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The Avengers (2012) - MCU Retro Review

04.12.2018

Heading into the final few chapters of Marvel's Phase 3 in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, we decided it was time to take a look back at the last ten years worth of films (18 in all) and re-evaluate them based on how well they hold up today and how connected they are to the greater MCU now that the films have advanced so far into the timeline, which culminates in AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR and it's untitled sequel. Are they as good as you remember? Do they still hold up today? Are the deeper MCU connections even deeper than before or weaker? Join us as we attempt to answer those questions and take another look at the last decade of Marvel Studios with our Retro-Review Series!

DIRECTED BY: Joss Whedon
WRITTEN BY: Joss Whedon
STARRING: Robert Downey Jr. (Tony Stark/Iron Man), Chris Evans (Steve Rogers/Captain America), Chris Hemsworth (Thor), Mark Ruffalo (Bruce Banner/Hulk), Scarlett Johansson (Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow), Jeremy Renner (Clint Barton/Hawkeye), Samuel L. Jackson (Nick Fury), Tom Hiddleston (Loki), Cobie Smulders (Maria Hill), Gwyneth Paltrow (Pepper Potts), Clark Gregg (Agent Coulson), Paul Bettany (J.A.R.V.I.S.), Stellan Skarsgard (Erik Selvig).
STORY: The charming yet fiendish Loki has stolen the super-powered Tesseract, and plans to use its abilities to take over the earth, with the help of a giant alien army, of course. The only way to stop is by assembling the ultimate super team, consisting of earth's mightiest heroes. Turns out, getting them all together was the easy part, and now the group has to put their egos aside and come together and save the world. 

“There was an idea…to bring together a group of remarkable people, to see if they can become something more, to see if they could work together when we needed them to and fight the battles we never could.” I don’t know if Joss Whedon was trying to encapsulate the entire thought process and spirit behind the birth of the MCU with the speech spoken by Sam Jackson’s Nick Fury, but he hit the nail on the head nonetheless. With THE AVENGERS, Marvel went through with the riskiest part of their risky idea which involved taking several superheroes – each not near as popular as counterparts like Batman and Spider-Man – and putting them all in one very expensive movie together. The result is a movie that not only changed the landscape of movies forever, but after all these years, remains a tremendous feat of blockbuster filmmaking filled with quotable one-liners, epic set pieces and a plethora of “HOLY F**K!” moments that comic book fans will remember more dearly than the birth of their own children.

Look, I love me all the new characters and worlds the MCU has provided us in the time since THE AVENGERS came out.  I mean, where would the world be without Groot? But one unavoidable joy I get out of revisiting THE AVENGERS is being completely enveloped by the movie’s pure simplicity. The expanding MCU and deepening plots are years away, and the likes of Thanos and the Infinity Stones are barely a thought. With this movie, we get the best the MCU has to offer because is it able to showcase an unbelievable sense of scope while being tightly focused on a small band of iconic characters who for years we could never imagine being in the same room together.

All you have to do is look at, really, any of the scenes with any two of the Avengers together. One of my favorites is the scene with Captain America/Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) and Iron Man/Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) in their unforgettable standoff. They didn’t trade blows, but instead exchanged tear-downs and insults as their egos and ideas clashed. At it’s most basic level its pure drama (with a dash of humor) that’s elevated to mythic status by the fact that the characters Thor, Black Widow, Bruce Banner and Nick Fury are also in the room with them.  All in one scene you have humor, pathos, evolving character arcs, and that scope of seeing legendary characters together. It’s just a scene with two people talking, but it's more epic than countless other blockbuster movies!

This is also a testament to Whedon, who may have left the franchise on a less favorable note, but who here handled the movie with an expert hand, understanding all we need is these characters being together. The Battle of New York remains one of the best – if not the best – moments in the MCU, mainly because Whedon never lets you forget Thor is fighting alongside the Hulk, or Captain America along Iron Man, while also giving us lots of room to breathe between audible gasps. Just look at that one-shot sequence! This is a far cry from the more cluttered finales of later Marvel movies, but still packs the same kind of spectacular punch.

THE AVENGERS continues to be my personal favorite MCU movie (the overall JoBlo ranking may differ), and I can’t really see that changing any time soon. I attribute this the fact that no other MCU movie will ever feel as special and unique as this one. Sure, the characters have fought each other since, new additions have been made, and the action will only get more epic. But only THE AVENGERS was able to pack so many marvelous comic book movie moments and a profound amount of ambition into such a breezy, effortlessly fun, uncomplicated and pure experience. It is a comic book movie is its most perfect form and blockbuster filmmaking of the highest order, the likes of which will be nigh impossible to top.

READ THE ORIGINAL THEATRICAL REVIEW!

Oh, lord, where do we start? Let's just try and condense all this awesomeness, shall we? 

Starting from the beginning, the whole enormity of the movie settled in almost immediately when Loki arrives on earth and begins messing shit up and sparring words with Nick Fury. This was finally happening!

After that, we have the rounding up of the heroes, with Natasha Romanoff finding Bruce Banner and having a lovely evening chat. Eventually, Coulson finds Tony Stark, who then begins to do his research on the other heroes, with Fury finally recruiting Steve Rogers, who clearly hates punching bags with a passion.

The first truly marvelous scene comes when Loki is terrorizing a group of people, only for Captain America to swoop in and save the day...which then leads to Iron Man literally swooping in to save the day even cooler. 

Followed by that is one of the movies best scenes, when Thor comes to retrieve Loki, only for him to begin a fight with Iron Man. This is, of course, a battle for the ages, which only gets better Cap throws his shield into the ring. 

After the action, there are a series of great, lower-key moments involving genuine conversations with various members of the team, with virtually everyone having their time with one another. This all boils over when they all begin arguing, kicking off the action once again.

Said action involves a hypnotized Hawkeye attacking the helicarrier, resulting in the team trying to save the day, all while Thor and Hulk have a spectacular fight that acted as round one, only to be followed years later in THOR: RAGNAROK.

When the team realizes what they have at stake, spurned by the loss of Phil Coulson, the team finally bands together for the final fight in New York. It's here we see the epic circular shot, showing all the heroes together, at last, followed by a marvelous set piece, featuring a one-shot sequence to end all one-shot sequences. 

Loki: "Enough! You are, all of you are beneath me! I am a god, you dull creature, and I will not be bullied by..."
[Hulk repeatedly smashes Loki into the floor]
Hulk: "Puny god."

Steve: "Big man in a suit of armor. Take that off, what are you?"
Tony: "Genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist."

Thor: "You have no idea what you are dealing with."
Tony: "Uh, Shakespeare in The Park? Doth mother know you weareth her drapes?"

Steve: "[to Natasha] You and me, we stay here on the ground, keep the fighting here. [to Hulk] And Hulk?"
[the Hulk turns to Cap]
Steve: "Smash!"

Fury: "There was an idea -- Stark knows this -- called 'The Avengers Initiative.' The idea was to bring together a group of remarkable people, see if they can become something more, see if they could work together when we needed them to and fight the battles we never could. Phil Coulson died still believing in that idea and heroes. Well, it's an old-fashioned option."

Steve: "Doctor Banner, now might be a good time for you to get angry."
Bruce: "That's my secret, Captain: I'm always angry."

Thor: "Have a care how you speak! Loki is beyond reason, but he is of Asgard and he is my brother!"
Natasha: "He killed eighty people in two days."
Thor: "He's adopted."

Steve: "Stark, we need a plan of attack!"
Tony: "I have a plan: attack!"

Loki: "There are no men like me."
Old Man: "There are always men like you."

Tony: "That man is playing Galaga! Thought we wouldn't notice. But we did."

Steve: "Then prove it! Put the hammer down."
Tony: "Um, yeah, no! Bad call! He loves his hammer!"
[Thor swats Tony with his hammer]
Thor: [to Steve] "You want me to put the hammer down?"

Coulson: "You lack conviction."
Loki: "I don't think I..."
[Coulson shoots Loki with his gun]
Coulson: "So that's what it does."

Loki: "The Chitauri are coming. Nothing will change that. What have I to fear?"
Tony: "The Avengers. That's what we call ourselves; we're sort of like a team. 'Earth's Mightiest Heroes' type thing."

Security Guard: "Are you an alien?"
Bruce: "What?"
Security Guard: "From outer space, an alien."
Bruce: "No."
Security Guard: "Well then son, you've got a condition."

Tony: "What's the stat, Rogers?"
Steve:  "It seems to be powered by some sort of electricity!"
Tony: "...well, you're not wrong."

 

 

There are a ton of Easter eggs and MCU connections here, but these are some of the coolest:

Getting the obvious out of the way, all the characters in this movie, sans a few, made appearances in past Marvel movies.

The Tesseract, a cosmic element sought after by Loki, first made its appearance in CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER, where it was obtained by Red Skull. 

There's a reference to Project Pegasus here, which in the comics, acts a place where the government researches other dimensions and areas of the multiverse.

At one point, Tony Stark messes with Coulson by saying he's "reached the life model decoy of Tony Stark." Life model decoys of the heroes are famously used by Nick Fury in the comics.

The spear Loki uses to wreak havoc is powered by the Mind Stone, an Infinity Stone that would later go on to power Vision (Paul Bettany) in AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON. Soon, Thanos will rip that thing out of Vision's head, so, sorry. 

The alien army of the Chitauri first appeared in the Ultimates run of comics, acting as an alternative to the Skrulls. The two alien species would later be acknowledged as separate from one another in the comics. 

Lou Ferrigno, the man who played The Incredible Hulk on TV, did some of the voice work for the Hulk in this movie. 

During the scene when Loki and Thor are chatting on top of a mountain two Ravens can be seen flying nearby. Those are the ravens of Odin, Huginn and Muninn. 

During the course of the movie, several characters uncover S.H.I.E.L.D.'s attempt to launch Phase Two, which involved making weapons with the Tesseract. Phase Two is the phase of movies after the Avengers, and the idea that S.H.I.E.L.D. was spying on people became the whole basis of CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER.

In the scene when Nick Fury throws down Coulson's bloody Captain America cards, an image of the first Captain America comic can be seen.

Tony Stark refers to the team as Earth's Mightiest Heroes when talking to Loki in Stark Tower. The tagline has been applied to the Avengers in the comics for decades. 

At the end of the movie, we zoom out of Stark Tower to see that there is a lone "A" left on the tower, teasing it as the new Avengers tower. We can even see Stark planning for the remodel of the building beforehand, having sections marking quarters for Thor, Hawkeye and more of the team. 

The mid-credits scene of the movie offers what would be the biggest development in the MCU with the appearance of Thanos, the character who will torment the Avengers in the upcoming AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR.

 

All the Marvel characters of significance, from Iron Man to Phil Coulson, show up here for the first big assembly.

The first scene in the movie brings back a lot of old faces and shows some more of Hawkeye/Clint Barton, who we first saw in THOR. As for new characters, this is the first time we see Agent Maria Hill, a second in command to Nick Fury. She has since gone on to have big roles in later Marvel movies, like CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER.

As mentioned above, this is the first time we saw the alien army, the Chitauri, as well as the original baddie, The Other. However, the MCU's biggest foe, Thanos, made his first, silent appearance during the movie's mid-credits stinger. 

Like always, there's the precious Stan Lee cameo, this time as a man (is it worth saying "old man"?) in the park being interviewed after the Battle of New York. 

 

The movie benefits from having one key villain, Loki, and thank the fish monster in the sky he's the best baddie the MCU has had so far. He's devilishly charming, complicated, unpredictable and just a damn delight to watch. Tom Hiddleston owns the role with this thin frame, genuine pathos and dastardly smirk, a series of traits a CG villain will always have a tough time matching up to. 

IRON MAN - RETRO REVIEW

INCREDIBLE HULK - RETRO REVIEW

IRON MAN 2 - RETRO REVIEW

THOR - RETRO REVIEW

CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER - RETRO REVIEW

Source: JoBlo.com

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