat as those who would come later, and everything feels triumphant in the same manner as Captain Marvel's finale.
How the invading alien force is ultimately defeated does feel a little weak when looked at after the fact (and Whedon has admitted that he kind of wrote himself into a corner here), but there are a lot of great movies that don't hold up to post-movie nitpicking so it would be very harsh to hold that against The Avengers - we're not here for the villains after all.
Even with these characters still developing - this was Cap and Thor's second appearance each after all - they're still tremendous fun to watch, and they play off each other perfectly. Hell, Tony and Steve are butting heads even here thanks to their different personalities that would eventually lead to the Avengers splitting in Captain America: Civil War.
It should also be pointed out that this was Mark Ruffalo's first movie as Bruce Banner/Hulk and he slotted in perfectly. It did make The Incredible Hulk feel retroactively non-canonical, but I imagine most people forgot about Ed Norton's sole appearance as the hunted scientist well before the credits started rolling.
It's also funny to think back on how many people were dismissive of Alan Silvestri's score in this movie, when the Avengers theme is among the most iconic and recognisable pieces of music in cinema today. And Silvestri deserves credit for how it slowly builds throughout the film before finally coming together - much like the team - for the epic circling group shot in the third act.
I love The Avengers and it is still one of my favourite movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I can forgive the movie its slow start for doing the work to ease audiences new to shared universes into the action, because it just keeps getting better and better and better the longer it goes on. Even writing various sections of this post made me smile as I thought about the film because it's etched as such a positive experience in my memory.
Post Avengers: Endgame, I wonder how this movie will change for audiences considering that movie is effectively the grand finale for the original six Avengers. I can imagine this movie becoming almost bittersweet in feeling depending on just how final the fates are for this group - the triumphant final battle with the Avengers theme blaring full blast could be difficult to watch in time.
I still don't think it will change how I view the movie in terms of quality: The Avengers is a great, great movie only hampered by an attempt to ease audiences in that should be applauded rather than criticised. This movie re-defined how Hollywood and blockbusters would work from that point on, and - if anything - will be a far greater legacy than most movies could ever dream of having.
The Avengers still holds up today, and is where the MCU as we know it now really kicked off. This is where everyone and everything finally came together and completely re-shaped Hollywood blockbuster movie-making forever. A slow start is the only thing that really holds The Avengers back from still being the best movie Marvel Studios have made so far - the rest of it is that good.