Let’s review what I thought about Marvel’s Phase One movies thus far.
So, basically, not very good. Except Iron Man. Now that was a darn good superhero movie. But everything else? Meh, at best.
To say that I was unenthusiastic about The Avengers when it came out in theaters might be an understatement. In fact, I only saw it because my ultimate Frisbee team in high school went to see it. I’m glad I joined in.
The Avengers is a stupid popcorn blockbuster at its finest. Not a work of art by any means but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a good time. This movie was just made for the big screen. At the theater I saw this at everyone was laughing at almost every joke and clapping after action sequences, including me. The Avengers has some of the best action the superhero genre has to offer making it the perfect comic book adaptation with superheros fighting with and alongside each other, spewing witty one liners harmoniously. There is even a death in the form of Agent Coulson who actually got developed throughout the Phase One movies and therefore making his death more impactful and meaningful. The Avengers could have been an masterpiece if it wasn’t, well, stupid.
We start the movie off with the introduction of the villain and the all important tesseract. The accompanying set-piece is pretty underwhelming as the only Avenger superhero who is involved is Hawkeye, and he didn’t even have his own movie in Marvel’s Phase One.
Things get better quickly as we watch the other superheros get involved into the story. Iron Man, Captain America, and Black Widow all fight off Loki in Germany, and shortly thereafter, we have our first superhero fight between Iron Man and Thor! Never before have superheros battled each other on the big screen like this and it was the little details that made the duels so entertaining. From the dent Thor imprints on Iron Man’s helmet via headbutt from his lightning strike which actually powers up Iron Man’s suit, it really feels like the producers thought long and hard about the fight scenes and how each superpower would interact with one another.
The next fight scene occurs on the Avengers helicarrier, and the real highlight has to be the fight scene between Thor and Hulk. It’s probably the only battle scene that has a decisive winner, as Thor seems relieved when he gets back-up in the form of a jet-attached machine gun. I always found it funny that Iron Man was stuck repairing one of the wings of the helicarrier but Joss Whedon manages to make it engaging and fun. Captain America probably had the most boring task of assisting Iron Man, but hey, nothing new there. Plot-wise, the Black Widow is able to knock Hawkeye back into his normal hero self.
Now that the Avengers team has Hawkeye back, and through the death of Coulson and inspirational speeches from
Samuel L. Jackson Nick Fury, the Avengers put their differences aside and unite to give us a glorious 20-minute long special effects battle against Loki’s alien army in New York City. The end.
Story-wise, this film is about superheros who need to get along in order to team up for the betterment of mankind. Or, should I say, to save all of humanity from these aliens. In this sense, this movie is truly Iron Man’s movie because he is the only character who learns the virtue of teamwork through sacrifice, and the person who primarily facilitates his growth is Captain America. As he says…
I’ve seen the footage. The only thing you really fight for is yourself. You’re not the guy to make the sacrifice play, to lay down on a wire and let the other guy crawl over you.
One could argue this is at a determent to the movie–I would partially agree–since the ensemble of characters are not being used to their full potentials in the story. However, would a movie with as many big names as The Avengers be able to carry such a cohesive narrative? Imagine if all characters were to make character arcs. It would be a mess! So no, I don’t think this is a critique of the film more than it is an observation why certain characters feel like side characters and others feel more essential. Perhaps this is really the only way to do a movie like The Avengers well, which is a shame since I wanted to like Hawkeye and Black Widow more.
The real crux of The Avengers lies deeper than this, as obvious as it is in my opinion: The Avengers does very little to further the internal conflict of its story. If you think about it, The Avengers is just a bunch of action sequences chained together. What guides the plot are external conflicts. Get the tesseract, close the portal, stop the nuclear bomb, etc. It is just coincidental that the story allows for Tony to make his sacrifice at the end, though it is hard to get emotionally attached to an action that seems so detached from the plot. What caused Tony to become selfless? Or was this a story about Captain America needing to learn that Tony was selfless all the time? Whatever your opinion may be, The Avengers does little to give their characters any consistent progression. Tony becomes selfless because a) he spent a lot of time around Captain America or because b) the plot required him to. These are largely static characters who fight the bad guys–and even each other–from start to finish.
However, this doesn’t really bother me because I don’t think people are calling this movie “smart” or “thoughtful.” No, what really bewilders me is people’s praise on Loki who I think is just a mediocre villain at best. He’s not particularly cunning, though he acts like he is and comes off as almost comic rather than menacing. I’m not saying every villain has to be menacing, but Loki’s character–at least in this screenplay–seems uncertain and inconsistent at times.
It may seem like I’m bashing the movie a lot but these really do sum up my big complaints of this film. With how much love and admiration this movie has received, I just wanted to point out some reasons why this film doesn’t personally rank up higher than it does on my list, despite having enormous entertainment value and being a very enjoyable experience. I have re-watched this film, at my own will, and I plan on revisiting every time I want to see Hulk smash things.