Marvel’s The Avengers

Release Date: May 4, 2012
Produced by: Marvel Studios, Paramount Pictures
Director: Joss Whedon
Writers: Joss Whedon, Zak Penn
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston, Clark Gregg, Cobie Smulders, Stellan Skarsgard, Samuel L. Jackson
Runtime: USA: 143 min
Viewed format: 3-D, regular

Grade Sheet

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Overall Impressions

My god. If you haven’t seen Avengers, I don’t know what to say to you. Except…SPOILERS AHOY!

I am writing this review after my fifth viewing of this film in the theaters. Nothing in this movie ever gets old. The cynical part of me continues to search for weak spots upon every viewing, but then awe and inspiration take me over and blows my mind again.

Every element of this film is so strong: the characters, the actors, the script, the special effects, the settings, the fight choreography. But the best thing about this film is something absolutely essential for all ensemble media — and nigh impossible to achieve: It managed to showcase every character in a different way and justify just why they deserved to be on the team and/or why they deserved to be in the film. Going in, even knowing that Joss Whedon would do the franchise justice, this was my biggest fear — that the film would not be able to explain to mainstream audiences why such a team was necessary and why each of these people deserved to be on — and belonged on — the Avengers. But the film managed to do that, and so much more!

I think it goes without saying that every character was written fantastically and brought to life by each actor. Fury was cryptic and shady and an asshole and a badass. Steve was haunted but sharp and stood his ground, eventually taking his place as field leader. Tony snarked like his life depended on it, drank whenever he was not fighting or working, and sacrificed himself without consulting the rest of the team or considering any other options. Thor was arrogant without being condescending and protective of both Loki and Earth. Bruce was tragic but resilient, and the Hulk was most definitely a force to be reckoned with — and loved. Natasha was manipulative and fierce and dangerous, and Clint was a smart mouth (though I really wish Hawkeye had had a larger part as himself). The expansion of Coulson’s character was lovely, and Maria Hill had some great lines that illustrated her sharp mind and future potential. Loki was extraordinary as the film’s antagonist, mad from his journey after 2011’s Thor, so desperate for attention and vengeance and a place to belong that he was teetering on the edge of madness. Each of the characters even got their own development arc. I hadn’t even dared to hope for that kind of artistry, but it was executed so wonderfully.

The dialogue itself was so good, too. What amazing writing. Lines like Steve’s “When I went under, we were at war. They say we won. They didn’t say what we lost.” Loki’s furious “I was a king! The rightful king of Asgard, betrayed.” Thor’s earnest “You give up this Tesseract! You give up this poisonous dream. You come home.” Bruce’s aloof “So you’re saying the other guy saved my life. That’s nice. Save it from what?” Tony’s nicknames, from Reindeer Games to Capsicle to Legolas. Natasha’s no-nonsense “Love is for children. I owe him a debt.”

I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: What I love best about Marvel films is that they are action-packed but each fight scene has a purpose and isn’t there just to be there. Far from mindless, they incorporate elements of drama, comedy, suspense, and romance to form a product that is solid and neither overly preachy nor needlessly violent. There are real consequences in these movies, but bad things don’t just happen for the sake of being “realistic.” A superhero film doesn’t need to be campy to be loyal to its source material, and it certain doesn’t need to be gritty to appeal to mainstream audiences. To me, Avengers is the perfect action movie — it is everything that a live-action comic book film about a superhero team could be. Folks, this is entertainment at its finest.

Random Thoughts

  • Seamless scene transitions! Nick Fury says “soldier;” the next scene introduces Captain America. Cap says “ocean;” the next scene is of Iron Man in the ocean. Black Widow says “toys” in reference to scientific machines; the next scene shows Selvig working on the portal machine. FLAWLESS. Each transition felt like a page turn in a comic book, snapping back and forth between characters and situations in a fast-paced but clear manner.
  • The acts were so clear and executed so well. That infamously difficult-to-get-right third act battle kept me on the edge of my seat, and even though I knew the good guys would win, I had no idea how they were going to do it.
  • I love Natasha’s unimpressed “Hi” when she first meets Steve.
  • BIG THREE BATTLE. Actually really good at illustrating their strengths and weaknesses. Tony’s cocky. Thor is arrogant. Steve sees the best in everyone.
  • I LOVE the bonding scene between Tony and Bruce. “So you’re saying the other guy saved my life. That’s nice. Save it from what?”
  • When JARVIS and Tony talked when he was in the Iron Man armor, they always referred to the suit as “we.” Something I’ve never noticed before and find absolutely adorable.
  • Speech patterns of each character were written and executed beautifully. Steve’s clipped, declarative sentences. Tony’s uncontrollable rambling. Natasha’s level, apathetic tone. Loki’s unhinged wavering between calm amusement and absolute fury.
  • THANOS. I legimitately screamed in the theater at that reveal the first time, no joke.

Favorite Lines

  • Steve: When I went under, we were at war. They say we won. They didn’t say what we lost.
  • Tony: You have reached the life model decoy of Tony Stark, please leave a message.
  • Loki: I was a king! The rightful king of Asgard, betrayed.
  • The Other: You will have your war, Asgardian. If you fail, if the Tesseract is kept from us, there will be no realm, no barren moon, no crevice where he can’t find you. You think you know pain? He will make you long for something as sweet as pain.
  • Bruce: Is that the only word on me?
    Steve: Only word I care about.
  • Loki: It’s the unspoken truth of humanity. That you crave subjugation. The bright lure of freedom diminishes your life’s joy in a mad scramble for power, for identity. You were made to be ruled. In the end, you will always kneel.
    German Old Dude: Not to men like you.
    Loki: There are no men like me.
    German Old Dude: There are always men like you.
  • Tony: You might have missed a couple things. You know. Doing time as a Capsicle.
  • Steve: What’s the matter? Scared of a little lightning?
    Loki: I’m not overly fond of what follows.
  • Thor: We were raised together. We played together. We fought together. Do you remember none of that?
    Loki: I remember a shadow. Living in the shadow of your greatness. I remember you tossing me into an abyss. I who was and should be king.
    Thor: So you take the world I love as recompense for your imagined slights?
  • Loki: The mindless beast makes play he’s still a man. How desperate are you, that you call on such lost creatures to defend you?
  • Bruce: That guy’s brain is a bag full of cats.
  • Loki: Is this love, Agent Romanoff?
    Natasha: Love is for children. I owe him a debt.
  • Loki: Your ledger is dripping. It’s gushing red and you think saving a man no more virtuous than yourself will change anything? This is the basest sentimentality. This is a child at prayer. Pathetic! You lie and kill in the service of liars and killers. You pretend to be separate, to have your own code, something that makes up for the horrors. But they are part of you and they will never go away. I won’t touch Barton, not until I make him kill you. Slowly, intimately, in every way he knows you fear. And then he’ll wake just long enough to see his good work and when he screams, I’ll split his skull. This is my bargain, you mewling quim!
  • Steve: I know guys with none of that worth ten of you.
  • Bruce: I know. I tried. I got low. I didn’t see an end, so I put a bullet in my mouth…and the other guy spit it out. So I moved on. I focused on helping other people. I was good.
  • Clint: Do you know what it’s like to be unmade?
    Natasha: You know that I do.
  • Tony: I’m not marching to Fury’s fife.
  • Bruce: So this all seems…horrible.

The Verdict

See this. It is a masterpiece.