MCU Retrospective: The Avengers (2012)

Director: Joss Whedon
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston, Clark Gregg, Samuel L. Jackson, Cobie Smulders

The Overview
Earth’s mightiest heroes must come together and learn to fight as a team if they are going to stop the mischievous Loki (Hiddleston) and his alien army from enslaving humanity.

The Review
Perhaps compared to the huge scale of Infinity War and soon Endgame, 2012’s The Avengers may seem relatively small in comparison. However, the fact I can still remember the cinema experience I had watching this film shows that the impact at the time was huge, and even now as we look back, it is clear that The Avengers was an event.

Seeing these heroes on screen together and teaming up was a huge thrill, and it was tangible proof that this was indeed a cinematic universe. The forming of the team feels organic, each person slotting into place as if they were always meant to be there, and this is because the groundwork had already been put in with the key players. I don’t want to get into some kind of ridiculous DC vs Marvel argument here (for fear of opening myself up to the Twitter trolls!), but for me this was the fundamental difference in the establishment of the comic book giants’ respective universes. Focusing on the MCU, we had spent time with each of these characters – the core four in particular – and this meant that the pieces of this film were easy to put together. Expecting us to feel and root for a team that we had not spent time getting to know individually was where a film such as Justice League ultimately faltered.

But moving very swiftly on and focusing on The Avengers. It is arguably the film which feels the most nostalgic to return to – perhaps a very key notion as it is widely speculated that Endgame may see us revisit some of its plot points. There’s wonderful camaraderie between the characters, and particularly when looking back on it with the hindsight of Civil War, it has even more potency to it. The banter between the characters feels so natural, and this is something which is absolutely essential. Before Guardians came along, I would have perhaps considered this as the funniest entry in the MCU, and indeed it is the humour which still holds up. Considering the dark places the MCU went to after this, there is even more joy to be had from rewatching The Avengers; it is impossible to watch it and not smile like a goofy idiot throughout.

Whilst the sense of fun is perhaps the thing that permeates most throughout the film, there are some undoubtedly crucial moments which impact the wider universe, holding huge significance in later films. The story between Thor and Loki pretty much continues directly into Thor: The Dark World and the effects of the Battle of New York on Tony Stark in particular, are one of the key themes in Iron Man 3. The mental scars he has from this event are what shapes his entire arc going forward, so it is always interesting to revisit the place where that all began. One thing I noticed on this rewatch was there was a glorious moment in the aforementioned battle when Iron Man and Cap are fighting alongside each other and Iron Man fires his propulsors against Cap’s shield to take out one of the Chitauri. This moment is later mirrored in Civil War, but this time Stark and Rogers are fighting against each other. Of course at the time, we would have had no idea about this but it is incredible to think now about how in-sync these films are with each other.

Indeed the early signs of animosity between Tony Stark and Steve Rogers was something that was very apparent in this rewatch. They come from completely different places, with different idealogies, and there is an unspoken competition for leadership of the group between them which is born out of this. Of course there is also their pasts which are tied together through Stark’s father, and this is again something which comes up later in Civil War

It would be remiss to review this film and not mention the Battle of New York in greater detail. Despite all the incredible action set-pieces that have followed, it remains one of the most well choreographed and efficiently executed action scenes, not just in the MCU, but in film in general. Still as thrilling now as it was then, the camerawork in this scene is truly astonishing, with each character having their moment to shine as we see moments of them fighting alone, together, and of course as a complete unit. That now famous circle shot of the team, accompanied by the impeccable score from Alan Silvestri is still one of the most iconic moments in the whole of the MCU. Just hearing that score invokes all those feelings and it gives me goosebumps every single time.

The Avengers is also significant in being the first MCU film to have a mid and a post-credits scene, something which set the tone for all the films to follow. The mid-credits scene (which is the placeholder for the more important plot one now) introduces us to the smiling Thanos, and of course we all know where that one ends up! In this moment, we see that the threat was far bigger than Loki and of course it leads us wondering what role this mysterious figure will have later on. In the final post-credits scene (again this is now the placeholder for the more light-hearted one) we see the team silently eating a shawarma together. It hilariously evokes that feeling of a drunken night out in which you and your pals will inevitably end up sharing a kebab together at some unspeakable time in the morning. Simple, yet so effective, and incredibly irreverent – kudos Joss Whedon!

Even now, The Avengers is a near-flawless Superhero film and is one that truly stands the test of time. Honestly the only things I could criticise are a couple of really hokey lines (I severely dislike the “I have a plan. Attack.” line) and Captain America’s absolutely dreadful pyjama uniform he wears. Aside from those incredibly minor quibbles however, this film is perfect!  

The Rating
★★★★½

MCU Ranked
As I am planning to rewatch all of the MCU films, I will rank the films as I go and update on each review.

  1. The Avengers (2012) – ★★★★½
  2. Iron Man (2008) – 
  3. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) – 
  4. Thor (2011) – 
  5. Iron Man 2 (2010) – ★½ 
  6. The Incredible Hulk (2008) – 

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