Published on April 22nd, 2015 | by Dapper Dan0
MCU Retrospective Review – The Avengers (2012)
Year of Release: 2010
Film Number: 6
Budget: $220 million
Box Office: $1.518 billion
Director: Joss Whedon
Written By: Joss Whedon & Zak Penn
The MCU Finally Assembles
So, I was lucky enough to attend a preview screening of Marvel’s The Avengers (I refuse to call it Avengers Assemble, the unnecessarily amended name for the UK release) and I walked out saying “Holy freakin’ hell, that was awesome”. Keeping shtum about it prior to release was an act of herculean effort. Seriously.
Straight off the bat I have to say this: Joss Whedon managed to pull off a cinematic miracle by making what might just be the perfect superhero movie. From script to story beats to action sequences; the whole product hangs together so well that I had to pinch myself to check I wasn’t dreaming.
This is the superhero team-up film you always wanted to see but never thought could be made. Yes, it’s THAT good, in my sometimes less than humble opinion.
Picking up threads from Thor, Captain America, The Incredible Hulk and Iron Man 2; the plot takes place against the backdrop of Loki, Thor’s wayward brother, allying with an alien race to take over the Earth. It’s pretty standard moustache-twirling villain stuff, really. Although the lack of villainous originality can be overlooked as Loki continues to be played with such delicious relish by Tom Hiddleston. Much as I gripe about Hollywood’s continued obsession with casting my fellow countrymen as villains; when we’re this good at being bad, who cares?
Downey Jr, Evans and Hemsworth all reprise their roles with their existing characters. Of the three performances, Evans’ character arguably shows the most development since his introduction last year. Captain America seems a little less naive and a little more grown-up. I felt he was more of an realist this time out, allaying my fears that the iconic character might not hold his own when compared to Iron Man and Thor.
Actually, I think my favourite returning cast member is actually Clark Gregg as the sardonic SHIELD Agent; Coulson. He provided some great moments in both Iron Man films and Thor but here he is even better. Coulson ends up providing the real heart of the film. If you’ve seen either of the two shorts starring Agent Coulson, you’ll enjoy his work here. It was a great moment in geekdom when they revealed he’d be headlining the Agenst of SHIELD TV show.
After the opening sequence sets Loki’s plan in motion, Samuel L Jackson’s Nick Fury finally gets a chance to do more than just deliver sharp lines to a nascent hero: Assembling (natch) the heroes we’ve seen in Marvel’s previous films to stop Loki and retrieve the MacGuffin. The real meat of the movie comes from the interactions between the heroic leads as they are recruited, clash and eventually galvanise as a team. The trailer has already shown us that Chris Evans’ square-jawed super-soldier and Robert Downey Jr’s smart-ass playboy do not get on, but the personality clashes are not limited to just these two. Thor continues to experience the culture clash between his methods and the way we humans deal with things. It seems that when you carry a hammer every problem DOES look like a nail.
For those of us who were worried about it, rest easy. Despite his excellent turn as Tony Stark/Iron Man in his previous two films, Robert Downey Jr doesn’t steal every scene he’s in. He’s still funny, he’s still one of the smartest guys in the world but he’s almost a bit more of a dick this time out. Maybe that’s a deliberate move, to tone down his audience support and give the others a chance.
One area where Whedon’s script has really excelled is in giving each of the heroes an arc of their own that doesn’t come at the expense of the others. Everyone gets their fair share of screen time and “Holy Sh1t!” moments. One of my reservations was that Hawkeye, Black Widow and even Hulk might get marginalised in favour of Thor, Cap and Iron Man. Far from it. In fact, true to Whedon form, Black Widow proves to be just as pivotal as any of her male comrades, proving once and for all that you can have strong female characters in a superhero film who aren’t just there as eye-candy love interests. (Blake Lively, I’m looking at you here…)
Jeremy Renner, notable for his performances in The Hurt Locker & The Town, puts in a good showing as Hawkeye. Despite the fact that he’s probably the least well-known member of the team, to the average cinema-goer, he gets some good lines and some particularly cool action sequences. His casting in the The Bourne Legacy made sense after this. And yes, Hawkeye is the greatest Avengers character of all-time in the comics. This is not open to debate.
Mark Ruffalo comes to the role of Bruce Banner/Hulk as the third actor to play him in Marvel’s movie universe and yet overshadows both of the previous two with a performance that impressed me a lot. His Banner is quiet and reserved without seeming restrained. Even when others are assuming he’s a little spacey and not quite up to speed with the way the world works, you can see there’s more to him than meets the eye. He’s happy to be taken at face-value, comfortable enough in his abilities and control of the Hulk. Well, usually…
One criticism a friend had, was that she felt the humour wasn’t really appropriate for the overall tone. I disagree; while there is comedy in the film, it never feels slapstick, even when it made me laugh out loud. It felt like it came just when it was needed to lift the moment and show some humanity amid all the explosions.
The trailer showed us that the finale of the film features a full scale alien invasion in New York. What the trailer didn’t tell you (thankfully) was quite how huge this is. The assault on NYC is no quick flash in the pan, speedy conclusion to the movie. This is Manhattan playing the role of Omaha Beach. One of the best set-pieces I’ve seen in a summer blockbuster for quite a few years.
I didn’t see the film in 3D and, while I’m grateful for not having to wear a second pair of spectacles to experience it, there were one or two shots that looked wrong as a result. A minor gripe but still noticeable nonetheless.
Marvel once again proves far more capable at translating their characters and scenarios to the big screen. DC really need to take a long hard look at their efforts and step their game up. They can ill-afford another Superman Returns or Green Lantern if they want to get the same kind of success on the silver screen.
Oh, one last thing: The now-traditional mid-credits extra scene? It’s not what I originally expected when going in, but did pick up on something said early in the film and delivers a hell of a moment of fan-service.
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