Bottom line? The Avengers simply shouldn’t have worked. No, seriously, why should it have?
Slamming characters together from multiple franchises either means said franchise is spluttering to a halt (Universal with their Classic Monsters line back in the 30’s) or you’re a shoe-in for a critical drubbing (Aliens, Predator, Freddy & Jason, take a bow), so despite the inclusion of geek overlord Joss Whedon in the director’s chair I was preparing for the worst. But lo, said train wreck never came to pass, Marvel made ALL the money and the MCU successfully changed the way movies were made (for better or worse).
Loki, the Asgardian God of mischief and adopted brother of Thor, reappears through a rift in space and steals the Tesseract (the glowy blue macguffin from Captain America) in order to launch a massive assault on our world with an alien army. Finally graduating from a string of cameos, Samuel L. Jackson’s superspy Nick Fury assembles Marvel’s various leading men and supporting characters to collectively open a superhuman can of whoop-ass(gardian) but there’s a snag. They’re all kind of egotistical butt-hats…
And that’s the key behind the success of Marvel’s all-or-nothing gambit; having all these accomplished actors in such charismatic roles isn’t worth a damn thing unless they’re pushing each other’s buttons and that they do, magnificently. In fact even if The Avengers didn’t have amazing action (which it does, the whole last 40 minutes is a 12 year old’s fever dream fantasy made flesh) the true selling point is watching all these freaks interact for the first time and, yes, fight. Watching Chris Evans’ Cap America punch out alien shock troopers is great, watching Downey Jr’s Tony Stark get on his tits is immeasurably better. In fact ALL the interactions are great and everyone gets to have their moment, Stark and Bruce Banner’s “science bros”, Thor and Hulk’s uber-posturing (Whedon and Mark Ruffalo finally crack the jade giant better than anyone else) and Black Widow and Hawkeye’s “pro”-mance are just three of the many intersecting relationships but the two most important aren’t technically superheroes at all.
Both Tom Hiddleston’s fan favourite Loki and Agent Coulson (played by Clark Gregg) literally have screen time with EVERYONE but in very different ways, acting as two sides of the same coin and bringing out the best and worst of the burgeoning Avengers. Coulson fan-boys all over everyone (especially Cap in a fantastic running joke), bringing out the warmth in these disparate warriors whereas Loki’s gleefully hissable villain jousts physically and verbally with absolutely anyone in earshot and is a hoot to watch.
Visually the movie is shiny and crisp and makes everything look like an action playset (but in a good way), which fits the tone nicely, I mean, what else are these characters than life sized action figures?
There are a couple of minor missteps here and there, Captain America’s costume is fine, kinda, from the neck down (that helmet!) and more Hawkeye would have been appreciated but these things aside, Hollywood would be a very different place if the Avengers hadn’t gelled the way it did both on-screen and with audiences.
Warm, funny and with an insane rewatch value, The Avengers pretty much secured Marvel Studio’s future and allowed them to take the chances they take on both sides of the camera.
It’s a group effort.