The Avengers – Review

The Avengers 2012 Movie PosterI was skeptical about this movie from the start, and my instinct told me this would be a bad movie. But, eventually overhearing news and hype and seeing ads for this movie every time I watched TV or YouTube, I eventually warmed to the idea of it. I hoped that while it was a blatant money grab that perhaps they’d infused something in it or took some chances somewhere. Unfortunately, good advice always dictates that you should listen to your gut before you listen to Hollywood hype.
I guess I should feel compelled to state that this review contains spoilers, but really, if you can’t extrapolate the entire plot from the previews, then you’ve clearly never been to a movie before and I question the logic of reading this review in the first place.

The Characters

To start with, let’s talk about the characters. My first concern was that with such a mish mash of characters, instead of one or two good character stories we would be thrown into six slapped together ones. However, I’d heard that this was being solved by having the story center on Captain America, him being the “fish out of water” character that we could relate too. I didn’t find this at all thought. If anything, the most relatable characters were Hawkeye or Black Widow, since they were true fishes out of water seeing as they didn’t have any powers.  They didn’t get enough screen time though, and Hawkeye spends the first half of the movie on the bad side anyways. So really we’re back to where we started; washing over conflict with a bunch of characters to fill up screen time between explosions. There is a quarter of the movie after they assemble that is spent jumping scene to scene trying to establish each character’s motivations. If feels unnatural and out of place and you just end up wishing that they’d get back to the explosions. If they’d stuck to having one character being the focal point, like Steve Austin, then you could build up the other characters through their relationship with him. This is what they did with the first X-men movie. We saw the X-men through Wolverine’s eyes, and all relationships were seen through him. An audience needs that. Especially in a movie with so many characters. Wolverine’s struggle allows us to experience the X-men and learn about them through his eyes. This wasn’t the case in the Avengers. Instead, we’re flipping back between scenes, not really building any sense of who these characters are and all of a sudden it’s back to the action sequences, and we don’t really care about these characters any more than we did at the beginning of the movie.

The best example of slapped together tension is between Iron Man and Captain America; namely their opposing philosophies of duty versus self. The problem with this is the entire Iron Man 2 installment centered around the idea that Tony Stark had to learn that he didn’t have to fight alone, with some throw in filler about some disease caused by the reactor in his chest, or whatever. The problem here is we watched this character become someone in Iron Man 2 who he isn’t in the Avengers. For that reason, it feels like the writers just said

“Hmmmm … how are we gonna build character here? Well, Bruce Banner just wants to keep to himself. We can throw some sort of sexual tension between Hawkeye and Black Widow. Audiences love sexual tension between attractive actors. There’s only one girl on the team though, so we can only do that once. Wait, didn’t Iron Man used to be a big billionaire ladies man? That seems like the opposite of what Captain America stands for. Why don’t we put them at odds? Then by the end they could learn to work together and gain mutual respect. Yeah, that will work.”

“What about Iron Man 2 where he learned to work as a team with War Machine?”

“Well, it’s either that or we spend another hour brainstorming, and I’ve got a pile of cocaine at home that isn’t going to snort itself.”

“You don’t write while high? No wonder you have such terrible ideas!”

This led me to roll my eyes when Captain America and Iron Man work together to fix the broken engine on the Avengers base. Why was Loki trying to destroy the Avengers base anyways?

Loki’s Plan

What was Loki’s plan anyways? To get caught and unleash the Hulk? I’m not even sure how his getting captured actually caused that to happen. I mean, they all start arguing when they have Loki’s spear in the room, but its never made 100% clear that it was the spear causing them to do that in the first place. And in the end, Loki’s soldiers end up attacking the Avengers ship anyways. Why did he need to get caught? Is making the Avengers argue important enough to give them the weapon that can dismantle your entire plan? We see later in the movie that the spear is the only thing that can de activate his portal. Loki seems to be there to try to get Bruce Banner to Hulk out and destroy the ship, but in the end it’s his troops attacking the ship that causes that anyways. Did they follow the energy signature of the staff to find the base? Was taking down the Avengers ship REALLY so important that Loki would risk everything to hand them the fail safe to his weapon? But they handle this with a line of expository dialogue by saying the attack was the “trailer”, and taking over is his “big release”. Um … ok. Why not release the army first and use them to attack the Avengers directly? The Avengers are having trouble finding you anyways. Why not release the army somewhere where they don’t have to come through a small hole, but instead get your whole army to the planet and fortify the position of the portal. Attacking through a narrow gateway is a sure fire way to get everything that comes through killed instantly. That’s exactly how the Spartans kept the Persians at bay for so long in 300.

It’s a major problem when the two major points of tension in your movie is when a) an engine breaks down and has to be repaired, and b) one of your heroes loses control and goes on a rampage in your home base. In fact, the scene where they all start arguing in the lab made me question how stupid this group of people really is. Black Widow runs in knowing that Loki’s plan was to make Bruce Banner lose control and go Jekyl on their flying base, and she still ends up joining the argument. The whole scene just makes them all look stupid. If the only thing that can cause you any damage is infighting in your team, then I question why this team assembled in the first place. Why couldn’t everyone just meet up at the end and fight this alien army as individuals? That is basically what happens in the end anyways. Then you could save the cost on your flying aircraft carrier. Oh wait, I guess you have to prove that there is some kind of character development in this movie though. Seriously though, how awesome of a movie would that be? From start to finish, army of aliens open a portal and start coming through, and Marvel characters just start showing up to beat the crap out of them. That’s pretty much the whole Onslaught saga, and that was one of the most popular Marvel series of all time. I’m not against a mind numbing action movie, but then don’t waste my time with the illusion that your building story or character. Cut the story, throw in 5 more Marvel characters, and then have them go tag team and just ripping aliens apart in awesome poses. With this idea, you could even release five more Marvel character films and rake in even more cash.

Onslaught and the Avengers
Guys! You’re going the wrong way! He’s THAT way!

Wait, and another thing … during the final battle, why is the portal not being defended? You’d think that as an invasion force, securing the one thing that is allowing you to bring reinforcements is the thing that you’d want to most closely protect. Oh no wait, Loki’s guarding it. Because he’s proved to be such a effective force to be reckoned with in the past. Which brings me to the enemy of this film.

The Enemy

Who were these bad guys? I know there was supposed to be a veiled mystery around who the guy who was clearly using Loki was, but what was this enemy force? They are referred to as extra terrestrials. From where? Why do they want to take over earth? Why are they even using Loki? What is Loki giving them when he enslaves man kind? What is this enemy getting out of earth? Are they going to share ownership? I’m not really sure why they’re even attacking, other than being told they are attacking and that Loki has an army. Maybe I missed something in the Thor movie, but this isn’t even the biggest flaw in this enemy.

Loki - The Avengers 2012
I’ve enslaved mankind! My first act; craft me a helmet with even BIGGER horns! Mwa ha ha ha!!

The final battle of the movie opens and extra terrestrials start pouring out of the portal. At no point during the beginning of this battle is there any struggle. Seriously, I felt no sense of tension or dread at any point for that battle scene. Tony Stark starts leading them around tight corners and they immediately start crashing into walls and blowing up. Captain America, Hawkeye and Black Widow start picking off the soldiers like flies. A giant monster/ship/fish comes out of the portal, and Iron Man lures it to the Hulk who struggles, overwhelmed, for a few moments and then destroys it. Just kidding, he pushes against it for two seconds and then Iron Man blows it up. Immediately after that, we see more of the same enemies pour out the portal. Why should I care? I just watched the Avengers make short work of what’s already come out of it. At this point, I’m convinced that you could just leave the portal open and beat anything down that comes through. It really kills the tension when the enemy forces can’t even harm the heroes and get picked off so easily. And by this point you thought Loki was weak. At least he can like … hypnotize people… by stabbing their heart … until they get hit on the head. Seriously, that’s how Black Widow snaps Hawk Eye out of it. “I hit you on the head … hard.” Lame.

The Final Battle

The first thing I thought of during the final battle was “Transformers 3”, and at any point in a movie that you’ve done anything that makes people think “Transformers 3”, you’ve failed not only as a director, you’ve failed at creativity in general. You might respond that somehow this battle scene was made first and that Michael Bay totally stole the idea. Maybe even Joss Whedon copied Michael Bay, or worst of all, two directors had similarly bad ideas at the same time.

Now I understand the concept of setting the final battle in a crowded city. When we see familiar buildings being destroyed, we are being told that there is a lot at stake. Again though, this movie still hasn’t explained to us what will happen if Loki wins. I guess we’ll be enslaved, but I don’t even know what will happen to us as slaves. So, to make sure that we know we as humans have something at stake, Transformers 3 and The Avengers feature a big CGI mess in the middle of a crowded city. We watch civilians run for cover and our heros protect them. At this point though, it’s not enough for me to care. This has been done too often in the epic CGI block busters. I get that if they battled out in space we’d feel even farther removed, but featuring the final battle in a crowded city is just overdone, and its a cheap trick to make up for lack of a plot.

The other thing I hate about this is that the enemies are totally faceless. It’s like the designers got bored and just built 3 classes of interchangeable troops. We have the soldiers you run around with axe guns, we’ve got some flying ships that look like a the goblin glider being ridden double dutch, and then some other big ass ship that looks like some kind of animal. There is nothing exceptional or unique about these designs. In fact, you could have traded any random robot from Transformers 3 with one of the soldiers from The Avengers, and I wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference.

Tranformer 3 vs The Avengers Final Battle Comparison
Oh no wait, I can see the difference. One is heading in the other direction. My bad

There was no theme, just robot monsters that when you hit them, they explode. Yawn.

Team Balance

Now lets get to one of the most challenging things this film had to deal with; assembling a “super team”. When you have a team composed of a demigod and an invincible rage monster, you need to find something for the human assassin and Robin Hood to do. Now I give props to Scarlett Johansson and Jeremy Renner. They both did well with the parts they were given and actually pulled off seeming pretty badass. I was actually impressed with how this was handled in the first half of the movie. They turned Hawkeye bad so he was sort of out of the picture, and made Black Widow the master interrogator and totally pulled information out of Loki, believably as well. The fight in close quarters even sort of made sense, and they seemed to keep themselves occupied and useful while the flying air base went down. However, in the final battle my worst fears were realized. After the ship they fly in on crashes, they get out and help Captain America protect civilains while Thor, Iron Man and the Hulk deal with the whole “invading army” situation. This draws a very clear line between the Avengers A team, and the Avengers B team, which totally kills the idea of the Avengers “Team” to me. By the end, convenient plot devices had to unfold to give them anything to do at all. It’s not a team if you’re skills encompass having Bruce Banner and Tony Stark on speed dial.

The Avengers 2012 - Black Widow on Phone
Crap, no bars! I wonder if there is a pay phone around here …


Now I’m not going to beat on this movie much longer. As far as comic book movies go, this one falls about in the middle of the road. We don’t have a scene where Tony Stark starts busting a move for Pepper Potts in a jazz night club

Sam Raimi - Spider-man 3
You are NEVER forgiven, Sam Raimi

but there are a lot of areas that it could have been better. I knew that this whole “Avengers” movie was a money grab right from the moment Captain America came out. And it worked too. Avengers pre-sale tickets topped all over Marvel movies COMBINED. I get that movies are made so that studio’s make money, and this was a logical investment based on the success of Iron Man. That said, with Joss Whedon attached to the project, I expected much more. I thought with such a great director that the movie might take SOME chances. Tell a superhero movie in a way that we haven’t seen before. It didn’t though. It felt like something that’s been done before. Something slapped together and the producers sat back and waited for cheques to start rolling in.

There’s a couple laughs, and the visuals are great, and we get to see Tony Starks new Mark 7 suit (selling for $39.99 at your local Toys R Us) but there is no tension or feeling in the movie. Robert Downey Jr shines through as a great character and his nicknames that he slides in for each of the characters are priceless (Legolas for Hawkeye, Reindeer Games for Thor). We don’t care about the plot because the enemy seems largely impotent and we’re not even sure what will happen if they win. We’re all privy to the fact that there will be an Iron Man 3 so we know that Tony Stark will be fine at the end during his grand sacrifice. We even haven’t seen Hulk for a couple scenes and know that he will fly out and catch him at the last second.

The funny thing is for this movie, I could have accepted a non-stop action romp if there had been some tension in the battle scenes, but there wasn’t. Even the fight scenes seemed to recycle choreography (Captain America throws shield, it gets blocked, he does a somersault at the enemy, a bit of hand to hand, rolls away and grabs shield, and repeat). If you really want to see a movie though, the real question is why go to this one? I can’t give you a reason. I’ve heard great things about 21 Jump Street, and as far as a big budget epic, Hunger Games wins over the Avengers in every way. I guess if you’ve seen all those and you feel like your too old for American Reunion (which really, if you’re considering the Avengers, your not too old for anything) then I guess go with your mind turned off and just sit back and enjoy the ride.

Besides! They play the third Batman Trailer at the beginning! Actually, scratch everything I’ve said. Seeing that preview on the big screen is worth the price of admission. Maybe after that, see if you can sneak into The Five-Year Engagement.

7 replies on “The Avengers – Review”

Okay so I really wish I would talk about your review instead of writing a reply 🙂

But I’ll give it a try……

What you write is very thought provocking and it’s definitely has at least a couple of good points! But I also feel like you missed the point in some other places, and maybe this is just how we interpret the story/movie differently, or maybe it comes from different views of the Marvel franchise and how it’s handled, I don’t really know.

First off…. yes I thought the movie was brilliant as I felt it really tied together the prequels and that I also felt it handled the big cast very well. I hadn’t heard anywhere that the story was supposed to be channelled through Steve Rogers/Captain America (was that who you ment when you wrote Steve Austin??), so I wasn’t aware of that when I went into the theater. But yes I agree, it totally didn’t. And usually I’d agree on your point that it generally works well for any movie to have a key character that the audience relates to (like Wolverine). But it really depends on what type of story you’re trying to tell and I doubt that would have worked very well with this one.

As for Captain America and Iron Man, well this is clearly a difference in interpretation. I really felt like Iron Man learned to work with other people (somewhat!!! this is Tony Stark after all) in Iron Man 2, but far from being a Soldier, like Captain America. Naturally they will disagree on certain things, this is a major part of the Avengers comic books, and one of the reasons I love the comics, excluding that would have been a strange move for Marvel (they are known to retcon, reboot and change character background but they seldom change their actual personalities!) and I felt like they stayed true to the characters comic book counterparts which for comic book fans is really important <3

I found myself relating to a lot of characters I didn't expect I'd relate to, like Hawkeye who I never cared for much in the comics. But here I instead found myself caring and rooting for him despite how he was a bad guy for half the film. I also felt like the previous movies really worked in propelling this story into motion, although I also felt like it could stand alone because of the way they introduced and handled the characters in the first part of the movie.

As for Loki…. it was very clear in the movie Thor that he was a bit unstable, a 'box of cats' to quote Banner, and even more so in this movie. I really felt sorry for him through all this, not for what he was doing, but because of how patetic him and his feud really was. As for Loki allowing himself to get captured, I really think it was mostly to make a point with his brother (not all plans are perfect, surely not one so childish) and he wasn't even aware that the Sceptor held the key to stopping the portal (as Dr. Selvig pointed out, he added that as a security measure despite being under the sway of the Tesseract), furthermore his plan was alway to wage a war against the Avengers to prove a point to the Chitauri as well as defeat what stood in the way of him ruling Earth and proving to his brother that he is more suited as a king (which he evidently isn't… but yeah… 'box of cats'). As for attacking the Helicarrier, well it's clear that he reckoned that with it the Avengers would be more 'assembled' and apt at fighting him. It's always good to attack and destroy the home base of any enemy, that's plain war logic. As for waiting with the attack well here are two reasons I could think of:
1) stalling the avengers and keeping their attention away from finding the Tesseract so that Dr. Selvig could finish and open the portal
2) He wanted a proper show-down to prove that he could break the earths defence/its heroes. Not the most well made assessment, but then again Loki is clearly not a good leader or strategist. He plays a game of deception but that's really his best card. Which is also why I think he let himself get caught. He is the demi-god of mischief after all.
3) The attack against the Helicarrier was also clearly a way for Hawkeye etc. to retrieve Loki after excecuting point 1, e.i. opening the portal.

As for Black Widow running into Loki's plan, I don't really agree… She didn't intend to make Bruce Banner angry, but actually went there to ensure that he wasn't (possibly already being under the sway of the sceptor), but then things got heated as we have a room filled of people that don't always see things eye to eye nor have ever worked together. I felt this a really good way of conveying the problem with Avengers but also how it makes them a dymanic team of diverse personalities and skills. And I really felt like it brought to home what the Avengers really are about, a mismatched band of earths/marvels greatest superheroes that work together despite the odds (and how difficult it can prove at times). It's what I feel makes the Avengers charming in comparison with e.g. Fantastic Four or Alpha Team.

As for the main Enemies of the movie. You seemed to miss that they weren't really after the Earth, but was really after the Tesseract. Why they wanted it, I would assume is pretty obvious (awesome power, you can harness almost endless energy, works as a portal between words, etc. etc. etc.)

I do agree that the ending part with the fight was a bit lackluster in some areas, the scenes that featured how our Heroes are getting beaten where quite brief (Hawkeye running out of arrows was awesome though!), mostly with Hawkeye falling through the window and laying there panting, Black Widow almost losing before Cap shows up, Captain America getting overrun and then helped by Thor. I really liked how they handled Hawkeye and Black Widow though, I really got the feeling that they were human and couldn't always keep up with the Hulk etc. but had other strengths.

And ss for Loki getting beaten, I actually though it made for an interesting and quite unusual way of handling a bad guy in Hollywood, it really shows he's not perfect and faaar from as calculated as he'd have us think through the first part of the movie. He's a meglomaniac who thinks too highly of himself and feels he has been slighted by his 'brother' and lied to all of his life. No wonder he jumps at the opportunity to take a dump in his 'brother's' backyard/steal his 'brother's' toys.

I must confess I laughed at what you wrote about the design of the enemy troops (especially the "flying ships that look like a the goblin glider being ridden double dutch" part). I didn't originally think of it this way, but I totally see what annoyed you and haha yeah they weren't the most engaging of baddies. But really, I read and enjoy comic books, a lot of the enemies there are just that. Faceless extra terrestrials….. 😛 But here's to hoping for different ones in the Avengers 2.

Yeah sure the movie has it's flawes. But for all of that I really feel like they encompassed all the things about the Marvels Avengers that I like. Imo I thought there was proper development of the characters (sure I would have loved more but that would make the movie waaaaay too long I think. Some people already complained that there wasn't enough action, which I'm a bit surprised at.) I really felt it was well balanced. And Joss Whedon has already said that the next movie will focus more on the group dynamics and how the team works as this movie mostly tries to establish them and how they become a team. As for the team A vs team B group dynamic I couldn't agree less…. I think the Avengers prove that different qualities (and not always necessarily having the same ones) can make up a really good team 🙂

As for the logic of the movies progression, you clearly didn't pay much attention to the plot. The reason they had everyone assembled was to help locate Loki and the Tesseract, and for Director Fury to stop S.H.I.E.L.D from using Phase 2 weapons or nucs. And as the Avengers initiative had actually been scraped it was a gamble from Fury's side. As for having them all assembled on the Helicarrier, well you seem to fall for the typical Hollywood line of thought where anywhere in the world is only minutes away. The plan was to find out where Loki/the Tesseract was and then move the team there, naturally getting there would be faster for everyone on a movie battleship than say going from Russia/India etc. seperately.

I have loads more to say, but I'm mostly rambling (tired and it's late here), and I'm sure you won't really agree with half of it anyway 😉 Feel free to point out what you agree/disagree with and why, like I said I love to hear your POV and think it's interesting.

Anyways that's my 2 cents 🙂

Ps. You forgot how Tony Snark called Thor Pointbreak and Cap an "Capcicle" 😉 Ds.

I’ll admit right away that I don’t know that much about the Avengers or understand the “spirit” of the Avengers in terms of the comic books, however I’d say right out of the gate that making that excuse for a movie is terrible since it’s a movie. I shouldn’t have to have any prior knowledge or do extra reading before anything that isn’t a sequel. I didn’t need to read any backup material to truly enjoy the “Lord of the Rings” movies. Good movies don’t require prior readings. They are good on their own.
You might also argue my nature that this is a sequel because of the first movies leading in to it, but I think despite that I kept up with the highly cerebral story. I know the teseract was a power source from Captain America, and Loki is the god of mischeif from the Thor movies without seeing them.
A style of storytelling like X-men I saw as a good candidate. X-men also featured a huge cast of stars all mashed up. Is there another way this movie could have been told? Possibly. The way it was though, I didn’t feel for any of these characters. Could that be because I didn’t see the prequels? Possibly, but again I say that shouldn’t be a prerequisite of seeing a movie. Have a couple callbacks in lines that reference things people who saw those movies might enjoy. The new Star Trek movie does this well. A couple callbacks to the original series are sort of like tongue and cheek puns the real trekkies love, but they don’t detract from the story. Seeing the prequels shouldn’t mean I do or don’t get more out of it, except as a marketing ploy.
Here, I can’t argue with how Captain America is in the comics. I got that he’s a true soldier and that is part of his character. I just don’t understand why him and Tony Stark would be so at odds. They are both technically enhanced humans. Hell, Steve Rogers (thanks for the spelling correction BTW) should be curious about the son of the man who technically made him. It felt like conflict thrown in for the sake of conflict.
The stuff about Loki, a lot of the arguments you make are making both Loki and the Avengers look stupid. For example, he’s the god of mischief. Loki is waging a war to prove a point? He’s crazy and that is why he’s acting irrationally? Isn’t a set of heroes and villains who act intelligently much more interesting to watch? A lot hinged on his plan of getting broken out of that prison. What if Hulk hadn’t joined the Avengers? What if Hawkeye couldn’t track down the base? What if Thor had got his way and taken him prisoner and off earth altogether? When Hollywood says “crazy person is doing crazy things, so you can’t lose logic to argue the point” it sounds lazy to me. As for the Avengers, taking the god of mischief prisoner on your floating fortress seems extremely short sighted.
As for Black Widow falling right into the plan, I don’t see how you can’t see it. If someone had just told you that their plan was to get the Bruce Banner upset, then you ran into a room where a heated argument was taking place that involved Bruce Banner, wouldn’t the first thing you would think to do regardless of the topic is say “Bruce Banner, Loki has a plan to release the Hulk. Can you please step out of this heated argument for a moment and away from the weapon that the god of mischief placed in your possession?” Saying that she got distracted again just seems like lazy writing. Also, I remember now that Loki mentions releasing the Hulk to Nick Fury like 3 times prior to this. Couldn’t take a hint? Lame.
So the main enemies were after the tesseract? I guess I missed that point. Which brings on further questions. If they were after is, why not just get Loki to bring it to them once he had it instead of open a portal? It was shown early on that he could teleport to their world effortlessly.
The ending fight I found so lame. There was no point where I felt like there was any sense of dread or that the heroes were outmatched in any way. It seemed all too easy for them all to win. In an open field of battle, there is no way that Hawkeye and Black Widow have any skill that could be more beneficial then the Hulk. End of story. Also, why could the Hulk suddenly control his powers? What did he learn since his last freak out that was literally hours earlier where he ripped apart their base that now allows him to take orders and distinguish friend from foe?
As for the plot, I think I could keep up with the highly cerebral storyline. However, the argument that bringing them all together was important is irrelevant, since this movie ended up following the Hollywood line of thought that everything in the world is minutes away. They lose the ship they’re flying in anyways, and Bruce Banner shows up on a shitty motorbike at the end. Yeah, that is funny, but its also asking us to believe that wherever he fell out of that flying fortress, it was a 1 hour motorbike drive from not just New York, but the epicenter for the fight. Not to mention, how did he know to go to the Stark Tower? They figured that out after he was gone. I can’t find a reason for these guys to have assembled before this fight other than to create fight scenes between team members and make the movie longer.
Now I get that this movie was just supposed to be fun, but the errors in the movie, the lack of character and how boringly predictable the end fight all added up to make this feel like a B comic book movie. I laughed, I could follow the storyline, but in the end I could have had the same experience watching Iron Man or X-men: First Class for the 100th time respectively. I wanted something more, and with a huge budget and such intelligent people attached, I wonder why wasn’t it? My bone to pick with this movie is what it could have been based on the momentum it had, and that all my expectations of what could go wrong did go wrong. I think the fact that so many people liked this movie has made me dislike it more. People complain about the quality of Michael Bay movies, but then Joss Whedon made something that was only a bit better than the Transformers movie. Further, when we don’t demand more from Hollywood, they say “hey, we mailed it in using a recycled storyline with shallowly developed characters in Avengers and not only did we make 2 billion dollars in the first week, people unanimously loved it.” It could have been better. It should have been better.

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