When Iron Man came to theatres in 2008, audiences were given a surprise. Those who were patient enough to wait until the credits finished rolling were treated to an additional scene, which served to hype a film featuring a Marvel superhero team-up. Five films and four years later, The Avengers (2012) has finally arrived. While it may seem impossible to live up to such an extraordinary level of hype, Marvel’s The Avengers completely exceeds all expectations, and may very well be the greatest superhero film ever made.
Tying many of the Marvel film franchises together is quite an ambitious project; one that I admit I had my doubts about. I wasn’t originally a fan of the hidden “Easter egg” scenes that served as promotional ploys for The Avengers film — which at the time seemed only like a fantasy. I felt as though connecting all the film franchises together cheapened each movie’s unique experience, and in the event that The Avengers was terrible, it would taint those films completely.
While each Marvel film leading up to The Avengers had its own stand-alone value, I still can’t help but feel as though each film was made with future films in mind. Through end credit scenes and some crossover characters, each film is linked together — often in ways that came off as a little silly.
The most egregious example came from an appearance of Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) during a scene in Thor (2011). This cameo originally came off as little more than an uncreative way to advertise for The Avengers, while also introducing a member of the team that wouldn’t have their own lead-in movie.
I’m sure the appearance of Hawkeye made some Marvel fans smile, but at the time it made Thor (and all the other Marvel films) seem like advertising tools for a bigger project to come later. To some extent this conclusion is probably true; however, after seeing The Avengers I am far less cynical about this amalgam.
The Avengers isn’t exactly a sequel, but you will get more out of the experience if you see the films that lead up to this point: Iron Man (2008), The Incredible Hulk (2008), Iron Man 2 (2010), Thor (2011), and Captain America: The First Avenger (2011). These films serve to give background to the characters, and also give you a better understanding of the story.
The plot of The Avengers is rooted very strongly in plot lines set up in the previous films. The sibling rivalry between Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and the film’s primary villain, Loki (Tom Hiddleston), continues. The Tesseract device, an object with unlimited power first seen in Captain America, is stolen by Loki, and with it he plans to enslave all of mankind.
Standing in his way are Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, who spend as much time fighting each other as they do their mutual enemies. The group finally learns to work together, and with their combined might they attempt to stop Loki’s army.
The plot really isn’t very original at all, but that works to the film’s benefit. Rather than being story heavy, the film focuses on giving the audience all the super hero action they expected to see. The Avengers clearly was made with one goal in mind: to be fun from beginning to end.
Mission accomplished; there isn’t a single dull moment to be had. While the story may be rather simple, it is perfect for moving the action along, while also creating a necessary level of suspense for the audience. I can’t emphasize this enough — it’s a typical comic book storyline, but it fits the tone of The Avengers perfectly.
Director Joss Whedon should be commended for making one of the most well-crafted superhero films of all time. This is an excellent-looking film, and its visual perfection goes far beyond the dazzling special effects. Whedon, along with cinematographer Seamus McGarvey, display some very creative camera work. This gives some indication that the filmmakers really cared about this movie a lot, and weren’t just interested in a commercial success — a lot of love went into bringing The Avengers to life, and it absolutely shows.
After seeing The Avengers I was inspired to re-watch and reflect back on the films that came before it. The end result an even larger appreciation for what it is that Marvel Studios has done here. They have created an entire film series that connects together perfectly, and the magnum opus was saved for last.
Every scene that links the films together now makes perfect sense in the context of the Marvel film universe as whole. Just like in the comics, each super hero has their own distinct story, but often the stories will intersect with positive result.
While I think The Avengers is an excellent film on its own, in the context of all the Marvel films that came previously it is nothing short of a masterpiece. This is the ultimate way to bring the last four years together into one tremendous film. While I am sure that the Marvel film franchise will continue, this first episode comes to a close in a way that is as close to perfect as a superhero movie can be.
From here on out all super hero films will be compared to this one — it’s hard to imagine that we’ll see a movie this cool again for a very long time. Even if you’re not comic book fan, you still owe it to yourself to the see Marvel’s The Avengers. It could be the most fun you’ll ever have at the movies.