Marvel Cinematic Universe: The Avengers

Here are the links to my reviews of:

Ant Man
Avengers: Age of Ultron
Guardians of the Galaxy
Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Thor: The Dark World
Iron Man 3

Oh God. Where to I start here?

Preamble

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I’ve started all these MCU blogs so far going through production histories of the movies. From hereon out, however, I’m going to put it on the backburner and make it a more general introduction. To be honest, they’ve gotten harder to write and the main reason I even started them is because I really wanted to write about Edgar Wright’s treatment on Ant Man, as it didn’t really have a lot to do with my criticisms of that movie but I felt it needed bringing up. Joss Whedon’s disdain during Age of Ultron and the authorship question around Guardians of the Galaxy made those more interesting to write about, but after that they became arduous. Winter Soldier had no massive behind the scenes problems at all, and I found that Patty Jenkins’ involvement in Thor: The Dark World was hugely overblown. Iron Man 3 was nearly just a summary of the Wikipedia entry. It’s not interesting for me to write, I doubt it’s that interesting to read. So let’s go on a different tract for Phase One. Starting with the question: what makes this movie so important?

It’s the culmination of various origin movies that were released over the 4 years, sure, but it was bigger than that. A lot of the eggs Marvel put in this basket could have shattered into pieces if Avengers did not deliver. The fact that MCU movies succeed now is old hat, but thinking back to when they had to take out a loan to get this studio going, even with the legacy of Marvel Comics, it felt way more like an underdog story. It being (at the time) the highest grossing non-James Cameron made movie of all time? That was jaw dropping. And it changed everything about how blockbuster cinema was shaped.

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Let’s talk about Joss Whedon, who I feel has a lot of what made this work. If the MCU is good at nothing else, it’s good at understanding the appeal of these characters, and  that passion has survived 11 years and enough money to rule a small island nation. Whedon is a fanboy, through and through. It’s not just that that made this work, however-it’s his careful precision in drafting a script that would resonate with people. He actually threw Zack Penn’s script out and wrote it nearly from scratch, hence why he only got a story credit.

And look, it wasn’t just Joss who made this whole thing so successful. To say that detracts from Kevin Feige or Jon Favreau or the cast or really the thousands and thousands of the behind the scenes people that made every element of this movie work. The Avengers works so well because they had the previous movies to build up hype, the ultimate marketing. Not to mention having the groundwork done meant that all these larger than life heroes could meet up without having to introduce them.

What I really want to cover with this more ramble than preamble is just how singular an event Avengers was. Now that the MCU is such a behemoth, the success of the other films just isn’t that impressive. None of the other Avengers films are as good as this one is (I will fight you on that!), but even ignoring that there was an excitement and a sense of change attached to this, and really film has not been the same since this thing dropped. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing is up to your own interpretation, of course.

I focused in on Whedon, however, because I want to talk about the writing on  display here and just how sharp and tight this script is. It’s one of the most solid ones in the MCU in terms of story structure and characterisation. I’ll be looking at this in regards to theme. So let’s just get right into it! Starting with:

“Let Me Know if Real Power Wants a Magazine”-Fury V Loki, Hierarchical vs Cooperative Order

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We need a new linking theme. For Phase Two, it was Adaptability. For this Phase, it’s Discovery. Outside of the obvious big one in story is humanity’s discovery of aliens, The Avengers discover what it means to be a team. It’s biggest theme is really a simple one: united we stand, divided we fall. Their moral is no more complex than a song by that band Six.

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God, there’s a…there’s a topical fecking reference for ya

But unity, by itself, is not the main goal of the narrative. It’s a unity decided by camaraderie and equal choice. That’s a huge aspect of this film; it’s not just the bad guys trying to control everything by a strict rule of levelling hierarchy. The good guys are, too. Loki’s just most blatant, and they makes some pretty obvious comparisons between him and Hitler. He even has a shot of him standing on a podium overlooking his wanted ‘subjects’. But his control is coerced and deliberately forced-he gets his power from a more powerful agent and his sceptre (also borrowed) mind controlling people. The Trickster God’s greatest trick is trying to convince humanity he’s in control. But, and let’s be fair here, he’s not the only one with nefarious ways of commanding order by subterfuge and borrowed power.

The Avengers is an ensemble, so it doesn’t really have a “protagonist”. There is, however, a character that helps define the themes through their growth in the narrative and set a clear parameter about what it’s hoping to accomplish. I believe our protagonist, thematically anyway, is Nicholas J. Fury. Think about it; he’s the focal character of the opening and the first to confront Loki. Their standoff defines their stated goals as characters: Loki wants complete control of the population to worship him, Fury wants to protect this planet by any means necessary. Both parties want control, they just go about it in different ways.

This idea of control vs freedom is something that comes up a lot in these movies. I talked about it a lot in Guardians of the Galaxy, though that film is a lot more anarchic in spirit, and we see it explicitly in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. The difference between this movie and TWS is the Avengers looks at the function of a hierarchical power structure and how it should be implemented, whereas the other film was more about personal liberties. Fury is from the old way; the homogenised, cool-suited secret agency tasked with taking charge of that which is not easily defeated by conventional means.  And in a way, you could see the ‘old guard’ of less colourful, more serious-minded comic book movies that were popular in the 2000s being put to roost as the more personality-filled, primary-coloured roster took to life. It’s all connected, it’s one big party for itself!

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Sorry, Boring X-Men

The reason I say Fury is the protagonist is because the story is defined through his growth. At the start, he’s stalwart to his mission and his need to keep it secret. And the hierarchical structure even makes him uneasy-his talks with the World Security Council are caustic, but still he follows orders. He’s a soldier fighting a battle bigger than him. This is another contrast to Loki, who also has higher ups, but he tends not to acknowledge them or pretend he’s really working for them when, you know, he is.

Look at even the way the camera tends to frame them. Loki gets some really theatrical shots. When he lands after transported through the Tesseract, his face takes up the screen. He’s shown making people genuflect or standing theatrically and menacingly. Fury’s more busybody-his first shot is just getting him off a helicopter. He tends to stand away from the camera and never gets the kind of close-ups or impressive shooting that Loki has. It displays that both look at their own power differently-for one it’s a desire, for the other it’s a duty. This rounds up to their conversation after Loki is transported to the Helicarrier.

It’s the perfect summary of both characters. Loki sneers at him like he’s a child, not understanding what real power is and his desperate control of the Avengers. Fury pins it on him-because to him he’s just trying to restore order tothe planet. In a way Loki is right, even if he’ll never see his own flaws. But it’s this brief exchange where we see their philosophies on power and control, and how both are wrong in regards to how real power should be respected. It’s not through authority, and Fury doesn’t understand this through Loki. He does through Coulson.

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Ah, the beloved Agent Coulson. There’s a reason why his character got so popular with the fans, he was them. He’s the one who saw through the bullshit of even his own job to what really mattered-a team of heroes to unite us, not to safeguard us via subterfuge from the evils of this planet. He knows that people need a little old fashioned. He even bonds with all three main members of the team before his death (well, “death”, but for the purposes of this movie, Coulson dies). He’s the one that gets from the start that they need heroes leading the way, and it’s why he’s the catalyst not only for their team-up, but Fury’s change.

You see, his entire method of control is manipulation and subterfuge. He wishes to find a way to convince them to fight as soldiers in SHIELD’s war, but he isn’t upfront with everything. He coerces the Avengers each to join them even if they’re really not up to task, like Banner. He hides the fact that SHIELD is developing weapons with the Tesseract’s power, all to convince them their wish to retrieve it is entirely on the up and up. Acting like they’ll use it as a fuel source instead of a weapon. That backfires on him as it causes a huge scuffle that distracts them long enough to get the Helicarrier attacked. Then Coulson-sweet, innocent Phil-is shot down in the line of duty doing something incredibly heroic. Even killed by the authority figure who refuses to budge on his position of control.

What does Fury do after he puts his man down? Manipulate the Avengers again…away from his control. Because he realises these heroes mean more for the world, for the sake of the planet. He pretends Coulson had those trading cards on his person when he was killed because that’s their push, but it’s a push away from SHIELD’s mandate. He even demonstrates this by directly going against the World Security Council’s orders and trying to stop the nuke.

The Avengers Initiative was never a plan Fury was going to put into operation-his hand was played after the Tesseract was taken. But he finally gets what Coulson saw, what the world needed. Heroes to lead us into the sunlight, not field agents to keep it at bay. He even closes the film with this acknowledgement that they’ll come back: “Because we’ll need them to”. Not as a back-up for the big scary nukes, but a team of heroes who’ll join and save the world, showing it exactly why it needs to be saved. Away from a hierarchical goal and towards independent choice of comraderie.

I’ve said, arguably too much, about Fury. What about the rest of the Avengers? Well, they have their own issue you see.

“That’s My Secret, Cap; I’m Always Angry” Underestimating and Ego

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Let’s not use words to describe this, let’s just show my favourite moment in the film. And, of course, it’s nothing funny or awesome or smart, it’s one full of sentiment.

This sums up a huge component of both Loki’s motivation and what plagues the rest of the cast: underestimation. Our villain looks down on humanity, he thinks he has them pegged and he’s wrong. The human element is a pretty big factor here-while there really isn’t a Spider-Man-esque moment of them coming together to save our heroes, they convey the heart and spirit of what this team is fighting for. And Loki brushes them off like they’re nothing, like beings wanting to be controlled. But maybe it’s easy to think that when you come face to face with heroes so compromised by their own senses of self and how much they underestimate their supposed teammates.

Let’s talk about Loki’s plan, because it brings up a lot of these issues. Despite him completely looking down on humans, he really does know how to utilise their strengths to his advantage. He’s intuitive, and knows he can trust Clint when he stages his own kidnapping while he gets the containment unit for the Tesseract. He plays on all their insecurities and foibles to get them to fall out, and uses this to get Banner to Hulk out and break them apart. Not only is this a great reference to the first Avengers comic, he knows what will get into their heads. How does this fail on him, then? Because, as Tony says, it’s not a great plan. They will come, anyway. He’s so arrogant, he gives them the clue that he’s opening the portal on Tony’s plaza.

In terms of how these egos play against each other, Steve and Tony are the most obvious. Which makes sense, as their personal ideals are polar opposite. Steve is the humble Brooklyn boy who believes in strength and honour ,standing up for what is right and knowing a soldier’s place. Stark is a crass, cynical and self-centred control freak who doesn’t toe the line if it gets in his way. These people were never going to get along, and now they’re forced to work together. And they don’t. During the fight before the Helicarrier attack, the two nearly come to fisticuffs. How this changes is their personal philosophies shifting.

For Cap, it’s about coming to terms with a new world that may not entirely fit him. He doesn’t realise he needs to change, however, it’s that the world should be shown a better way. This isn’t an easy thing for him to deal with; he’s a soldier with a very black-and-white world view. But once he realises SHIELD can be just as shady as any evil power, his training and way of looking at things breaks down. This is more pointedly explored in his own movies, but here he chooses to rise to the occasion and be a hero. His confidence and army training makes him the perfect field leader, so that’s the role he ends up falling into. He even instructs the cops to help civilians and directly inspires them by just being Cap. Because we live in a world that needs Captain America.

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For Tony, it’s to let his ego slide and be part of the unit. In their fight, Steve even calls out how he wouldn’t “lay down on a wire”, with Tony replying he would just cut it. He always thinks there’s a way out. But seeing someone he knows die so brutally makes him realise sometimes there isn’t a way to always be in control. He slides in as a tactician and the brains of the team, even before the debriefing in New York giving the floor to Steve. It’s Tony that saves the day; he lays on the wire to get the nuke out into space and use it to destroy the Chitauri fleet. That’s the crux of Steve and Tony’s relationship here; they underestimate their ability and their commitment. Both learn to respect what they bring and the kind of prowess they serve in the heat of the battle. Even if they don’t get along, that is enough to put their differences aside and trust each other.

Next we have Thor, whose worst traits come out because of his brother. He just underestimates everyone around him and has to be talked down even in his first encounter with Steve and Tony. While he had to learn humility in his solo outing, he did it surrounded by friends who had a vested interest in him. Here, he has to table his considerable power with the likes of those who have no idea what they are dealing with. He says as much in the oft-quoted (by me) argument, these people are petty and tiny. Then he gets his ass handed to him by The Hulk, gets fooled by Loki in an embarrassing way, witnesses Coulson’s death and temporarily cannot lift Mjolnir. Facing another painful lesson in humility, he makes one last attempt to appeal to his brother, and after that fails, he becomes part of a team. Even fighting alongside the Jade Giant himself. And getting knocked partway across the room for his trouble.

Black Widow is an interesting case, because she’s the only one of these fools not fighting for ego. She gets the value of comradarie and connection because she has that with Clint Barton, the man that took her in and reformed her. Yet her own misdeeds blinds her from SHIELD’s, and she becomes the (somewhat reluctant) cheerleader for them when shit is thrown down. When Barton is finally deprogrammed, she confesses to him that she needs her ledger washed, emotionally at least. Realising a shady as hell spy agency is not the best way to get that shot at redemption was a wake-up call. From thereon in, she’s loyal to the Avengers. It’s rather sweet that she’s the one who severs the link with the Chitauri, stopping an all-encompassing evil from taking everything over.

Now we have Banner, who exemplifies this theme the best. Note, not the Hulk, Bruce Banner. Because who he underestimates is himself. Constantly. He does not know if he can control his own emotions and level with this destructive force inside him. Banner is pretty emblematic of the new guard taking over from the old, especially on the meta sense of being played by another actor. He cannot give into his superhero wonder, because it levels cities. This is why his relationship with Stark is so fascinating. He’s a man burdened without insecurities that throws caution to the wind dealing with an introverted genius who cannot let anything get out of control. The scene where the two of them talk about their own burdens is why it’s so brilliant to have these guys cross over from their own little corners of this universe. Tony shows Bruce he managed to control his own destructive burden and made it a strength. It makes Banner realise that he’s not alone.

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“That’s my secret, Cap; I’m always angry” is such a potent line because it tells us exactly what we need to know about Banner. Because the ability to unleash the Hulk is always there, but he’s afraid that he cannot be strong enough to reel it in and mediate with the ‘Big Guy’ to not go fully AWOL. But he lost control anyway and went on a rampage, not because he feared, but because he couldn’t trust the other guy to not do so. It’s the symbiosis of our own impulses that we need to learn to trust as we get older, actualised in a silly comic book character. Bruce finally realises that when Hulk intentionally lands on an empty building, saving people. He may not have full control of his rage, but he has enough to know that it can be trusted not to go on a rampage. He needs to stop doubting that The Hulk (essentially himself) will not fly off the handle. It’s terrific character writing, and takes Hulk to a level in the movies we have not seen yet. The duality between these two remains fascinating, and I’m so happy Whedon did something with it and made it thematically relevant.

And hell, who’s the one that takes a god down a peg? The one who shows him there are always men like him? That’s what he gets for underestimating Avengers, and humanity. Shown what an ant can do given the right motivation. Okay, an immensely powerful green rage monster created as a manifestation of the human id, but still! Puny God, indeed.

And Hawkeye…is there. He shoots arrows. You’re welcome, everyone! Seriously, writing about every character is arduous, and he’s spends most of the movie mind controlled. Sorry. Speaking of shooting arrows, let’s talk action!

“And Hulk? Smash” Some Well Thought Out Action, Indeed

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The action scenes in this movie are surprisingly sparse until, like, the final 30-minute-long blowout. This feels intentional, and it’s rather clever to tease the audience with just enough until things go nuts. We have the opening, which has a typical chase angle to it as Project P.E.G.A.S.U.S. falls down and Loki takes two men for his own. Nat taking down the guards is quick, compact and implements comedy really well with just one cutback to Coulson on the phone. In a future MCU movie his bit would be extended, but just the one cutaway really makes it work. it’s an excellent reintroduction to Nat when Iron Man 2 didn’t do a lot to set her up.

Then we have the showdown with Cap, Iron Man and Thor. Three of the prominent Avengers duke it out, and gives us a taste as to what’s to come. One of the best things about this film is its ability to make action scenes look like they leaped from a comic book page right into real life, and the image of Cap’s shield deflecting Mjolnir and destroying a forest is right up there. Then things are quiet until the Helicarrier attack. It’s an extended action sequence; every character is given something to do. I love the shot of Natasha running away from the Hulk, even the slow-mo works here. Steve and Tony are forced to cooperate and, while their communication is not 100%, it diffuses the tension between them so it’s action that adds character. While everything is bombastic and cluttered, the framing of it is careful and concise enough to not make it overwhelming. Thor and Hulk’s fight is a bit too short, but I get that it, it’s not a huge priority in terms of plot. Everything just falls into chaos so cleanly, if that makes sense. Also love how Hulk jumping at the jet is mirrored in Age of Ultron.

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But oh man, the Battle of New York. This one changed everything. It’s the one moment every piece of media connected in continuity to the MCU has mentioned. Ignoring that, it’s where we really got to see a tone, style and aesthetic for these films solidify. I need to give props to the sound scope here, because I never do. These guys create such a rich texture and consistent sound design for the entire series that you can have them played to you at random and you know what Cap’s shield sounds like, or Mjolnir, or Iron Man’s suit, etc. It’s really apparent here because so many elements are at play, and because we have a crisp, consistent use of sound, it helps guide us into what’s happening and how things are moving around. The triumph in the score, one of the best in the MCU, is complimented by a satisfying thud of a large snake space monster thing falling to the ground.

It’s not just the sound effects and music, however. Just look at some of the camera work on display. There is one of the best tracking shots I’ve seen in all the films, showing each character moving in tandem and reacting to the carnage. It’s the one that ends with Hulk punching Thor, which is a great cut of tension and a huge laugh. It’s just incredible how so much is happening and yet it’s easy to make out. There’s some excellent, iconic shots, from Iron Man’s blasts being reverberated off Cap’s shield, to Hawkeye shooting a target without looking, to Cap saving civilians bouncing a bomb off his shield, etc. Also, hell, look at how the civilians are used! Some get more focus than others, and the threat to their lives is constantly, constantly reinforced.  They’re an important element to this fight and represent what we’re fighting for.

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Honestly, I could go on, but reading about action sequences is boring. I legit think the movie totally earns that build-up, and no matter its flaws, how well the Battle of New York plays out makes this film one of the most memorable in the MCU. Sure, the portal in the sky thing became a ridiculous cliché after, but I really don’t think it affects the impact here, and it’s just pure, unadulterated comic book fun, showing us a glimpse of what superhero action could look like.

And, I mean, there’s that scene…

“And There’s One Other Person You Pissed Off”-Reincorporation

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Oh, Joss Whedon. He loves his planting and pay off! He especially loves telling recurring jokes that end up coming back in really tragic ways. After all, cavemen always win. To list them all would kind of make this go on forever, so I’m gonna try to pick a few that stuck out for me. Maybe I’m just praising a movie for…doing what movies do, but the amount of subtle callbacks really makes this script sparkle and really come together.

-Loki and Fury’s first conversation has Loki say “An ant has no quarrel with a boot’ when the SHIELD head says they have no quarrel. Later on when Loki is “kidnapped”, Fury tells him how the trap works by saying “Ant. Boot.”

-Black Widow’s interrogation of the mob guys at the beginning essentially signals the reveal that she’s playing Loki to get information about his plan. She clearly has a knack for getting arrogant blowhards into a false sense of security by playing the victim.

-When Cap says he can’t be surprised, Fury says “Ten bucks says you’re wrong”. On the Helicarrier, Steve actually pays him the ten bucks. This is a cute nod to his fish out of water naivety.

-Coulson’s trading card is a cute little gag to show his fanboyism, given a tragic dimension after his death. Also Fury repeats his line of ‘Old fashioned’.

-Not even a callback to earlier in this movie, but Loki tricking Thor into falling into the cage by using his illusionary powers. “Are you ever not going to fall for that?”

-I mentioned this above in my character rundown of Tony, but when Cap calls him out for not saving others and Tony saying he’d find another way around, leading to Stark actually sacrificing his life to take out the fleet. Also, his friendship with Banner pays off here as it’s Hulk who ends up saving him in freefall.

-Loki ignores Stark’s repeated requests for a drink when they meet at his Tower. After he’s been defeated and taken in by The Avengers, he says to Stark he’ll take that drink. This is even his final line in the film.

-Both Natasha and Stark ask Banner what’s his secret to staying calm. He even throws it in Nat’s face during the sceptre fight. This, of course, leads to the infamous “That’s my secret, Cap; I’m always angry.”

-When Coulson first visits Tony and Pepper, she calls him “Phil” and Stark responds “His name is Agent”. After Coulson dies, Tony confronts Loki about someone else he pissed off at his house: “His name was Phil”.

There’s probably many, many other examples of stuff like this, but this is running too long and they clearly went over my head. Don’t hesitate to point out ones you think I missed.

“Not a Great Plan” Flaws

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I will say straight up that the only major issue I have is with the general aesthetic. I’m sorry, the lighting and shot composition just make it look so TV movie-esque. It definitely has not aged the best out of the ones I’ve seen so far in terms of visual complexity. There’s some really great shots throughout, but it’s clamboured by a weak aesthetic and moment-to-moment cinematography.

The opening ten minutes are legitimately awful. Like painfully, unwatchably bad. The dialogue is rote and forced, Loki takes over the base way too quickly. It has some of the worst shot action in the entire film, there’s no sense of tension or stakes, and it just has the air of arbitration stuck to it. Like we just needed to show Loki getting the Tesseract and controlling Hawkeye and Selvig, let’s just throw this shit into the opening and move on. At least the film picks up considerably after this.

Speaking of Hawkeye and Selvig, how the Sceptre’s mind control is broken is seriously weak (remember, it’s harbouring an Infinity Stone). A knock on the head breaks it entirely? That’s such convenient bullshit. As well as Selvig oh-so-handily shaking it off just enough to build a failsafe into the portal device. I know it fits thematically, but it just reeks of “We need to resolve the plot somehow”. Another plot contrivance that’s thematically appropriate is all the Chitauri falling after Stark detonated their space fleet. It’s very Return of the Kings in that regard (hell, at least that was magic-this just seemed like a failure in tech). One could argue their life support was cut off, but still you think they’d die a lot slower than just dropping there and then.

Thor is way too irrational after he arrives on Earth, ditto Stark after he attacks him. I know they’re both hotheaded, but they seemed to just take the idiot pill in order to get our inevitable “Hero fights hero over misunderstanding” moment. Tale as old as comic books. It just feels like one of the earlier moments conceived in the planning stages, and they just never found a way for the confrontation to happen more organically. It has the feel of boys playing with their toys. Actually, Thor and Loki’s relationship is not as well covered as it should be. I mean, he’s one of the main driving motivators for the God of Mischief, but while their complicated sibling connection is brought up here and there, it feels oddly sidelined for everything else going on.

While I’m here, not to use the “S”-word or anything, but man are the women not well handled. It’s a pretty major sausage fest as is, but that’s most MCU films. Even as love interests, at least one woman does stand out in other movies. Pepper is just here as an emotional anchor for Tony, as fun and well written as their banter is. Maria Hill is a cipher who only seems to be there because, well, she’s in the comics! Nat is given the most to work with, and she has the semblance of an arc, but her personality and growth never come through in a way that doesn’t make her feel overshadowed by all the other players around her. This is kind of an issue with how she’s depicted in all the other movies, sans Winter Soldier and Civil War, but still. This is something that either bothers you or not, and maybe it just stands out to me because the creator of Buffy wrote this, but still it’s something I felt was lacking here.

That’s all, really. All that comes to mind right now at least. Rest of the film is solid, and none of these things really break it for me at all. It’s good stuff, kids.

Post-credit Scenes & Miscellaneous

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The mid-credit scene was obviously a huge one. Loki working for Thanos the whole time was a stunning reveal, and gotta love Marvel for playing the long game here. This moment doesn’t pay off for another 6 years! But I loved it-that slow build-up until him showing his shit-eating grin to the camera was a huge jaw dropping moment. No reason to elaborate further, really-it’s probably the best post-credit stinger the MCU have done.

A post-credit scene was added for its America release, and actually shows the gang getting schwarma and silently munching on it. It’s cute, I love them all bringing their own individual quirk to their silent performances here. They really sell how wiped the whole team are. Also, Chris Evans is covering a beard in this scene, and that cracks me up. My favourite part is Thor testing the schwarma, contemplating it, then scarfing it once he realises he approves.

Other things I noticed that didn’t fit anywhere else:

-Alan Silvestri’s score remained the best background music in these movies until Black Panther. It’s sweeping, epic, heroic, and fits The Avengers just as comfortably as John Williams’ fits Superman.

-Poor Hawkeye really got the shaft here, huh? No wonder Age of Ultron spends so much time dedicated to his character. Not that I particularly cared that he was missing for most of the movie…

-I know Banner needed a moment to realise he could trust Hulk, but how the fuck did he divert his fall into an abandoned building?! He’s fucking huge! How did he know there was no people in there? Oh well, any excuse to see Harry Dean Stanton, I guess (R.I.P., my dude).

-Banner’s story about trying to kill himself was actually a reference to one of the original endings to The Incredible Hulk, though the scene plays out really, really differently. I liked the one they went for in this movie-it’s a lot darker and more unsettling. Also, that ending was originally how Steve’s body got unearthed from the ice.

-I had a minor debate after seeing Captain Marvel if the Tesseract was brought up after Cap was, but this movie solved that almost immediately. Howard took it up decades before they found Steve. In my defense, I haven’t seen these movies in so long.

-Also like the one line reference to Howard by  Tony in regards to his relationship to Cap. Really helps add another layer to Iron Man and Captain America’s dynamic.

-I also think, given Infinity War, it makes a lot of sense that one of the first stones Thanos would go for (after retrieving the Mind Stone) would be the Space Stone. After all, don’t we find out it brought someone pretty damn close to a certain Stone seemingly missing in the Cosmos?

-Buffyverse cameo: The Other, Thanos’ lieutenant and liaison, is voiced by none other than Alexis Denisof. For his trouble, the very next scene he appears after this movie, despite having such a huge presence in it, is dying. He’s one of the first recurring characters in the MCU  to be killed and stay dead.

-I love how Project P.E.G.A.S.U.S. was being developed over Thor’s battle in New Mexico at the end of his movie. It’s continuity nods like that, and their ripple effects into other movies, that helps the Marvel Cinematic Universe feel so much more alive.

-All the letters in Stark Tower falling except for the A is great. Stark letting his ego break down and becoming part of a team, turns his tower into Avengers Tower.

-Cap giving Nat a boost was cute. Even that early on, the seeds of their friendship were being planted.

-My favourite doofy thing about this film is how nobody has visible communicators on in the final fight. It was clearly too arduous to get the logistics of everyone being fitted one as Banner and Thor were coming into town, but the result is just not show how they can all talk to each other throughout the fight. This is even referenced in Agents of SHIELD.

-“Superheroes in New York?! Give me a break!” Man, seeing Stan now is never not gonna hurt, huh?

-Like, does anyone get tired of the Hulk smashing Loki around like a ragdoll? Anyone?

tenor

Conclusion

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There’s that scene at Stark Tower with Tony and Loki. Tony says, flat out, that his plan is terrible because it pissed off a lot of prominent people. And he didn’t get what he caused. It wasn’t just that Loki caused the Avengers to put their differences aside and finally assemble, but he changed things, and now the world of ants he wishes to control is further away from his grasp. And it’s not just this villainous god’s odds that have changed. Everything has.

Avengers is a fireworks show for itself. Taking all the insecurity of whether this would all come together into one cohesive whole, and working that into the film. It’s a story about the sum of the parts uniting, instead of being forced to, is the best way to make things happen. It’s about how the old guard will fail to keep things safe and in control, and something new must come. It’s about how you shouldn’t underestimate people, or yourself, and believe in their potential. Just like some silly ass idea to stick all these disparate superhero movies together into one.

And this seems like a no-brainer now, but this have gone so wrong in so many ways. Yet it didn’t. It stuck the landing with a razor-sharp script and a cast so dedicated to making something special come to life. It’s funny, it’s clever, it’s got one of the best action climaxes in a modern blockbuster. It makes you care for this team and seeing them put their differences aside and form into one. Even if you’ve seen none of their solo films, this works on an emotional basis.

It’s a triumph, and no matter how jaded I get by this whole Marvel Cinematic Universe franchise, it will continue to transport me all the way back to 2012 where I witnessed something amazing happen right before my eyes. The Avengers is a great film and solidifies itself as a classic that changed blockbuster cinema. And did it with talent and finesse.

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Final rating: 9/10

Where does it fall in my ranking?

  1. Avengers
  2. Captain America: Winter Soldier
  3. Guardians of the Galaxy
  4. Iron Man 3
  5. Avengers: Age of Ultron
  6. Ant Man
  7. Thor: The Dark World

Controversial I must say! Yes, I liked this more than Winter Soldier, fight me!

Next up, we take our backwards retrospective all the way back to the War, and look at the origin of one of the most beloved characters in the entire franchise.

Captain America - The First Avenger - 2011

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3 thoughts on “Marvel Cinematic Universe: The Avengers”

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