The trailers have come to an end; lights have dimmed to optimal movie-viewing levels. You can hear your fellow moviegoers, yourself included, fidgeting in their seats. The Marvel logo appears on-screen and before anyone can begin to cheer a voice rings out from across the theater: “AVENGERS ASSEMBLE!” The screams and cheers that the Marvel logo might have elicited previously have grown to thunderous proportions interspersed with laughter from the crowd. This is the midnight premiere of The Avengers, a small indie film by some new director named Joss Whedon, and it was one of the best movie-going experiences of my life.
The first act of the movie is an origin story for each character from the perspective of the movie. The overall plot, Loki being the trickster god of douchebaggery intent on enslaving the Earth, is set-up right away followed by some establishing scenes for each Avenger. These are not mere rehashes of each characters previous movie appearance, but simply a “where are they now?” for the movie. You are expected to have either seen Iron Man 1 & 2, Captain America: The First Avenger, Thor, and The Incredible Hulk or to have at least a reasonable understanding of what came before.
Is the Arc Reactor not ringing a bell? It’s from Iron Man.
Do you have no idea what the Tesseract is? Go back and watch Iron Man 2, Thor, and most importantly Captain America: The First Avenger.
Are you not sure what Thor and Loki are feuding about? This one should be obvious, so if you need me to tell you what to watch then we have far greater problems on our hands. (The answer is 1999’s She’s All That.)
Throughout the early parts of the movie we don’t see much crossover between the main characters: Black Widow encounters Hulk; Hawkeye and Nick Fury are on-screen together; Captain America and Nick Fury share a scene; Iron Man and Agent Coulson experience a moment. Nothing major happens, initially that is. I won’t give specifics, but the first time both Captain America and Iron Man appear on-screen together it is a surrealistic experience that honestly shut my brain down for close to a minute. Nerdgasm doesn’t even begin to cover the supernova of thought that entered my delicate brain region. A short while later and suddenly we have scenes with Bruce Banner and Tony Stark working on a problem, while Steve Rogers goes about solving it his own way. What Joss Whedon has done, weaving multiple characters story-arcs into a single cohesive narrative is preposterously brilliant.
The movie has been out now for nearly 24 hours in the US and by this point there is a complete deluge of reviews out there. Here at Constantly Calibrating, we have decided to take a different route and offer a brief analysis on each of the main characters in the movie:
Chris Evans plays an intense, but shockingly wise depiction of Steve Rogers in this movie. I was a huge fan of Captain America: The First Avenger, but at the same time didn’t feel a connection to Chris Evans performance. Evans’ prior comic book movie gig of playing Johnny Storm was still fresh in my mind and his portrayal of Steve Rogers was strangely reminiscent of the young member of The Fantastic Four. In this movie it seemed like Evans had a better grasp of the character, bringing through Cap’s leadership skills and commanding presence in ways that his solo-outing couldn’t. Sadly with amazing performances from Robert Downey Jr., Mark Ruffalo, and Tom Hiddelston it seems like Captain America may have fallen towards the back of the spotlight. Hopefully his next outing in Captain America 2 will give him more time to shine.
What is there to say about Robert Downey Jr’s depiction of Iron Man that hasn’t been said hundreds of times before? The man is frelling brilliant! The dry wit and humor of Tony Stark comes through as well as even in The Avengers as in either of the previous Iron Man films. One thing that they did do to improves Stark’s character for this outing was to give him some heart, no joke meant there. Stark is given far more emotional scenes in this movie than in both Iron Man 1 & 2 combined. I would be doing you a great disservice if I said any more than that, but make sure to keep an eye out because I think this Robert Downey Jr. has quite the career ahead of him!
Chris Hemsworth sure is busy with Joss Whedon films this year! The man who was Captain Kirk’s father has appeared as “jockish” character Curt in The Cabin in the Woods as well as reprising the role of Thor for The Avengers. Thor, based on the Norse god of thunder, has taken on a semi-protector of Earth position in the time since his first movie. He’s sort of like the Avengers version of Raiden from Mortal Kombat, if you want to throw in an absolutely pointless reference to Mortal Kombat in the middle of an otherwise stellar review/analysis. I thoroughly enjoyed Thor’s last outing in the aptly named Thor, in spite of the shoehorned, completely nonsensical love story with Natalie Portman. With the Avengers, Thor has been taken away from his movie’s support system, much like the rest of the main characters. This is a good thing, because it really allows him to play the all-powerful Norse god we knew he could be. Thankfully, being in a Joss Whedon movie has allowed Chris Hemsworth to maintain an equal level of humor in the character, without going overboard in Marvel Super Hero Squad territory.
Hawkeye made his first Marvel movie appearance in last year’s Thor, with a brief cameo. He is now back with a major role for this year’s Avengers. I think many people would have expected both Hawkeye and Black Widow to be pushed to supporting character slots in light of only having cameo roles in prior movies, but that is not the case here. Hawkeye is a fully fleshed out character, and while his backstory isn’t quite as known by mainstream audiences as the likes of Iron Man or Thor, he is still given an equal amount of screen time as well as action scene time. The only disadvantage to his lack of previous movie experience is that it is hard to feel any empathy for the character during the first act of the movie. Growing up I was a huge fan of Hawkeye, though I don’t honestly remember why. As best as I can remember I think I played as him in Spider-Man: The Video Game, an old arcade cabinet from the local burger place where I grew up. My childhood assumption being that if the guy was given a starring role in a Spider-Man video game, he must be awesome. It didn’t hurt that I secretly loved purple and had aspirations of learning archery.
Natasha Romanova made her first big screen appearance in 2010’s Iron Man 2 as S.H.E.I.L.D., and more importantly Nick Fury’s eyes on Tony Stark. Since that point she has grown into a character with her own backstory that is discussed in bits and pieces throughout Avengers. Honestly I don’t have much to say when it comes to Black Widow. I never grew all that attached to her while reading comics and the truth is that I find Scarlett Johansson’s portrayal of her a bit bland. Also, where the hell is her Russian accent? Black Widow has a Russian accent in my world, end of story.
HULK SMASH! Finally we come to the rightful main character of The Avengers; Hulk being the main character if for no other reason than he is the most awesome character ever captured on film. (Wow, truly never thought I would write that sentence in my lifetime!) When it was announced that Edward Norton would not be returning for The Avengers after his mediocre appearance in The Incredible Hulk, I grew concerned. I personally loved The Incredible Hulk. Was it perfect? Absolutely not! It was flawed and featured some terrible storytelling, but Edward Norton as Bruce Banner was brilliant and enjoyable throughout. Hulk himself was also enjoyable, albeit a bit one-dimensional. Cut to late last year and the first trailer for The Avengers: Mark Ruffalo is the third actor to play Bruce Banner in the last nine years, so what does he have in store for us? “We’re not a team, we’re a timebomb.” That line was delivered with so little enthusiasm and from that point on I simply stopped caring. The movie looked decent, but could I actually sit through another mediocre Hulk appearance?
The Hulk is anything but mediocre in this movie. Hell, he alone is reason enough to see the movie. From Mark Ruffalo’s exceptional portrayal of Bruce Banner as man simply trying to maintain control to Joss Whedon’s decision to have Ruffalo do motion-capture work on Hulk instead of going pure-CGI, we end up getting the best Hulk seen on film to date. Ruffalo’s performance was not given the credit it deserved in the trailers. In the movie his lines are delivered with far more emotion and show much more of Bruce Banner’s mindset than any version of Banner thus far.The Hulk is frenetic, insane, violent, and as funny as one can imagine. I won’t spoil the specifics of why he is so great, but allow me to reiterate that Hulk is reason enough to see this movie.
Nick Fury is a BAMF! We all know it. Samuel L. Jackson playing the character would have solidified this fact even if it wasn’t already true of the character. Joss Whedon shows us several cases of Fury being a badass throughout the film, but it’s the heart of the character that is the most important. Fury is a man forced to make increasingly difficult decisions throughout his career and his story-arc in this movie shows that firsthand. He is verbally attacked by the team he helps create; forced to deal with bureaucratic bullshit throughout the movie; and to deal with shocking losses throughout The Avengers. Fury soldiers on throughout all of these events and still comes out strong and in charge on the other side.
“Loki is such an obnoxious twat!” Those were, and still are, the words of my wife whenever Loki’s name is mentioned. That’s not at all a bad thing either. Loki is a brilliantly crafted villain and wonderfully utilized throughout the film. For those who do not know, Loki was the original villain of The Avengers back in the comics and the villain who ultimately brought the team together. The film does a brilliant job of depicting a similar journey through the lens of Loki’s hatred for Earth and his brother Thor. Tom Hiddleston knocks the character out of the park portraying the multifaceted emotions of trickster god, making you both love and hate him in every scene he is in. The hatred multiplies a hundredfold around the second act, catapulting us into the final act of the movie with a renewed rage towards the Norse god. Loki plays off all of the Avengers flawlessly at every point; especially Iron Man and The Hulk. Much like many great villains before him I look forward to potential future appearance by him throughout Marvel franchises.
Agent Coulson & Maria Hill
Finally we come to our supporting cast: The lovely Agent Coulson and the brilliant Maria Hill. Wait, I think I may have reversed that…nope, looks fine. Agent Coulson returns from his cavalcade of Marvel movies, starting way back with four lines in Iron Man and taking him through its sequel as well as Thor. In true Joss Whedon fashion even the smaller players get fleshed out stories and Coulson is no exception. Throughout the movie we learn more about him and get to see his wit and brilliant humor on display regularly. Clark Gregg’s portrayal of Agent Coulson is superb and a required component of the Marvel movie universe.
Cobie Smulders makes her Marvel movie debut with S.H.E.I.L.D.’s Maria Hill, second-in-command to Nick Fury. While Maria Hill is seen throughout the movie, she tends to fade into the background of most scenes. I can’t help but feel like there are some deleted scenes floating around that expanded on her screen time. Hopefully the rumored Nick Fury movie or future lead-ins for The Avengers 2 will feature Hill in a prominent way.
In the end The Avengers is well worth the price of admission, and then some. Just as a point of reference: I started writing this article Friday morning after seeing the midnight showing of the film the previous night. While writing the review I became increasingly fidgety thinking about the movie, which led to viewing #2 and review delay #2. This happened twice more, though only one of the additional fidgeting sessions led to seeing the movie again. The third fidgeting session simply turned out to be gas.
If you like comic book movies, see The Avengers!
If you enjoyed the previous Marvel movies, see The Avengers!
If you like Joss Whedon, see The Avengers!
HULK SMASH, see HULK SMASH!
By the way, make sure you stay through the entirety of the credits. There are TWO scenes, one during the credits and one after the credits that are well worth seeing. The after credits scene might honestly be the best post credits scene in Marvel movie history!
The following links have SPOILERS! for the credits scenes! Click only if you’ve seen the movie!
The Avengers 2 – Possible sequel plans for upcoming Avengers movies, including tie-ins.
Need to know more about the ******* during the credits scene? Not familiar with ******* to know what ******* has to do with **********? Click here.