Marvel Cinematic Universe: Marvel’s The Avengers Review

Welcome my friends to the Big Damn Superhero Movie!

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t’s an undeniable fact that comic fans love to see superheroes team up. Either because it allows you to have bigger, more epic stories with these characters or, for someone low on income, it would help you save you some cash because it often had lots of, if not all, of yours favourite characters in it.

Let me explain when I was a kid, there was this newsagent that would sell back issues (Usually for 1997 – 1999) of DC comic books for 99p. Usually there were five types of comics, mostly because they were the ones that sold the best. The first two were obviously the Batman and Superman (In his weird Electric Superman thing that was going on at the time) books, being the most well known, another was Green Lantern (Weirdly), but the other books were the Grant Morrison-era JLA ones (The fifth type being the odd Wonder Woman or Legends of the DC Universe).

More often or not, if there was a JLA comic, I would choose that one (And then a Batman one). In those days, in the part of the world I lived in, even at the library it was more often or not Batman, Superman or the JLA, and the JLA was really the only way you read a Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Flash, Aquaman or Martian Manhunter story. Plus, considering how much of a massive Batman fan I am, it was fun to see him interact with other heroes.

When I got into Marvel comics, I was aware of characters like Spider-Man and the X-Men through the cartoon series they had in the 1990s, of which I was a big fan (Okay, more of the X-Men one, the Spider-Man one was a little lame), but the only comic I really read on a regular basis was the Panini’s Avengers reprint comic. In fact, I enjoy the comic, even now, that I have had a subscription to for about a decade or so now.

But despite the fact that The Avengers (In one form or another) have been around for fifty years now, and DC’s Justice League of America (Again, in one form or another) for only a couple of years more than them. But they have never starred in a big screen film adaptation before.

Part of this came down to rights of the character. If Fox have the rights to the Fantastic Four characters, and Sony have the rights to the Spider-Man characters, chances are you will never see them in a movie today. I mean, look at the rights issues that surround the Adam West Batman TV series.

In recent years of course, Marvel has been buying back the rights to their various franchises and giving them big screen adaptations themselves. Thus, we finally got films with Iron Man and Thor as well as decent film adaptations of Captain America and the Hulk. So when Marvel announced that they were going to do an Avengers movie starring all (Well, almost all) of the characters from the films Marvel Studios were going to release, I was both excited but also a little nervous. Let’s face it, most of the characters were lead characters in their own movies, so how do you manage the amount of screentime you give to them? Either Marvel’s The Avengers was going to be one of the biggest success stories in comic book film history, or it was going to look like Harlem after the end of The Incredible Hulk.

So, how does the Joss Whedon directed Marvel’s The Avengers hold up? Let’s look at the characters first, because they really help make this movie.

I’ll start off with Agent Phil Coulson (Once again played by Clark Gregg). I originally found Coulson in Iron Man to be pretty forgettable or “That SHIELD guy.” In Iron Man 2, I thought “Oh look, it’s that SHIELD guy again.” I grew to like him more Thor and by the time I arrived at the cinema, thanks to all the comics and the Marvel One-Shot films he had appeared in, I had grown to think he was actually pretty awesome and I’m glad they’ve put him into the comics now. I’m not so happy about Marcus Johnson/Nick Fury Jr., that’s really pandering to the “Oh, we’ve only been exposed to the Marvel Comics characters in cinema” crowd, which I don’t believe has really ever caused a great surge in comic book sales, but that’s another story. But, that said, I’m glad to say Coulson is as every bit likeable, funny and awesome (Sometimes all at the same time) as you would expect.

And then Loki kills him.

Yeah, I don’t think he’s dead either to be honest. You never actually see him die, and there’s probably a reason Tony Stark mentions “Life Model Decoys” earlier in the film.

But onto his appearance in the film itself, and really, by this point, Coulson has firmly established himself as the everyman of the franchise and a popular one at that. Let’s be honest, every fan if they can’t be Captain America, Thor or Iron Man, secretly want to be their buddy, the Jimmy Olsen to their Superman. And if you can be awesome doing it, all the better.

So Coulson becomes well connected with almost all of the major heroes expect, as far as I can remember, the Hulk. He’s a long time loyal agent of Nick Fury; a friend to Black Widow and, presumably, Hawkeye; he is an absolute fanboy around Captain America, even if Cap finds it a bit creepy; he was the man Thor declared his alliance to in Thorand, when Loki returns, goes out of his way make sure Jane Foster is safe; and most of all, he is a friend of Iron Man who, for all of his teasing and snarking at Coulson, is clearly fond of him. For example, when When Pepper Potts ask Phil Coulson about his girlfriend, only to be informed that they broke up when she moved to Portland, Tony later offers his private jet to Coulson to go out and see her.

So, when he was killed, a lot of the Avengers are affected. Thor is horrified by witnessing his death and not being able to prevent it, especially after Coulson made sure that Jane Foster was safe. Captain America believes that he let a man who believed in him totally down in the worst way possible. And Tony Stark is clearly holding back the tears when he angrily states to Cap that Coulson was an idiot for taking on Loki alone.

But if Coulson did die, and I use the “Did” word loosely, Coulson knew what he was getting into when he stood up to Loki. He knew that there was going to be a chance that he would die, but he did it anyway because he believed completely in all these people and wanted to help give them that extra push to help the Avengers defeat Loki.

Then again, there is hope. When Fury shows the Avengers Coulson’s Captain America cards, the blood is still bright red long after it should have really dried up. And, it smears on the glass table when Cap picks them up. And Joss Whedon said he wasn’t. And Clark Gregg said he was going to be in Iron Man 3 and possibly Thor: The Dark World.

But because Coulson’s “death” proves to be such a big part of the movie, you can literally label the development the title characters have over the movie as “Pre-Dead Coulson” and “Post-Dead Coulson”.

As for the Avengers themselves, let’s start with arguably their greatest member, Captain America, played once again by Chris Evans. When we first see Captain America, he’s not exactly in a great place. He’s having flashbacks back to the events of Captain America: The First Avengers, and he’s a man out of time. We don’t know if he knows how many of his past friends (Asides from Howard Stark and Bucky) are still alive or not, and we don’t know how badly he’s taking all of this considering he doesn’t, thankfully, have some big speech about it. But judging by the number of punching bags he has ready at that gym, we can see this is going to take a while.

But this time around, Cap doesn’t at first have a personal stake in the conflict with Loki, seeing him as just another Red Skull or Hitler to punch in the gob. It’s Coulson who gives him that personal stake as, while he did find Coulson’s fanboy nature a bit creepy, when Coulson is killed; Cap honestly believes he let down a man who believed in him in the worst way possible.

Cap comes off a like fish out of water in this movie, to the point he is delighted that he gets a The Wizard of Oz reference. It’s not that he is tick or anything, it’s just that obviously the world has moved on without him and he’s got a lot of catching up to do. Take the fact that in his civilian clothes, he still dresses and wears his hair like he’s in the 1940s. Furthermore, there is the fact that he worries that a jaded public might not receive his star-spangled, patriotic uniform as well as the Greatest Generation did, because it might be a bit old-fashioned, to which Agent Coulson assures him that “Maybe we need old-fashioned.” Of course,

And ultimately, that’s what Captain America is: Old-fashioned but timeless. But it’s something that drives a wedge between him and Stark. Cap and Iron Man, the odd Civil War aside, have been close allies. Something, considering how the real world works, that doesn’t instantly happen here.

Take when Cap meets Banner for the first time. Banner is self-conscious about what Cap thinks about the Hulk, but Cap is pretty warm to him, and is only really interested in his scientific skills. Later on, Cap defends Banner when he believes Stark is picking on him. This makes sense, since Hulk was basically the product of Banner’s attempt to recreate Captain America, and Cap is the sort of guy who’d feel a little responsible for the Hulk because of it. But Stark and Banner’s understanding of science, and the bond they make over it just drives another wedge between Iron Man and Captain America.

Later on, Captain America tells Tony Stark that he knows nothing about teamwork, sacrifice or even thinking of others. Yeah, it needed to be said, and is kind of true, but a little bit jerkish. But in Cap’s defence, Stark, the son of one of his best friend, had just made a crack that Cap was a “Lab experiment at best” and “Everything special about you came out of a bottle.”

Cap, as we saw in Captain America: The First Avenger, was a 80lb weakling that was cast aside constantly, even after he got the serum, and just became a propaganda mascot. It was only after he risked his own life to save Bucky that he proved himself, and his last memory of his time was his self-sacrifice to save New York. He gave up everything to save New York.

Furthermore Iron Man mocks Captain America for trusting in authority, which is something Captain America does, but, retaining his core sense of honour, doesn’t let it control him. He believes that he should trust his orders, but takes Stark and Banner’s scepticism seriously and does some quiet investigating of his own. Finally Tony Stark’s improper sense of humour annoys Cap throughout the movie. But when Tony, after almost dying, makes a joke, Cap laughs. Until the two meet on screen again, I would like to think that their relationship has been a bit more stable, but it’s clear that at least from Cap’s end, the two like and/or respect each other enough.

But yes, Stark and Coulson is still right, Captain America is old-fashioned, but ultimately, it’s old fashion heroism that saves the day. On a team that is plague with Thor’s detachment from humanity, Iron Man’s egoism, Black Widow’s guilt, Hawkeye’s desire for revenge, and Hulk’s anger issues, Captain America’s only real flaw is that he’s a little old fashioned. It is he that is able to realise Loki is playing them against each other and become the team leader.

Furthermore, Captain America proves that his rank isn’t just for show when he displays terrific organisation and leadership abilities during the final battle, where he manages to get everyone together and quickly tells them all how to play to their strengths for maximum group benefit. Hawkeye works as the team spotter, Cap and Black Widow evacuate people on the ground. Iron Man and Thor take out the enemies in the air and Hulk, well, smashes.

In a way, I’m glad the character worked so well here. People were slightly worried by the fact that unlike Thor, Hulk and Iron Man, the Captain America from Captain America: The First Avenger didn’t really seem to have a long laundry list of personal defects, but that isn’t the point. As I said in my review of the film, Captain America is a good honest man trying to uphold the American Dream in the American Reality. If he has any dark and troubling parts of his character, it comes from either facing the American Reality and finding the strength to go on, or it comes from the fact that his “Time” and all his friends has long since passed him, and he needs to build a new life.

Which is kind of the point of the Avengers for him. Think about it, in Captain America: The First Avenger, Captain America was never running solo, he was running with a group, i.e. the Howling Commandos. And the group basically became a second family for him. When Cap loses them, he has trouble dealing with it, as seen with the punching bag and his claim that he can’t sleep. But in the post-credits stinger, the guy in propping his head up and fast asleep. When we see Cap riding off on his motorcycle, he seems slightly happier. Now he knows that he has some friends in this scary new world and maybe, over time, the Avengers will become what the Howling Commandos were for him back in his old life. Time will tell of course, but considering how likeable this character is, I really hope so.

Two quick last things that interested me about the character’s portrayal here:

1) Captain America’s costume resembles his Ultimate counterparts’ although he acts like the original mainstream version and, despite it not really going around the back and the mask looking a bit odd at times, I liked it more than I did the costume in Captain America: The First Avenger, as it  felt a bit more like Captain America than his previous outfit did.

2) Captain America uses a lot less guns than he did in Captain America: The First Avenger. The only one I remember seeing him use is the submachine gun in the helicarrier scene, and he’s not using like you would usually do, he’s using them like you would back in World War II, namely firing from the hip. No wonder he hardly uses them, and just uses his shield and fists most of the time: He can’t use firearms because he isn’t sure how to use them anymore.

As for Iron Man…It’s Robert Downey Jr. playing Iron Man people, even if this movie was a total disaster, this simple fact would make it worth your while. Stark is a snarky, arrogant and mostly involved in the conflict because of his ego until Loki kills Coulson. Which is interesting, considering how alike both he and Loki are (But to be fair, this fact is what allows Stark to work out that Loki has taken over Stark Tower).

But we see that Stark is trying to make an effort to find a place on the Avengers, but for every place he makes friends with, there are about twenty he annoys. He doesn’t overly trust the Black Widow thanks to Iron Man 2(Something the Black Widow herself notes), nor does he particularly trust Nick Fury due to Fury’s job description, and while he eventually gets along with Thor, they aren’t the friends they are in the comics. And Hawkeye spends most of the movie being forced to work for Loki to spend much time with him.

The person Stark seems to identify with the most therefore seems to be Banner, as seen when the two are working together. Stark seems to one of the few people in Banner’s life that isn’t overly afraid of the Hulk, to the point that he playfully teases Banner with a cattle-prod, using the opportunity to look into Banner’s eyes to see if there is any hint of the Hulk.

But really, the two get along well because they are the same on an intelligential level, and sees Banner not as a weapon or a threat, but as someone who has a lot of scientific skills that could do a lot of good in the world. And that understanding probably comes from the fact that, as the Iron Man films have shown, people see Stark less and less of a genius whose scientific skills could do a lot of good and more as a weapon and a threat.

But really, a key part of Stark’s character development in this film is kicked off by the fact, as I have previously mentioned, he and Cap have a less than friendly relationship. As seen often in the past two Iron Man films, Stark’s favourite tactic is to find a third option, something that disgust Captain America because this means in his mind that Stark would never be willing to make a sacrifice if it came down to it.

Of course, Stark sees Captain America as old fashioned and doesn’t really take his words to heart until Coulson dies and he needs to stop a nuke hitting Manhattan. And a lot of this comes, in my opinion, comes from a throwaway line that Stark makes when he’s moaning about Cap:

 “That’s the guy my Dad never shut up about? Maybe they should have kept him on ice.”

It’s a throwaway line, but remember Stark said his father “Never told me he love me, didn’t even tell me that he liked me” back in Iron Man 2, and the feeling of failure that Howard Stark seemed to have at the end of Captain America: The First Avenger. Yeah, that explains a lot.

But as was shown in Iron Man, Stark reacts badly when someone he sees as a much better man sacrifices themselves because they believe in him more. So when Coulson is killed, Stark, as you would expect, takes Phil Coulson’s heroic sacrifice really badly, calling him an idiot for facing Loki alone and hopelessly outmatched. But it quickly becomes clear that this is really just Stark’s way of trying to ensure the cracks in his usually snarky facade don’t overwhelm him completely.

Despite the fact he gave Coulson a lot of grief, as seen in all the movies Coulson appeare in, Stark was clearly very fond of him. Like I said in the Iron Man review, Stark isn’t one for “Yes men,” and Coulson really wasn’t one of those people to him, since he was constantly chasing Stark to get him to do what Coulson and SHIELD wanted to do, to the point of every now and then threatening Stark. How does that sound like a “Yes man” to you.

So while Stark did give him a lot of grief, he was also very friendly to Coulson because of it, even offering him at the end of the first briefing on the Helicarrier says to “Pick a weekend and I’ll fly out to Portland,” so Coulson could see his girlfriend (Which thinking about it, considering how often in movies a guy mentioning his girlfriend is quickly followed by a painful death, I really should have seen Coulson’s death coming).

But interestingly, during the scene where he confronts Loki on his own, we see that he considers every single one of the Avengers to be more of a hero than he is. Take when he starts listing off “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.” He refers to Thor, Captain America, Hulk, Black Widow and Hawkeye and when he gets back after being thrown out a window and armouring up, he says that there is one more person that he’s missed off. But it isn’t him, it’s Phil Coulson. He doesn’t include himself at all.

One last thing I want to add briefly is that it appears that Stark and Pepper Potts have finally got together. Meaning, we get to see Gwyneth Paltrow in a t-shirt and shorts (I’ll let that mental image sit with you for a minute………………………………………………….Done? Good).

I bring this up because at the end of the film, Fury wants to fight the Chitauri off with the Avengers, while the World Security Council wants to nuke Manhattan to make sure the aliens are defeated. Iron Man proceeds to grab the nuke after it’s been fired, fly it through the wormhole and chuck it at the Chitauri fleet. Thus managing to both take a third option and make a sacrifice play.

But during this scene, when he’s flying the nuke into the wormhole, calls Pepper, and there is a long moment as the phone rings, and Pepper doesn’t pick it up, because she is watching the TV report on the fight in Manhattan, unable to hear the phone, horrified and knowing Stark is somewhere in there. So meaning when he goes into the wormhole, the line goes dead, and so does the suit, so Tony closes his eyes and let’s himself fall.

I think at this stage (Iron Man 3 pending) Stark really understood where Cap was coming from with his little rant about how Stark doesn’t what it means to be a hero. After all, Cap went down protecting New York City from the devastation of a bunch of massive bombs and he has his girlfriend’s picture on the dashboard on the entire descent to comfort himself in his last moment.

Overall, the Robert Downey Jr.’s performance in this movie was on par with what you expect. The character is still the loveable arsehole he was in the Iron Man films, but this film really does give the character more development and make him just a little bit more heroic in my opinion. I think a lot of that comes down to the fact that we’re seeing Iron Man in a different setting from that of the Iron Man films, but if you’re watching this film solely because you’re a fan of the character and/or the Iron Man films, you won’t be disappointed.

Thor (Once again played by Chris Helmsworth) gets to Earth because Odin uses all of his powers to get him there when they find Loki’s still alive. Which, to be honest, was a disappointment, considering how Thor ended, but nevermind. Thor is basically the Thor you saw at the end of his movie. A guy that enjoys a good fight but still has his heart in the right place, even if he is just an arrogant hero who’s just there to retrieve his adoptive brother.

Thor worries deeply about Selvig’s fate, knowing that Loki will kill all his pawns when they are no longer useful. Thor was also horrified by Coulson’s death, especially since he was grateful to Coulson for making sure that Jane Foster was safe.

Furthermore, even after everything Loki has done, Thor still considers him family and tries to protect him (Even in response to him having Loki’s crimes pointed out, he claims Loki is adopted). Instead of just fighting him, he tries Loki during the final battle that even if the invasion succeeds, it’s highly unlikely that the people he’s working for will allow Loki to rule the Earth afterwards. This culminates in a scene where Thor embraces his adopted brother and asks him to “Come home.” It makes Loki’s cold rejection of him (I.e. he gets stabbed by Loki) and the resulting pain in Thor’s eyes all the more heartbreaking to watch.

But along the way, he does make some new allies in “Midgard.” Notably, Captain America and Hulk, since he doesn’t really share a lot of screentime with the other Avengers, and most of the time he spends with Iron Man on his own, they’re just fighting each other.

But like Cap, Thor is an old-fashioned warrior and while they don’t share a lot of time together outside the battlefield, Thor comes to respect Captain America by the end of the film as a brave, noble and kind man as well as an equal and brother warrior. Notable, the scene where Thor reaches out to an exhausted Captain America with a warm smile and helps him to stand.

As for the Hulk, Thor tries at first to do the “I know you’re in there” thing with the Hulk before beating him up. Or at least attempting to beat up the Hulk. Really, Thor Hulk are basically allies that are happy to fight each other, with Thor believing the Hulk to be basically a worthy sparring partner.

Overall, Thor hasn’t changed that much, and really doesn’t get that much development either, but if he did this movie would just be Thor 2. There’s enough to keep you emotionally invested in the character, and that’s excusing the fact he’s a likeable character anyway.

As for the Hulk, Mark Ruffalo replaces Edward Norton from The Incredible Hulkas Bruce Banner and the Hulk, with Lou Ferrigno once again as the voice of the Hulk. Banner is still the meek scientist that just wants to be left to his own devices. But he’s still continuing his character arc from The Incredible Hulk of accepting that, for better or for worse, the Hulk is a part of him. We also get the hint of a darker side of Banner, namely his suicidal nature. He really hasn’t accepted the fact that the Hulk is a part of him, and desperately wants a ‘normal life’, as seen when he offhandedly rocks a baby cradle during his conversation with the Black Widow. And it’s driven to actual suicide, but has had that release denied to him, considering how he tells Fury at one point that he’s already tried putting a bullet in his mouth, but “The other guy spat it out.”

And that’s something else highlights this fact that Banner doesn’t see the Hulk as a part of himself. Whenever Banner talks about the Hulk, he refers to him as “The other guy” throughout the film. He’s a man a little on the edge, considering he believes that no one trusts him and he doesn’t trust “The other guy” that’s inhabiting his body.

The Hulk starts as something that will attack everyone, teammates included. Just take the fact that the Black Widow is terrified of the Hulk. In the scene where she convinces Banner to join SHIELD, Banner scares her to see what she would do. Naturally, it’s points a gun at him and reveal she brought a huge team along to help if need-be. But this films highlights the fact that when the Hulk comes out and smashes everything in sight, it’s not because Banner’s rage got the best of him, but because there are threats against their lives, and the Hulk comes out to ensure Banner’s safety.

And over the film, Banner realises that the Hulk isn’t some villain, but a part of him driven by his own simplest desires, which needs to be accepted rather than constantly restrained. Take when he willingly transforms in the final battle to help the Avengers, or when he willingly follows Captain America’s orders. Plus, look at the transformation in that scene. It’s faster and The transformation is much faster and comparatively painless compared to most instances, which really does suggest all that pain he goes through is just him holding the Hulk back and failing.

By the end of the film, the Hulk ends up being a hero, if a very destructive one. And let’s be honest, the Hulk is never really in trouble outside of a battle with Thor. The Chitauri get in the way at one point, but other than that, he’s pretty unstoppable. He also seems to have eaten a few more pies than he should have since The Incredible Hulk, but he still looks pretty impressive. But overall, Banner has learnt to trust “The other guy”/the Hulk because he finally understands what the Hulk is (Again, next movie appearance pending).

Furthermore, Banner also finally develops a friendship based on his scientific genius and not the fact he’s a potential threat/weapon with Tony Stark. As I mentioned earlier, when Stark and Banner are working in the lab, the two bond over their shared love and understanding of science. Eventually Stark offers Banner a job at his company, and this is probably the first time in a long time that Banner has met anyone who was aware of his scientific skills and valued him for them instead of the potential weapon or threat that is the Hulk. When the Avengers go their separate ways, Banner is seen driving off with Stark, hinting that he has taken that job offer.

One final thing before I go Ruffalo’s performance is that if we believe Banner, he’s found a way to control it by being always angry, which actually makes sense really. How can something piss you off if you’re already pissed off by everything? That was an interesting idea.

While this film actually made a Hulk that was even better, and even funnier, than the Hulk seen in The Incredible Hulk, I’m overall indifferent to Mark Ruffalo’s performance. It wasn’t bad in any sense; I just don’t remember anything that spectacular about it. Okay that scooter scene was hilarious, but other than that he did great job with the character, but I just found other characters more interesting (Though that could just be me not being that big of a Hulk fan anyway).

As for Black Widow (Once again portrayed by Scarlett Johansson), like in Iron Man 2, Black Widow is an agent of SHIELD and dresses like a cross between her Ultimate Marvel version and her mainstream comic version. But at the same time, she still acts like more her mainstream version.

That said, this time around, the character actually gets, shockingly for people that disliked her in Iron Man 2, character development. We are told she has “Red in her ledger” that she wants to wipe out, which is probably why she works for SHIELD. We are also showed that she has a close partnership with Hawkeye, the two when they do get around to fighting each other exhibiting an unresolved (As far as we are aware) sexual tension, as well as making numerous references to various noodle incidents from their past missions together. It’s so close that all Coulson needed to do to Black Widow was to say that Hawkeye was in trouble, and she ended her current mission right there and came back immediately to help him.

But another interesting conflict within the group comes from the fact that the one person in the world that terrifies her is the Hulk, that to being nearly killed by him and later the Abomination in Marvel’ The Avengers Prelude: Fury’s Big Week/Off-screen in The Incredible Hulk. Take the scene during the Helicarrier battle, Black Widow desperately trying to calm Bruce down so he won’t Hulk out, saying “I promise you, on my life, you’ll walk out of here!” She genuinely thinks she is not going to be walking out of that room alive. She knows it’s her and SHIELD fault he’s here, and that if he transforms, not only will she probably be killed, but so will he through no fault of his own.

And after nearly being killed by the Hulk again, we see she Black Widow is in a state of shock. As in, “hugging her legs like a little girl in the corner” trauma mode. But the moment Nick Fury says that the still mind-controlled Hawkeye is still on the Helicarrier, she quickly pulls herself together to go stop him. But this conflict is resolved by the time of the final battle in New York, when it becomes more clear to her that Banner can control the Hulk, and that the Hulk doesn’t want to kill anyone Banner doesn’t want dead.

She also has a rather cool interrogation technique, namely where she makes the bad guys feel powerful with her acting skills and then listen to what they let slip in their victorious rants. Take her first appearance in the film for example. It’s so obvious at the beginning that the Black Widow deliberately let herself get captured by the Russian officer early in the film to trick him into confessing what he was intending to do but when Coulson calls her during her interrogation at the beginning of the film, her switch in tone makes it sound like an actor breaking character while shooting a film scene.

And while Loki does manage to scare the Black Widow, she later uses this technique to use Loki’s anger and confidence to get what she wanted from him, namely information on how Loki was going to escape. Overall, if you disliked the character in Iron Man 2, you’ll going to pleased to find that she’s been used a hell of a lot better this time around. Then again, it’s Joss Whedon and a strong female character, what do you expect?

As for Hawkeye, Hawkeye has the least screentime of any of the Avengers. Continuing the portrayal that we saw in Thor(I.e. like Black Widow, he’s a agent of SHIELD like Ultimate Hawkeye but acts more like his mainstream version), we are present with a Hawkeye that is one of Nick Fury’s most trusted agents, has a sidearms but prefers his bows, and likes to banner with Black Widow about various incidents from their past in the middle of a massive battle.

And who becomes mind-controlled by Loki for a large part of the movie within the first ten minutes. To the advertising department’s credit, that plot twist was completely kept quiet until the film’s release which must be a first considering the huge number of spoilers you can find for anything online these days.

But this mind-control by Loki provides Hawkeye with a motivation for the rest of the movie. By the end of the film, he wants to atone for what he did under Loki’s mind control, asking Black Widow in his first scene as a free man how many of their fellow SHIELD agents he killed while he was mind controlled. It makes his convict with Loki much more personal for him. In other words, this character needs more development, but what we got of the character in this film was pretty fun to watch.

As for Nick Fury (Played yet again by Samuel L. Jackson), it makes sense for his character to be the one that creates this version of the team. Really, higher authority is either seen as useless, or downright stupid in this move. The World Security Council, Fury’s bosses, are complete dicks. Complete stupid dicks.

Take when the World Security Council decide to nuke Manhattan to end the alien threat. Which was coming from a hole in the sky. Yeah, I think it’s safe to say that the World Security Council are a bunch of bloody idiots, considering that if Iron Man hadn’t pulled a “Big Damn Heroes” moment, the nuke would have killed all the world’s only chance of survival and maybe one or two hundred of the Chitauri before more arrived.

Of course, Fury understands their concern, noting at one point that the events of Thor proved  that humanity wasn’t alone in the universe, and SHIELD had to initiate Phase Two of their overall strategy to prepare in case of a hostile alien threat attacked Earth. Plus Nick Fury is top spy, so, as Stark notes, everything he says is loaded with half-truths, misdirections, omissions, and lies.

But Fury still has everyone’s best interests at heart, and Fury takes some of the Avengers attitude, ignoring orders (Even his own) and doing what he believes is right. For example, as Fury says to the World Security Council “I recognise that the Council has made a decision, but given that it’s a stupid-ass decision, I’ve elected to ignore it.” We also see him at the beginning of the film trying to stall Loki so that the portal created by the Tesseract will cause the whole of the Project Pegasus facility above it to bury the new threat, and if him along with it if need be.

But interestingly SHIELD hands the Tesseract over to Asgard because that sort of power makes them a target and they aren’t ready yet to possess that sort of power, and Fury suggest he orchestrated much of what happened during the film to say to any possible alien threats and wannabe invaders “This is Earth. Come and have a go if you think you’re hard enough.”

Which is why, ultimately, the Avengers are created in this film. The Avengers were created, as Fury points out, as to be a versatile and flexible response team. And, knowing Nick Fury, to ignore the rules of the higher ups like the World Security Council and do what’s right, even if it sets them against the World Security Council and even SHIELD.

But most of the Avengers at first hate working together, since all of the Avengers have such big egos and are so larger than life that they can barely be in a room together. They fight and argue, but at the same time, they bring out the best in one another and when they unite with common purpose, they’re unstoppable. By the end of the film, the heroes have managed to learn to work together.

As Whedon said “The Avengers is a terrible idea for a superhero team. They really don’t belong in the same move, let alone in the same room.” But, as Whedon himself notes, they’re a family.

Let’s have a quick look at some of the minor characters, like Maria Hill. Yeah, Maria Hill doesn’t actually do much in the film. She chases Loki at the building, she helps fight off the invasion of the SHIELD helicarrier and she talks to Nick Fury at the very end, but that’s just about it. Though, knowing these films, and especially her comic book history with Iron Man, she will no doubt get some further development down the line, maybe in Iron Man 3?

Marvel’s The Avengers also sees the return of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s best villain, Tom Hiddleston’s Loki. At this point, after falling off the Rainbow Bridge back in Thor, Loki has, apparently, according to Hiddleston, been around the block and seen a couple things. Meaning, he now wants to conquer Earth and reign over it as an absolute ruler, thanks to having developed a full-blown god complex, and will remind anyone at any opportunity that he is a god.

While Loki is a bit more super-villain-ish in this film, compared to his role in Thor, he is still successful at coming up with small-scale plans and executing them, considering Loki manages to take control off all the heroes’ bases, from Project Pegasus to the SHIELD Helicarrier to the Stark Tower. He has also become more sadist as well, Loki also tries to murder his brother Thor when he was safely imprisoned, but fails. Later, when Thor makes one last bid to talk Loki down during the final battle, Loki responses by pulling out a knife and stabbing him with a tear rolling down his cheek. He also threatens Black Widow with forcing Hawkeye to kill her, then make him realise what he had done, and then kill him.

In fact his favourite tactic is to Loki will lecture his enemies on their weakness and why they are worthless, but it also proves to be his biggest weakness, considering the Black Widow uses Loki’s anger and confidence to get what she wanted from him.

But despite what Loki believes in himself, Coulson before he dies tells Loki that he will fail because he lacks conviction. Loki doesn’t believe in himself still, as seen in Thor. Loki starts to cry when he asks Thor whether or not he was mourned, and when he later stabs, even as he smiles, a tear escapes his eye. It’s like Loki regrets all that has happened, and is really is doing it because that is the opinion he has left to do with his life: Namely try and pull the same crap God-knows how many other mad twats have tried to pull over the years. As the elderly German man (Who notably looks like he is old enough to have been alive in Nazi Germany, and therefore has seen this before) who refuses to bow down to Loki, telling him that “There are always men like you.”

And that’s the interesting problem with Loki. When you get down to it, Loki is still one massive failure of a villain when you get down to it. If he isn’t is beaten up by all the Avengers, he is being bullied by the Chitauri leader.

And let us not forget the time he tries to tell Hulk off, and gets in arse handed to him a couple of times. Loki seems to know that peeing off the Hulk is a bad idea, but he army was losing and he was alone in a room being chased by the Hulk. He was desperate, and insulting him was probably both part intimidation and partly a last-ditch attempt to preserve his fragile ego. In fact, everyone in the movie gets at least one good hit on Loki, expect the Hulk, who gets lots, and lots, and lots, and lots. And then a few more.

However, Loki does accept losing gracefully. Then again, you too would probably surrender if the Avengers had just defeated a rather large army, and their not-so-jolly green giant had beaten the living daylights out of you.

Does this make the character any less interesting? No, Hiddleston plays the character a bit more, as I said earlier, supervillain-y than he did in Thor, but he’s still not some crazy guy that’s going to grow a moustache before tying women to train tracks. There is a certain energy to Hiddleston’s performance that just makes the character fun to watch. Favourite examples are the scenes where he’s talking to Nick Fury or talking to Tony Stark (Go find them now, Marvel’s got them on their YouTube account). Overall, this is still a character I enjoy watching and want to keep on appearing in this series and, just like for Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man, if you are watching this movie solely because you are a fan of that character, you won’t be disappointed.

As for the Chitauri, they serve as the other villains in this film, and to be honest, they aren’t as interesting a villain as Loki is. Okay, Loki has had a previously movie to set him up, but that doesn’t stop you from having two interesting villains.

By the way, the Chitauri in the Ultimate Marvel comics are a fraction of a race of shape-shifting aliens called the Skrulls whose MO is generally impersonation and infiltration. It would have been the Skrulls if they weren’t tied to the Fantastic Four who currently have their film rights owned by Rupert Murdock.

As for their appearance in the film, yeah, they’re basically the muscle for Loki. They don’t use impersonation and infiltration, they basically rely on sheer numbers and a blunt “Quick, attack!” approach to whittle down the Avengers. You get the feeling when Loki made the deal with their leader Thanos, they believed that humanity was weak, but the Avengers changed their minds.

But by the end of the film, they have come to acknowledge that humanity is a very credible threat to the other realms and, as the Other (The go-between for Loki and the Chitauri’s leader) says, “To challenge them is to court death.” Which is a great thing to say to Thanos, the one guy who wants to literally court Death. Yeah, I wasn’t expecting to see him in the movie, and I’m sure his appearance went right over the heads over most non-comic book fans (Considering the fact that when I mention the name “Thanos” to a lot of comic book fans, most of them say “Who?”)

However, considering that the primary aspect of Thanos’ motivations in the comic books is that he saw the personification of death when he was young and fell in love with it, we could be in for a very interesting conflict the next time the film shows up, either in Guardians of the Galaxy or the next Avengers movie.

Right, so now what can I say that’s original about this movie? It’s action-packed, and when it’s not action-packed, it’s funny. There was never a dull moment watching this thing, and thankfully all the characters got the right amount of screentime. Yeah, it’s safe to say that through some miracle, whether that be the actors, Joss Whedon, Marvel, etc. this movie did anything but suck.

In a way, and I noticed this from the minute the film got to Project Pegasus, it kind of reminded me of a few years back when Doctor Who had The Stolen Earth/Journey’s Endtwo-parter, where several of the pervious companions, what was then left of the cast of Torchwood and whoever they could find from the cast of The Sarah Jane Adventures, gathered together to fight Daleks. In other words, it was a freaking massive Doctor Who story.

And that’s what this film is, a freaking massive superhero film and in a way, the big-budget season finale for this era of the Marvel Cinematic Universe(Marvel has even called all the films from Iron Man to this one “Phase One”). It was everything done right about the pervious Marvel Cinematic Universe films put into one film with improvements upon all the things it didn’t do so well. Are there problems with this film?

Well yes, Thor getting to Earth so easily was a disappointment, Maria Hill just being there and not really doing that much, and the fact they put a freaking post-credits scene right at the end of the movie for the American release annoyed me. That, and the fact that I was looking forward to one particular moment, which was the moment that Captain America shouted “Avengers Assemble!” and it wasn’t in the movie. In fact “Avengers Assemble!” was never said in the whole movie, the closet I got was the fact that here in the UK, the film was renamed “Avengers Assemble” because apparently every Brit will look at a poster for the film and think “Oh yeah, this must be an adaptation of that TV show in the 60s.”

That said, considering where the title is placed in the movie, I will let the annoyance I have about the renaming go, mostly because it’s done in a way that’s the closet anyone will get to an “Avengers Assemble!” in this movie. Hopefully the next Avengers film will have that moment where Cap shouts “Avengers Assemble!” in it.  Well, it better have.

But really, most of all, Marvel’s The Avengershighlights something that have proven to be one of the great success stories about the Marvel Cinematic Universeseries. I made me interested and like characters that I was either not that interested in (I.e. Thor, Hawkeye and Black Widow), interested in, but had a crappy movie before the series (I.e. Captain America, Nick Fury and Hulk) or just plain hated after some really, really poor storyline choices (I.e. Iron Man). Even now after these characters have appeared in two/three/five movies, I still want to see more from these characters (Or at least their movie versions. I admit, I’m still not that big a fan of the Thorcomics despite how great the movie was) because they are so interesting and likeable.

But despite how much I love this movie, there is a feeling I have now that makes it a bit bittersweet in a way. Ten years ago, if you told me that I would one day see an Avengers movie, I would have serious doubts about that, while hoping to God it isn’t as bad as that other Avengers movie. Five years ago, we knew that it was going to become a reality; it was really just a question of if the studio could pull it off. Now, we know it can be done, and done very well. So really, the only question is “Where do we go next?” Which is something I really can’t picture in my head.

Plus now, every time these characters feature in their own solo movie, you’re going to be wondering “Why don’t they just call the Avengers?” in. Okay, Iron Man 3 is meant to be dealing with that issue, but it’s still hard not to think about that.

But despite all that, overall, Marvel’s The Avengers is the spectacular finale to the “First season” of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s funny, it’s action-packed, it’s got likeable, well acted characters, and is a celebration of everything that has been great about this series of films so far, while actually making improvements upon some of the pitfalls the other movies had. This is one of the few times that I have watched a film in the cinema and have been just as excited to see it again when it’s finally released to DVD. If you want to see one of the best superhero movies ever, or a real cinematic treat in general, you need to watch this movie.

Click here for the first film in the series, Iron Man.

Click here for the second film in the series, The Incredible Hulk.

Click here for the third film in the series, Iron Man 2.

Click here for the fourth film in the series, Thor.

Click here for the pervious film in the series, Captain America: The First Avenger.

Click here for the first Marvel One-Shot: The Consultant.

Click here for the second Marvel One-Shot: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor’s Hammer.

Click here for the tie-in comic, Marvel’s The Avengers Prelude: Fury’s Big Week.

Click here for the tie-in comic, Marvel’s The Avengers: The Avengers Inititative.

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1 Comment
  1. Anna
    Posted October 14, 2012 at 12:37 am

    Great review, love the amount of attention to detail and analysis you put into the characters, but I’d like to make one correction:

    “But in Cap’s defence, Stark, the son of one of his best friend, had just made a crack that Cap was a “Lab experiment at best” and “Everything special about you came out of a bottle.””

    Actually, Tony didn’t call Cap a lab experiment or say the line about the bottle until AFTER Cap gave him that speech about the sacrifice play — and it shows, as Tony’s lines are pretty feeble and stumbling compared to his usual wit, showing how much Cap’s speech shook him.

    However, Cap’s other defense is that Tony was still pretty damn rude to him in the first part of the movie (calling him “not of use” and making inappropriate cracks about his age and hibernation), so Cap didn’t come off all that jerkish — just jerkish enough to seem realistic and human.

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