So I’m not really sure that Avengers really counts as a good new years movie, I know that some memeish individuals were considering playing Infinity War to time the ‘snap’ with midnight, but Avengers didn’t really contain anything like that.
I apologize for the longish post, but Avengers being the first longer movies, and of course the first superhero teamup AND one of my (potentially former more on that later) favourite MCU and general movies makes for a lot of fodder.
Probably the first thing that needs to be acknowledged is the franchise and success of the superhero team-up model. I don’t think its 100% accurate to say it hadn’t been done before, however it certainly hadn’t been done as successfully before. There are plenty of old-timey movies where Hulk and Thor team-up, or the X-men movies had attempted to have spin-offs, but Phase 1 MCU and the Avengers were the only highly planned and extremely overtly building to an ensemble outing that reached broad audiences. Avengers still sits as the 6th highest grossing movie worldwide, the only other superhero movie above it is Infinity War.
It’s hard to overstate the impact the success of Avengers had on movies since then. Obviously it paved the way for many many more MCU movies, but also spurred DC on to try the same thing (to ongoing mixed success) and even non-obvious franchises to be attempted (e.g. the ‘Dark Universe’ with that failed Mummy movie). So far nothing has really stuck like the MCU however.
Oddly however the film will spurred on what I will consider some more controversial aspects of the MCU success, I’ll save my opinions for the upcoming films but will mention that at the time of Avengers director Joss Whedon basically seemed like the God of comic book movies, and millions of fans were excited to see where he took the films. By the next Avengers Joss Whedon ‘broke’ and no longer worked with Marvel (and went on to ruin or perhaps attempt to salvage, its a little unclear: DC’s Justice League).
Anyway back to the actual film.
I still remember going to Avengers at the midnight screening. The atmosphere was amazing, everything about the film felt perfect, and I swear the audience cheered everytime Hulk did anything. I’ve seen the movie at least a dozen times, although I confess it had been a while and rewatching now I did have some changes in opinion.
Don’t get me wrong, the movie is still great, but some elements have aged well and others not so much. But let’s start with the positives.
The Hulk. There is much to be said about Ed Norton being dropped and Mark Ruffalo taking over as Bruce Banner. I don’t know what it is about Ruffalo but he captures the character brilliantly, a sort of mix of anxiety and bitterness but also adding an undertone of ‘come at me, see what happens’ which was missing from Norton’s portrayal.
But its not just the acting change, Whedon handles the character brilliantly. Hulk only appears twice in the film but both times are charged with energy and highlights of the movie. One of the problems with other Hulk films is no-one seems to take him seriously until he’s throwing them through a tree, in Avengers the other characters are visibly scared of Banner and terrified of Hulk. While some have criticized the Hulk’s apparently fast character development, (he appears on the helicarrier as out of control and then next appearance is totally under control) I think the movie does well establishing that Hulk is mostly under control bar some circumstances.
The film is not Hulk 2 however so I should mention some other aspects. Something that has always struck be about the film is the character intros are very solid, even though most of the characters had their own films to introduce them, enough time is spent showing them to audiences too. It takes a while for the team to get together, but its time well spent.
Finally, whatever critiques I might have there is no doubt Whedon knows his way around an action sequence. Something that Avengers did better than all its Phase 1 build-up movies is dynamic action that brings a sense of rising and falling tension throughout. Previous Marvel fight scenes tended to be fairly brief and flashy.
So how about parts of the film which weren’t quite as good as I remember?
Well I found some of the humour to either be a little dull upon rewatch, and in some cases the jokes were really one-offs, incredibly funny the first time round (and a few times after because you remember the joy of the first time) things like Thor’s “He’s adopted” line and Hulk sucker punching Thor were amazing the first time but don’t really have any rewatch value.
Also some of the dialogue in general was just incredibly cringey, the franchise still not quite settled into whether it was trying for movie realism or overblown fantasy styles.
Finally some of the sequences in Avengers felt a little drawn out, or pointless. The first chunk is basically a base evacuation / car chase between Loki, Agent Robin, and Fury and it kind doesn’t do anything, no-one is watching Avengers for a car chase between the non-heroes. And again when the helicarrier is attacked which is overall a reasonable good sequence, Cap’n America and Iron Man are relegated to ‘fixing’ the thing which while obviously important isn’t that great an excuse for screen time in a long film. It’s not that fun watching Captain American pull a lever and Iron Man push a giant fan around.
Ultimately the Avengers is a pretty important film, and one that I absolutely adored when it came out, I don’t think its too sad that its been supplanted by later films in the franchise (isn’t that really what you want?). It marks the beginning of Phase 2 in the MCU which I will be diving into next.
Happy new year!