There have been a lot of good MCU movies, and a good argument to be made that they have been consistently improving as they have continued on the path to “Infinity War” (4 out of my top 5 were made after “Age of Ultron”). However, not one of them has yet become more rewatchable, and more quotable, than the first team-up in “The Avengers”.
I remember being sceptical about “The Avengers” when it was first announced. Yes, there had been “collaborative superhero” movies before, but not like this. “X-Men” could arguably have been called “Wolverine and Others” and DC had only been firmly interested only in their two prizes (Batman and Superman) for a very long time. No one had attempted a movie made from the protagonists of prior movies like this before. How could you possibly give Thor, Iron Man, Hulk and Captain America all enough screen time? Then it was announced that Black Widow and Hawkeye would be joining them?
The only thing that had me wonder if it could work was the director. Joss Whedon, creator of “Buffy” and “Firefly”, shows that knew how to appeal to their Nerd audiences, containing well-developed group dynamics and relationships. Even then, however, both had clear main protagonists in Buffy Summers and Mal Reynolds? Could “The Avengers” work without a clear protagonist? If one was chosen, who would it be? Iron Man was the fan favourite but Captain America not being the leader just seemed weird.
Somehow he pulled it off. With enough stakes and just the right amount of humour, Rogers was able to be the leader without Stark looking like a follower, Thor got his limelight thanks to the villain being the fan-favourite villain Loki (played again by the incredible Tom Hiddleston) and Ruffalo provided a complex version of Bruce Banner that allowed a Hulk to be created which was an extension, rather than opposite of the scientist.
Rather than provide the audience with anything completely original, The Avengers added to what we already knew. “The Tesseract” from “Captain America” was, in fact, being tested in SHIELD, and turns out to be a portal to another dimension. It is being tested on by Erik Selvig, the mentor of Natalie Portman’s character, when the portal opens to reveal everybody’s favourite villain, Loki. Hawkeye immediately has his mind controlled by Loki’s staff and Nick Fury and Agent Coulson get away. They call on Black Widow to go find Banner and stop by Stark Tower.
It’s the introduction of Thor, of course, which is perfect. How better to introduce big heroes to each other than as enemies? After all, one of the most enjoyable games played by any superhero nerd is “Who beats who?”. So why not level a forest to introduce the God of Thunder to the arrogant man in a suit and the would-be leader?
From then on, the movie just continues to hit every beat in its stride. Loki is mischievous, the team has to learn to act like one and the stakes are at their highest, with earth under attack by an Alien race (which conveniently allows for much violence with very few human casualties shown on screen). The banter between characters is perfect, from Captain America realising his “gets” a reference to the Wizard of Oz to Hulk’s only words “Puny God” directed at a pummelled Loki. There’s just enough tragedy in the death of Agent Coulson and just enough commentary in the secret that SHIELD wasn’t just using “The Tesseract” for energy research, but also to create weapons.
Finally, when Iron Man has stepped up and nearly died to save the world, and the earth must accept it isn’t alone, we discover that Loki is not the big bad after all. No, it’s the big bad blue guy on the throne. The guy we know now as Thanos. And he isn’t happy.
Rank: 1st out of 18.