The Avengers (2012) – Review/Best Bits/Not Best Bits

What did we think?

All of Marvel’s ambitious plans come true. And a lot of it rested on Joss Whedon’s shoulders. And although there might be minor quibbles about the film, he pulls off an utter miracle. With every film studio trying and failing to create their own ‘connected cinematic universes’, it makes Whedon’s work more extraordinary.

What works, and works best, are our heroes. Joss Whedon loves these characters, and has lived with their voices for decades. Jon Favreau, Kenneth Branagh, Joe Johnston, Louis Leterrier – Whedon just simply owns more comics than those guys (possibly together). Like a good chef, he knows which ingredients mix for the best results. Whether it was making Banner snd Stark science bros, or turning stern Coulson into a fanboy around Captain America – this is a film with dozens and dozens of great character moments. It is more than just some jokes. And it’s worth noting that Whedon isn’t interested in cheap gags, like Hulk’s purple pants.

Those moments trump even that most epic battle sequence at the end (written first because the CGI would take so long). But that almost 35 minute Battle Of New York – from Stark’s arrival to the Tower til Loki asking for a drink – is a masterclass in action. Every character gets a moment, the action moves along briskly, you know where everyone is, and you’re never bored. We’ve seen Whedon pull of similar big action beats in comics where he had no budget restrictions. To do it on the silver screen for such a sustained period was unprecedented.

What Whedon doesn’t get any credit for is the casting. And that cast that he inherited – many of them having played the role at least once if not more – live and breathe their characters. Many of them threaten to steal the show. Downey gets the best lines. Evans manages to win our hearts. Ruffalo is quietly magnetic. And Tom Hiddleston – he steals every scene. When at the end, he realises he has gone too far with his fight with Thor – he seems to call forth a well of emotion and acting power that is simply not needed for this film!

There are quibbles. The Chitauri are stupid, weightless, CGI lemmings. Their sudden death makes no sense. SHIELD, once again, makes no sense. What is Fury’s plan? Hawkeye still seems a little silly (and is wasted). Cap’s costume is too bright. Blue energy things that point to the sky. Absolutely worse of all, the weight of Phil Coulson‘s death is completely undermined now.

But arguably, this isn’t a film about an alien army, or cube of great power or a government spy agency. It’s about the Avengers. Every time we don’t see exciting new pairing and interactions (or fights) between those heroes, the film struggles. It’s interesting how many of the deleted scenes are solo character moments. Save em for your film.

Arguably, the biggest legacy of this film will be that a connect cinematic universe can work (which is different from it will work). It earned a bazillion dollars, won over the critics, and kicked off several more films and an even more ambitious slate to come. It has set the standard, and maybe when we have dozens of bad connected universes, this film won’t seem so great anymore.

Best bits

  • Just seeing these characters together
  • The Battle of New York, and a fight that makes sense.
  • We get real characters here – Black Widow, Coulson, HawkeyeCaptain America – all get lives.
  • Those jokes are pretty good.
  • Puny God

Not best bits

  • Coulson’s death – it means utterly nothing now.
  • Chitauri. More like Shit-auri. Am I right? Sigh.
  • We’re not even close to peak blue energy lights yet. And it’s already terrible.
  • Cap’s costume.
  • Some of the CGI is a bit ropey in places.

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