Seeing as you’re about to be hit with a plethora of opinions on the new Avengers movie, I thought I’d sneak in and do it first, so I don’t end up coming across as redundant. Here be spoilers, so my review will start after the obligatory picture.
First of all, let me say that, as expected, this was a good movie. It’s my opinion that it had to be, given all the years of buildup and hype surrounding it. Still, it does indeed deliver an entertaining story that ties together all the big stuff Marvel has been doing for the better part of a decade now, while avoiding being convoluted.
A lot of the early portion of the film is putting the band together, and while it does involve a lot of hand-shaking, for the most part, it does a good job of establishing every character, even giving time to the SHIELD agents, and in particular Clark Gregg as Agent Coulson shines. Samuel L. Jackson was fine as Nick Fury, but nothing special. Coby Smulders didn’t get a whole lot to do as Maria Hill, but given that the comic character’s defining traits are incompetence and stupidity, that was probably for the best. Chris Evans continues to play Captain America with the perfect sense of old-fashioned charm, decency, and politeness, even calling Black Widow “ma’am” on more than one occasion. Robert Downey, Jr. clearly has fun with Tony Stark, being smarmy, arrogant, funny, and brilliant. Mark Ruffalo does a decent job establishing himself as yet another Bruce Banner, with self-deprecating charm and understated sadness. Chris Hemsworth doesn’t show up right away, but when he does, he gives us an entrance worthy of Thor. Scarlet Johansson’s Black Widow is deadly and manipulative, as she should be.
So we know the cast does a decent enough job, but how’s the story? It follows a good mix of the original Avengers and the updated Ultimates origins for the team. SHIELD, while I find them to have become a somewhat overwhelming and oppressive presence in the comics in recent years, mainly serve to drive the story and force the heroes together rather than dictate their every move. The Avengers are mainly all likeable in their ways, but in the classic Marvel style, they’re prone to fight and argue. The movie delivers on a lot of the fights you’d expect, like Thor vs. Iron Man vs. Captain America, Thor vs. The Hulk, Black Widow vs. Hawkeye, and everyone vs. Loki and his alien army. This is not a movie that hides its action behind shaky cam or other cheats. The action is intense and lots of fun, and everyone gets at least a few moments to shine. Of course powerhouses like Iron Man, Thor, and Hulk have the opportunity to show what they’re really made of, but Captain America stands out as a strategic genius and inspiration (and as a Cap fan, that made me happy), Black Widow uses her ability to play and read people extremely cleverly, and even the somewhat underused Hawkeye has a few moments of ridiculous skill.
The movie was also funny! There were a decent number of laughs, but one in particular, the scene where Hulk slugs Thor for no reason, is downright hilarious.
So, was anything wrong with it? Nothing major, but there were a few things I noticed. For one, Whedon’s infamous flip dialogue was present, and while it wasn’t overwhelming or grating most of the time, it was noticeable. There were entirely too many times when characters talked of “plays” or “moves,” which stood out. There was also Loki, who, while played decently enough by Tom Hiddleston, seemed to be all over the place in terms of motivation. Was he out to free humanity from their burden of will, was he just out for revenge on Thor, or was he out for power? I suppose one could make the argument that Loki is a liar, and his actual motives should be in question, but I never really got the impression that he was insincere at any point, or that he had some extra-hidden motivation underneath it all. Still, Loki being too subtle would have been out of place in a movie like this, so as long as he was evil and menacing, he worked all right. Lastly, at no point does anyone say, “Avengers, assemble!” which I thought was something of an oversight.
As I said, though, nothing on that list of faults is damning in any way. The movie delivers characterization, action, and fun on a scale heretofore unseen, even from a superhero movie. I can’t imagine that anyone reading my review isn’t going to see it if they haven’t already, but if you’re on the fence at all, you shouldn’t be.
The movie also had two major surprises that I want to discuss. First, a lot of people were predicting the death of Agent Coulson, as Whedon has a tendency to kill characters and poor Phil got just a little too much characterization not to bite it. The character did become something of a cult favorite and he will be missed. Second, the fact that the last minute reveal of the puppetmaster behind everything blew me away. I have no idea how they’re going to weave Thanos (and likely the Infinity Gauntlet) into the movie continuity, but I suspect they’re going to do it over the course of the various upcoming sequels. Given that The Infinity Gauntlet was my favorite crossover, this is very exciting for me.