Benjamin Wollmuth is a lover of literature who enjoys sharing his thoughts on everything from movies and video games to books and music.
We are finally here. In 2012, Marvel released The Avengers, one of the most ambitious movies ever made. They had to take characters who each had their own movies -- minus Black Widow and Hawkeye -- and throw them together to save the world. Not only that, but they also had to assume that the audience had seen each of their previous releases. If you went into The Avengers because it looked like a fun superhero movie but hadn't seen any of the previous films, well... you would be pretty confused. What is a tesseract? Who are these people? Why does this movie not include any backstory?! Well, that's because Marvel established everything we really needed to know in the solo films, which truly helped this movie in the long run.
In order to explain why I think The Avengers is the epitome of superhero team-up movies, I'm going to be comparing it to a not-so-great team-up film: Justice League. Let's begin, shall we?
The Beauty of the Team-Up
When I watch this movie, I can't help but think about Justice League. Justice League really wanted to be the next big team-up flick, but truly failed because it didn't do what Marvel did. I'm not saying DC should have straight up copied The Avengers, but... they should have taken some notes. Firstly, The Avengers did not need to worry about introducing any heroes. Almost all of the characters in this movie showed up in a previous movie. We know who Captain America is and why he is a man out of time. We know who Tony Stark is and why he thinks SHIELD making weapons is a not-so-great idea. We know who Thor is and why he wants Loki. We know who Bruce Banner is and how far he has come in controlling the Hulk. We know who Black Widow and Hawkeye are because they were previously introduced as agents of SHIELD. The film can go straight into focusing on the plot since we don't need to worry about who each character is. This adds to another plus: we get to see their already established views and personalities collide. Not only that, but we also get to see what their combined powers look like. It's truly amazing.
Justice League had a huge disadvantage because DC had not truly established Flash, Aquaman, or Cyborg. They had to use the team-up movie to do it, which did not give the audience enough time to truly click with the characters. The Avengers already had their audience clicked with the characters before the movie was even released, which truly added to the spectacle.
The Value of an Already-Established Villain
As I said in my review for Thor, Loki is a great villain. He has a well-established backstory and an understandable motive. When he first shows up in The Avengers, the audience doesn't need to ask, "Who is this guy and why is he here?" We know why he's there. We know that he is evil. We know who he is, and that's what matters. Just like not having to establish its heroes, this movie does not need to establish its villain because we have seen him already and we know what he can do. He seeks to rule a different kingdom after losing Asgard, and he sees Earth -- and Thanos' offer -- as the perfect opportunity to do so. Unlike many superhero films, the villain -- Loki -- is given proper character development, which made him such a great villain for Earth's Mightiest Heroes to face.
Where did Justice League fail? Well, besides getting a small glimpse of him in BVS, the audience had no clue who Steppenwolf was. The movie had to take time to explain where he comes from and who he is -- time that could have been spent on building a better, more structured plot. Plus, his motivation isn't anywhere close to being as good as Loki's. Also, unlike The Avengers, we do not get any glimpse of the true big bad -- in this case, Darkseid -- which I think was a big missed opportunity.
The Importance of Understanding the Scale
As I said in my introduction, this is one of the most ambitious movies ever made. This movie could have easily flopped if the scale of it all had not been managed correctly. In all reality, this movie is huge -- not as huge as Infinity War or Endgame, but still huge. It is trying to do something groundbreaking: bring characters from different films into one movie in an understandable, entertaining way. While the Avengers sequels can be deemed more ambitious -- and rightfully so -- it doesn't go without saying that if The Avengers had flopped, the MCU as we know it would probably not be where it is today.
The scale can also be seen within the movie itself. The battle of New York is one of the biggest events in MCU history, and that scale is masterfully captured within the cinematography. There are many awesome shots in the film from street perspective, as in the camera is looking up at what's happening overhead. This view captures not only how big the leviathans are, but also how massive the battle is in general. It gives the audience a civilian perspective for a change, rather than a hero-based perspective. This also helps establish how different the heroes are. Black Widow, Hawkeye, and Cap can't fly. So, the low perspectives allow the audience to see how these heroes are viewing things. The cinematography is something that I think is really underappreciated -- or at least not talked about much -- when this film is brought into the conversation.
Does Justice League do this? Not really. It instead (in my opinion) tries to look too much like a comic book. And hey, I love comic books... but I also love when comic book movies add a sense of reality to them.
I hope that my contrasting of The Avengers and Justice League has helped create a better understanding of why I think that Marvel's The Avengers is the epitome of superhero team-up films. Yes, Infinity War and Endgame are larger and equally as entertaining, but something about this film being the first one to do it just makes it stand out. To me, it's nostalgic. I can't help but get super giddy when watching this film... no matter how many times I watch it.
No film is perfect. Not even a 10/10 one. However, a 10/10 film is one that entertains me so much that I forget about the flaws and get sucked into the story. Therefore, I am going to give The Avengers a 10/10. I will never stop loving this movie.
Next up on my Infinity Saga rewatch is Iron Man 3. I hope to see you all then.
© 2020 Benjamin Wollmuth