When Marvel set out to create the MCU, which began with Iron Man, there were many obstacles to overcome. If you asked anyone involved about the odds of making it to this point when the idea was first conceived, they probably would’ve told you they weren’t great. Fortunately, a string of financial and critical successes allowed Kevin Feige and company to see their vision through, and The Avengers were brought to life on the big screen for the very first time to conclude Phase 1 in the Infinity Saga.
Marvel had done an excellent job to this point providing compelling characters for audiences to latch onto, which is why this movie worked upon release and still holds up now. There’s no shoehorned character introduction that leaves much to be desired, just a central focus on assembling the already-beloved Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. The choice to use only established characters in all major roles but deliver a story unlike anything ever seen paid dividends, all important factors leading to The Avengers being one of the most complete and important and highest grossing (#12, recently surpassed by Barbie) superhero films of all time.
The Avengers review: a thrilling story with enough humor, heart, and action to please everyone
It’s no small feat to pack this many characters into a single film and have it work so seamlessly, but one of The Avengers’ most significant accomplishments is its ability to give everyone a significant role to play. With this many stars on the call sheet, it would’ve been easy to save one or two heroes for the final battle, but this isn’t the case. Every major figure makes an appearance within the first 30 minutes, which is a necessary element of this story that hinges on a dysfunctional family learning to overcome their differences. This doesn’t work if Captain America (Chris Evans) rallies the team in a third-act introduction, which fortunately isn’t the case.
It’s apparent from their first meeting on the S.H.I.E.L.D Helicarrier that it’s going to take time for The Avengers to learn to play nice. The team assembles, disassembles, and reassembles all within a 2 hour and 25 minute runtime, but it’s their willingness to fight for what’s right that ultimately brings the team together for the third act. The film does a phenomenal job introducing the team and slowly building chemistry, showcasing that forming familial bonds never happens in a straight line. There’s no speech Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) can give to force them to work together, but when Earth is at the mercy of Loki (Tom Hiddleston), The Avengers assemble when the world needs them most.
Arguably the most compelling piece in the movie is Loki. Similar to his introduction in Thor, Hiddleston goes all out in his performance as the God of Mischief. His line deliveries and sinister Shakespearean monologues demand your undivided attention, providing an added sense of importance any time he occupies the screen. If you replace Loki with another villain that requires more introduction and setup, the story most definitely suffers for it. Put a force like the Chitauri behind the Asgardian prince-turned-evil, power-hungry god and mix in Hiddleston’s undeniable charisma, and you’re left with one of the best MCU villains ever.
While there are many deep-seated themes in The Avengers worth analyzing in an effort to fully appreciate it, on the surface it still offers all the fun for anyone to enjoy. There’s an astounding variance in the fight choreography between Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), to Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), mixed with all the large-scale, extraterrestrial combat in the third act. Combine loads of light-hearted humor with excellent performances from every member of this expansive cast, and you’re left with a phenomenal movie, both structurally and conceptually.
One of the unsung heroes of The Avengers is the editing and transitions. There’s a delicate flow from one scene to the next, but not just from a plot standpoint. When a scene switches to another character or another setting, it’s doing so for a specific reason, even if it’s one you can’t decipher on the surface. The iconic Avengers score from composer Alan Silvestri is used abundantly, but not in a way that feels overwhelming. This is the first of many iconic performances in the MCU from Silvestri, creating a few simple notes that will ring on in cinematic history forever.
There’s some exquisite writing on display in this movie by way of delivering complete arcs for individual characters, as well as the group. Not least of which, this is the first step on a long journey of self-discovery and sacrifice for Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.). One of the reasons Tony is such a beloved character in the history of the MCU is his constant evolution, within both the larger story arc and individual entries. Tony matures a lot over the course of this film, but he still has a long way to go, as do all the characters. The trauma they experience here will only be compounded by what’s to come.
It cannot be overstated how cathartic it is to experience the team working together in the battle for New York. Watching Tony and Steve throw barbs at one another earlier in the film makes their repulsor/shield team up near the end so emotionally satisfying. The Avengers may be an imperfect family, each with more flaws than you can count, but they’re our imperfect family, and their connection with each other in many ways is a mirror of our connection with them.
The legacy of ‘The Avengers’
The Avengers carries a similar legacy to one of its preceding films, Iron Man. Iron Man changed the world, but The Avengers redefined it. If this film had been a colossal failure, there’s a chance Earth’s Mightiest Heroes were never seen again, and the MCU would likely not be around today. Iron Man planted the idea that you could introduce a character and base a cinematic universe around them, and The Avengers proved that you could bring that idea to fruition with great storytelling and talented actors.
This movie being a critical and financial success set off a chain reaction of attempts to replicate that success, and thus far none have proved fruitful. Franchises with spin-offs and attempted team-ups are spawning now more so than ever, proving that even 11 years after the fact, the rest of the filmmaking world is still chasing The Avengers‘ success. Granted, this film was not the same financial juggernaut as some of the Avengers outings to follow, but those movies are only made possible by The Avengers being a smash hit.
I would also like to take a small portion to share the significance of this movie to me personally — particularly my theatrical experience. I saw The Avengers in theaters with a few of my (then) good friends, one of whom was just as much of a Marvel superfan as I am. It’s actually one of the first things we bonded over. He, unfortunately, passed away several years after this movie and wasn’t around to see what became of the Infinity Saga with its epic conclusion in Avengers: Endgame and believe me, he would’ve loved it. I’ll always cherish the opportunity I had to see this movie in theaters with him. Hold your loved ones close, tomorrow is never promised.
‘The Avengers’ will always be a beloved stepping stone in the MCU journey
It’s monumental what The Avengers accomplishes as Marvel’s first team-up movie. Fortunately for fans, it didn’t take them long to figure out how to navigate the world of crossovers. It was an immensely smart choice to not sacrifice any heroes in this movie, and leave the door open for all the opportunities to return. There is no more satisfying way to conclude Phase 1 of the Infinity Saga, with so much exciting expansion set to come in Phases 1-3.
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‘The Avengers’ fun facts
- The U.S. military actually declined to work with the creative team behind bringing S.H.I.E.L.D. to life because it felt far too unrealistic.
- Chris Hemsworth actually strikes Tom Hiddleston in the face during Thor and Loki’s final battle. Hiddleston told Stephen Colbert, “I was wearing the horns, which weigh about 30 pounds, and I couldn’t really sell the hit, so I just said to Chris, ‘I think you should just hit me in the face.’ It was a terrible idea. I went down like a stone.”
- Jeremy Renner was so upset with Hawkeye’s arc of being Loki’s “personal flying monkey” in The Avengers that he begged for his character to be killed off. Renner had this to say, “I said, ‘I’m giving you an option, if you just want to kick me out of this movie. Just, you know, at any given moment, if you wanna kill me off, daddy’s gonna be having a heart attack.'”
- Tony Stark’s shawarma dialogue during his awakening at the end of the movie was entirely ad-libbed because Robert Downey Jr. wasn’t happy with the scripted line of “what’s next?”
- Chris Evans is wearing a prosthetic to cover facial hair in the end credits Shawarma scene because the scene was actually shot after the premiere and added in late. Chris Hemsworth also ate a pita for every single take.
- “Doth mother know you weareth her drapes?” was ad-libbed by Downey.
- Downey insisted on Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) being included in the film, despite director Joss Whedon insisting on each character being removed from their support system.
- Downey convinced Mark Ruffalo to play The Hulk when he was having doubts. Ruffalo said, “I was scared… and then, I got a call from Downey; it must’ve made it to him that I was, you know, hemming and hawing,” He went on. “And he just simply said, ‘Ruffalo, let’s go, we got this.’ In true Iron Man fashion. And then after that, I was like, ‘I guess I have to do it.'”
- The body of The Hulk is modeled after bodybuilding Steve Romm, while the face is modeled after Mark Ruffalo.
- Downey wanted Tony Stark to be the driving force in the film, starting with an opening scene appearance, he later added, “We tried it, and it didn’t work, because this is a different sort of thing; the story and the idea and the theme is the theme, and everybody is just an arm of the octopus.”
'The Avengers' Review'The Avengers' Review
- Outstanding performances
- Immediate chemistry from the original six Avengers
- Menacing villain
- Compelling story with great flow
- Incredible action
- Feels a bit dated at times