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The Avengers brings together multiple superheroes from Marvel movies as one team, creating one of the most iconic shared universes in cinema. I wonder why this is, but The Avengers and its sequels stand out as the best superhero team films. It's a tough genre to pull off. When you push in lots of characters, it's hard to know enough about each of them or care about them as individuals. When you have different levels of power, it feels weird to have everyone on the same team.
Arguably the strength in Marvel's best films, including this one, lies with the compelling villains it creates for them to fight. The cool, seemingly unstoppable villains are necessary to explain why several god-like superheroes have to all act as a team to beat them. If the villain is weak, the whole thing falls apart.
In this movie, Thor's brother Loki is the villain. He is a somewhat sympathetic villain, because he is driven to evil by a perceived lack of love.
A strange artifact S.H.I.E.L.D. is holding, called the tesseract, activates and opens a portal through which comes Thor's brother Loki, with an army from another world, bent on conquering Earth. Loki appeared to die at the end of the first Thor movie, but a post-credits scene revealed he had traveled through a wormhole to Earth.
Hawkeye, Nick Fury, and Natasha Romanov (aka Black Widow) start to round up the gang. Nick Fury goes to get Tony Stark, aka Iron Man. Natasha's role is to get the Hulk. Everyone teams up, but there's some bickering initially. Thor and Iron Man fight. Later, Hulk attacks Thor. Iron Man and Captain America bicker back and forth.
But eventually they can be convinced to stop punching each other long enough to save humanity from becoming Loki's subjects.
Marvel Studios, Distrubuted by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Screenplay by Joss Whedon; Story by Zak Penn & Joss Whedon; Based on The Avengers by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby
Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston, Clark Gregg, Cobie Smulders, Stellan Skarsgård, & Samuel L. Jackson
2 hours, 23 minutes
Teen Choice Awards for Choice Summer Movie: Action, Choice Summer Movie Star: Male - Chris Hemsworth; Hollywood Award for Visual Effects - Jeff White; People's Choice Awards for Favorite Movie Actor - Robert Downey, Jr., Favorite Action Movie Star - Chris Hemsworth; Annie Award for Outstanding Achievement, Animated Effects in a Live Action Production; VES Award for Outstanding Created Environment in a Live Action Feature Motion Picture, Outstanding Models in a Feature Motion Picture; MTV Movie Awards for Movie of the Year, Best Fight, and Best Villain; Taurus World Stunt Awards for Best Fight, Best High Work, Best Overall Stunt By A Stunt Woman, & Hardest Hit; Saturn Awards for Best Science Fiction Film, Best Supporting Actor - Clark Gregg, Best Director - Joss Whedon, & Best Special Effects; Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation — Long Form
There's no question that the movie is great, but the question is how great, or to put it another way, how to rank its relative greatness. I saw this movie when it came out, and loved it. I saw it again for this review more recently, and remembered a lot of quotable lines and impressive scenes. The movie definitely holds rewatch value, years after its original release. It also transcends many of the weaknesses inherent in attempting a superhero team movie with lots of characters of varying abilities.
One thing I like actually was also a weakness of the movie - the internal conflict between Avengers. Not all of them wanted to be there, and once together, they argued about what to do. This made the movie feel more realistic, since it didn't make the team-up part feel too easy. It also is used as a way to explore contrast between different members of the team. Most notably, this is where Tony Stark and Steve Rogers (Captain America) first meet, and their personalities and values clash. It represents a conflict between the values of 1940s America (nostalgia) vs. the values of the present (technofuturism). One is looking to the past, the other to the future. This conflict continues in future Avengers films, and comes to a head in Captain America: Civil War.
As I said before, the other great thing about this movie is the compelling nature of its villain. Loki in the first Thor was made sympathetic by his desire for his father's approval, which became his driving motivation to seek power. In this one, his naked ambition for power strikes again, but it becomes so destructive that he has to be taught a lesson once and for all.
If I were to think of it relative to other Avengers movies, perhaps Age of Ultron and Infinity Wars are cooler. But this movie combines heart and action in a beautiful, memorable way. Relative to its genre of superhero action films, it's definitely top ten material.
© 2019 Rachael Lefler