2012 saw three movies featuring Marvel characters. Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance gave us a truly bad start to the year. The Amazing Spider-Man was good even though it gave us another origin story that was quite unnecessary. However, in between these two movies was one in which the bar has forever been raised. With Marvel’s The Avengers, we were presented with no less than seven superheroes and the universe was forever changed.
In 2011, we were introduced to both Captain America and Thor, as well as given a brief look at Hawkeye. These movies continued to build on the stories started in the first two Iron Man films. In post-credit scenes, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) would reach out to Steve Rogers (Chris Evans, Fantastic Four), calling upon his patriotic values. We’d also see Fury contact Dr. Selvig (Stellan Skarsgard) in Thor and show him an object we would later come to know as the Tesseract (better known as the Cosmic Cube to long-time comic book fans). The stage was now set but would it all work?
Our movie early on establishes that Nick Fury is going to be more involved as we see S.H.E.I.L.D.’s attempts at harnessing the power of the Tesseract. This results in opening a portal through which Loki comes through to begin work on an ultimate invasion. Loki (Tom Hiddleston), thought dead at the end of Thor, has been found by the Other, leader of the Chitauri (an altered version of the Skrull from the comics, sort of). Loki uses his scepter to enslave Dr. Selvig, Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner, The Bourne Legacy) and others. Fury reactivates the “Avengers initiative” and begins calling in the troops. First up, agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) visits Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), who resists at first until Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) convinces him. We see that the two are now romantically involved, carrying on an idea presented in Iron Man 2. Fury visits Captain America (in a scene lifted from Captain America: The First Avenger). Agent Coulson calls in Black Widow Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), who in turn is assigned to bring in Dr. Bruce Banner. Banner is now played by Mark Ruffalo after contract negotiations broke down with Edward Norton. While I liked Norton’s performance in The Incredible Hulk, Ruffalo really nails the duality of Banner and Hulk.
Our heroes are reluctant at first to join the bandwagon but after Loki appears and is too easily apprehended by Captain America and Iron Man, it seems they’re ready to hear what Fury is saying. This is where we finally see Thor (Chris Hemsworth), who arrives to bring Loki home to Asgard. What follows is our first inter-superhero battle between Iron Man, Thor and Captain America, which surely resulted in nirvana for many comic book fans. As our story continues to develop, we see a battle between Thor and the Hulk, Tony Stark bantering as he does best and, ultimately, the battle in New York that has forever set the bar for future superhero movies to a ridiculously high level.
Some of our heroes fair very well in The Avengers while others not as much. Tony Stark/Iron Man gets quite the screen time and sets up ideas that are carried through into Iron Man 3. The Hulk has never been better and shows that he may work best in a group setting. Thor has several key scenes and Black Widow, while limited in what she can do, holds her on. Captain America always seems a step behind the others, which leads us to hope he turns it up a notch going forward. Nick Fury is a commanding presence but I think everyone wants to see him do a little more in future outings. Hawkeye really has very little to do but turns out having a bigger role than one might expect in the final battle. I think he’ll clearly only have a supporting role in this universe and I don’t see a standalone movie for him anytime soon. All-in-all, a nearly perfect blend of talent entertains in ways that only a few truly imagined could happen. Sure, there are a few nitpicks along the way but really, this movie is fun and entertaining. Leave your overly-critical eyes at home and escape into the movie. The battle sequence is amazing. If you find yourself wanting more, go back and watch any of the Marvel movies from the 90s. You’ll see that you’ve become quite spoiled and just need to enjoy the visual treat that The Avengers delivers.
After a domestic US gross of more than $623 million, it remains the #3 box office hit of all-time. As well, it remains the biggest opening weekend flick. It’s success assured we would see much more of our superheroes. With Thor: The Dark World arriving in November 2013 and Captain America: The Winter Solider in 2014, all roads are beginning to lead to the inevitable second Avengers movie in 2015 (as if that credit scene with Thanos wasn’t already a clue). But first, Robert Downey Jr. has to take center stage again in Iron Man 3.