The Avengers (2012)
I remember exactly which cinema I was in, where I sat and I how I felt when sitting down to watch the first Avengers movie, and chances are, you do too. A massive event, breaking box-office records all around the world, this propelled the MCU into the stratosphere, making every risk taken in Phase One a pay-off.
Where to begin? After his “death” in Thor, Loki (Hiddleston) returns to Earth to begin his quest for world domination, backed by an army of Chitauri and the power of the Tesseract in his sceptre. The only thing standing between him and victory are six dysfunctional heroes, Iron Man (Downey Jr.), Captain America (Evans), Hulk (Ruffalo), Thor (Hemsworth), Black Widow (Johansson) and Hawkeye (Renner), collectively termed The Avengers. Will they succeed?
You already know the answer to that question, of course, but it’s fun asking. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a comic book film so perfectly comic book, light-hearted, bright and colourful. Shots of the film seem pulled straight from a splash page, and the action is thrilling without being incomprehensible.
The strength of the movie lies in its script. Written by Whedon, with Zak Penn getting a story credit, the dialogue crackles unlike anything the MCU has done before. Downey Jr. may embody the character of Tony Stark completely and Evans that of Steve Rogers, but Whedon knows the comic books so well and so specifically, that they become the fully realised superheroes straight from the pages of Marvel. This is most evident when the characters first group together, disparate personalities clashing with each other, each member bringing what they brought to their own films, plus some.
All except one. Edward Norton’s Bruce Banner has suddenly changed to look a lot more like Mark Ruffalo, and thank goodness it’s so. Ruffalo is a far more likeable, warm, captivating presence for this character than Norton ever was in The Incredible Hulk, a perfectly nerdy, awkward scientist trying to make it through the world without doing too much damage.
The entire cast gel together so well, in fact, that it’s more like hanging out with friends at this point. The chemistry is electric, adding to its whip-smart dialogue. There’s no need to worry who is paired with whom, and at what point; they perfectly offset each other (plus, it’s incredibly difficult to imagine Norton create quite the bromance with Downey Jr. as Ruffalo does).
Luckily, everyone gets their chance to shine. Hawkeye may be on the wrong side of the fight for half of the movie, due to mind control (what else?), but when the group finally assembles, even his bow and arrow are equipment enough to save the day. A wonderful tracking shot during the film’s third act perfectly encapsulates each character’s strength during the fight and ensures no man left behind on the cutting room floor.
The only character that perhaps doesn’t get enough to do is Maria Hill (Smulders). Despite having a short chase sequence in the beginning, she is then mostly relegated to standing and explaining things and walking from set to set. The film being as packed as it is, perhaps there simply isn’t enough room, but it would be nice to see her get her due.
As for the villain, it’s in this movie that Hiddleston comes into his own as Loki. He’s pretty great in Thor, but here he is on a mission, more aggressive, more entitled, more hurt by the pain his father has inadvertently caused him. Hiddleston performs with no inhibitions, clearly relishing the chance to wreak havoc on poor, unsuspecting humans.
The action is exciting, even if it may not be incredibly inspired, or as inspired as future MCU movies are. It still gives me goosebumps seeing the 360 degree shot of the team finally coming together, and watching them kick ass is as fun as ever, especially as the CGI falls far from murky and indistinguishable. Black Widow’s choreography, in particular, is worlds better than anything she was given to do in Iron Man 2 (which is not very much).
It’s an incredibly satisfying end to Phase One of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and a very enjoyable re-watch, with plenty to reap each time, particularly with the fast-paced dialogue. As our heroes eventually go their separate ways, in order to further advance their own stories, it’s easy to get swept up in the excitement of the future that this universe may bring.