The Avengers (2012)

The Avengers (2012) – Many many decades ago, Timely Comics decided to take its two most popular comic characters, the Human Torch (the original 1930s robot one, not the Fantastic Four’s Johnny Storm) and Namor the Sub-Mariner, and have them fight each other. Timely (eventually renamed Marvel Comics) really ran with this idea and soon all their characters inhabited a larger shared universe. Of course one day (inspired by rival company DC’s Justice League) they decided to take a ton of their big super-heroes and put them on a team together. The team consisted of Iron Man, the Hulk, Thor, Ant-Man, and the Wasp (in the fourth issue Captain America was added to the roster). Four years ago a post-credit sequence in Iron Man featured a cameo by Marvel Universe lynchpin Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) asking Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) about the “Avenger Initiative.” Just like that, the interconnected universe of the comics was brought to the big screen and the Marvel Cinematic Universe was born. Of course certain other companies like Sony or Fox own the film rights to characters like Spider-Man or the X-Men, but still… exciting stuff.

Now we reach 2012 and the big event is finally upon us. After build-up and universe-building in Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger we finally reach the big crossover event: The Avengers. Ant-Man (or Giant Man, sometimes… Hank Pym’s had a lot of superhero identities) and the Wasp have been ditched in favor of Black Widow and Hawkeye (Scarlett Johansson and Jeremy Renner, introduced in Iron Man 2 and Thor). (Also Ant-Man is likely getting his own movie written by the always-awesome Edgar Wright.) This is it. This is what we’ve been waiting for. The expectations of geeks around the world have been raised to a fever pitch. Who could possibly do this material justice? JOSS WHEDON, that’s who. Whedon, an Academy Award nominee for co-writing Toy Story, is beloved of geeks across the globe for his creations Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly. (I think we’ve finally forgiven hum for Alien: Resurrection.) With only one theatrical film under his directorial belt (2005’s Serenity, the conclusion to his prematurely cancelled series Firefly), it’s a great vote of confidence by Marvel trusting him with the studio’s flagship film. In addition to television and film, Whedon has written Marvel comics so he knows the material. Dare we hope for the best?

(Note: spoilers for this film will be discussed later in inviso-text [highlight to read] but plot points for the previous Marvel films are openly discussed, this being a sequel and all.)

After his defeat by his brother in Thor, Asgardian Trickster Loki (Tom Hiddleston) was hurled to the far reaches of the universe. It seems, though, that while there he made some friends. An emissary (Whedon regular Alexis Denisof) on behalf of a mysterious benefactor has bestowed upon him an army of alien warriors called Chitauri. Loki heads back to earth to steal the Tesserect (aka the Cosmic Cube) that everyone was chasing after in Captain America: The First Avenger. After S.H.I.E.L.D. is attacked by Loki, Fury decides it’s time to convene his team of “exceptional” people. He brings in Captain America (Chris Evans), Iron Man (Downey), Black Widow, Hawkeye, and gamma ray specialist Dr. Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo, replacing Edward Norton from The Incredible Hulk). After finding out the trouble his brother’s gotten up to, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) also joins the fight. Will Earth’s Mightiest Heroes triumph over evil? Or will Loki win and enslave humanity? (Because that totally happens in action movies, right?)

As one might expect from such a film, The Avengers takes the best parts of all the movies that preceded it and combines them into a prolonged unfolding of awesomeness. I’m not going to say anyone should see this without seeing the others first (a lot of the film was set up in the previous flicks) but it is still amazing even if you’re not a devoted fan of comic books. In a film like this that combines multiple huge characters it’s easier for some to get lost but every member of the team feels like a fully-developed character. Whedon doesn’t just want to blow shit up for two hours like Michael Bay. He wants you to care and he makes it happen. See this movie. See this damn movie. From the box office returns, it’s pretty likely you already have… then see it again, god dammit. THIS IS WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT, HOLLYWOOD! RESPECT YOUR AUDIENCE AND THEY WILL TURN OUT IN DROVES!!! As I mentioned earlier, rumors abound of Edgar Wright’s Ant-Man. Marvel already has Thor 2, Iron Man 3, Captain America 2, and of course The Avengers 2 in the pipeline. A Black Widow prequel was just greenlit. There’s talk about more Hulk movies (and oh man does the Hulk steal the show in The Avengers). The movie rights to both Daredevil and the Punisher are almost ready to lapse back to Marvel. It’s awesome seeing this universe expand. I can’t wait to see how far it will go.

(Stay through the credits. There’s an important scene midway through and a funny scene afterwards. And now for the spoiler paragraph… highlight to read) You know in the post-credit sequence of Thor, when the Cosmic Cube made its first onscreen appearance (and went on to be a central plot point in Captain America: The First Avenger), I thought to myself “well, I don’t know. Are they really going to do the Cosmic Cube without Thanos chasing after it?” I was sure they wouldn’t do Thanos. It’s just such a… BIG storyline that I didn’t think it would be brought to a blockbuster action movie. The second The Avengers started though, and we were in space and the narration was talking about the history of the Cube and I thought… “holy shit, they’re doing it.” There was all this talk of Loki’s benefactor and then, in the first post-credit scene, there’s Thanos (Damion Poitier) smiling his evil bastard grin. Fox is moving forward on another Fantastic Four movie but I really wish they would let the rights lapse back to Marvel. It kills me that the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, and X-Men (and thusly the whole mutant civil rights issue) can’t be a part of this… Also, as long as I’m talking spoilers, I got to give it to Clark Gregg for going out like a champion. Agent Coulson is an original character for the films. Given Whedon’s brutal tendency to kill off beloved characters (see: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Serenity, and Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog) I had a feeling something of that nature was coming. Given that, as I said, Agent Coulson is not from the comic books he did seem the most obvious candidate. Even so, over the course of the films (The Incredible Hulk and Captain America: The First Avenger are the only ones he’s not in.) he has built enough of a character that it’s really sad when he’s taken out. Furthermore, props to Whedon for not just killing him off to be a sadist, but to actually further the plot. He HAD to die. It MEANT something. Anyway, that’s the spoiler paragraph.

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