Like any superhero, we are going to start off strong. With one of my all-time favorite movies that I watch when I need comfort food for my inner fangirl: The Avengers.
Surprising to absolutely no-one, this review will become very emotional and detailed so here are the most important facts as bullet points:
- Avengers introduces the most important players in the MCU
- A charismatic and formidable villain – Loki, God of mischief
- Earth’s mightiest heroes team up for the greater good
- The spectacular final battle sweeps through the iconic streets of New York
- The best and most unique thing about the movie is the feelgood family dynamic of the team
Now I don’t know if this is the ideal movie to start off with if you have no prior experience with superheroes but at this point, it is very hard for me to try and think like someone with no superhero-experience. So let’s just do a quick paragraph on the superhero genre before we get started.
Most superhero movies these days stem from original comic book characters and the two main comic book publishing houses are Marvel and DC. Today, Marvel is owned by Disney and Warner Brothers is making DC comics into movies. Both have developed their own universes where all their superheroes live which makes it possible to re-use city names, have the heroes meet each other and so on. Marvel’s world is indistinguishable from ours – except for the whole superhero thing of course – while DC uses some real and some made up cities, most famously the city of Gotham. These universes are known as the Marvel Cinematic Universe or MCU for short and the DC Extended Universe or DCEU. At this point in time, the MCU is a lot bigger and a lot more successful than the DCEU even though the DCEU has some of the most famous characters in their ranks. Non-superhero fans will most likely know the names Superman and Batman, which are both DC characters. So are Wonder Woman, Aquaman and the Flash. Marvels characters include Wolverine and the X-Men, the Fantatsic Four, Deadpool, Captain America, Iron Man and Thor. Which brings us back to the Avengers. While most superheroes are lone wolves in their own series of comic books, they do team up from time to time if the world is trouble. Both DC and Marvel have had a bunch of different teams and configurations in the teams but so far, there has been only one on screen team-up-events at each studio (not including X-Men and Fantastic Four since they don’t team up randomly): DCEU’s Justice League made up of Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, the Flash and Aquaman and the MCU’s very own Avengers.
Now the first Avengers movie – which is still the best one in my opinion – hit theaters in 2012 and combined characters previously known from their own movie series with ones new to the audience in the first superhero crossover event. So the premise of the movie is basically that there is a threat to Earth that is too big for one hero to handle alone so a team if formed. In this case, Loki Odinson of Asgard, Norse god of mischief, played to charismatic perfection by Tom Hiddleston. This shapeshifting trickster is one of the most charismatic characters in the MCU and swoops in with an electric energy of entitlement and poise with an element of pure chaos.
Technically, the Avengers initiative is a program by a FBI/CIA type US-government department called S.H.I.E.L.D. to bring heroes together but in the first Avengers, this doesn’t matter very much. The team in this movie – who I think of as the original and most valid Avengers team – is made up of heroes of all kind, with a definite overshare of Chris-es and very sadly only one badass female heroine – if you can call her that.
The biggest hero in bringing in money for the MCU and the star of the very first MCU movie is Tony Stark aka Iron Man played by Robert Downey Jr. who has had people questioning the extremely blurred lines between character and actor for a decade now. Tony Stark is a self-labeled “genius billionaire playboy philanthropist” and owner of Stark Industries, a business empire built on the manufacturing of arms. His wit and his money are his superpowers as he constructs for himself the Iron Man suit – an exoskeleton allowing him to fight and fly with the aid of his personal assistant AI Jarvis. He has his own three movie franchise which is one of the funniest in the MCU.
One who parallels Tony Stark in smarts is Bruce Banner who is a scientist first and a giant green rage monster second – if he can’t help it. He has gotten his clothes-busting alter ego Hulk through an experiment gone wrong and can only marginally control its need to SMASH once it comes out. He is played by Mark Ruffalo which is one of the only major recasts in the MCU since his standalone movie from 2008 has Ed Norton and while considered canon is rarely seen as part of the MCU.
Next up and a little confused about the whole Earth-thing is the Norse god of thunder, Thor Odinson, heir to the throne of Asgard, played by the giant muscular teddy bear that is Chris Hemsworth. My second favorite Chris has truly grown in the role and while the first two Thor movies are classic high fantasy, I recommend the third one as a fun scifi-space-adventure. Anyways, he’s Asgardian and thus a lot stronger than humans plus his mystical weapon, the hammer Mjolnir, lets him channel the energy of lightning.
Next are a pair that are sometimes looked down upon for being “too normal” or not “super” enough. Two world class assassin, American Clint Barton and Russian Natasha Romanov. They go way back, and I would love to know how far exactly but that’s been a point of speculation. Fact is, Barton (played by Jeremy Renner) has a very particular style of combat using bow and arrow and likes to perch high above to make the most of his weapon – hence his superhero name Hawkeye.
Natasha Romanov is the only female heroine in the original Avengers line-up which is obviously bullshit, but she is probably the biggest badass of the team. Played by Scarlett Johansson, the Black Widow – as she is known – was previously a killer for the KGB before joining S.H.I.E.L.D. and has graduated from a Russian spy school, making her an incredible fighter, great negotiator and all-around probably the most competent person in the team. Her standalone movie is something fans – no, fangirls – have been fighting for for a long time and I’m happy to say that it is finally in the making.
Last up is the superhero with the purest superhero character: Captain America, hater of bullies and fighter of Nazis. Steve Rogers has been asleep in Artic ice for 70 years after fighting in WWII and is the product of a governmental science experiment making a fierce but tiny little guy into a super soldier – super strong and super pretty. Well, the pretty part is probably more of my favorite Chris – Chris Evans – fault but hey, this is my review here and its important. Cap, as he is known to his team and fans, is the leader of the Avengers and the only trained soldier. His heart is as pure as it gets and he wants to do all that’s in his power to save the world and do the right thing -even if he’s only slightly less confused about the world in general than Thor.
With the heroes introduced, the premise of the movie is actually fairly easy: Bad guy Loki wants to rule the world, comes in with a superior army and the superheroes have to team up stop him. The plot plays out around the world, from hero recruitment in India, to a chilling scene of Germans refusing to kneel, to one of the most epic fights in superhero history: The battle of New York. This fight was a revelation back then, using each hero’s abilities and powers to fight an army of flying invaders from space in the concrete jungle of Manhattan.
But while the focus of the movie – as with most classic superhero movies – is on action and powers, what makes it special to this day is the team dynamic. The movie shows how a group of lone wolves is thrown together and has to figure out a way to become a team. No hero is ever made without a tragedy so they all have their scars and issues but they band together and become a family of powerful misfits. Their personalities couldn’t be more different – from righteous Cap and the ironically scared Hulk to jaded Widow and Iron Man the egomaniac. Their dynamic is so natural and they work so well together that you just want to keep seeing them hanging out, having a good time – maybe sharing a meal, going on a road trip or being kids for a day at Disneyland.
So, come for Earth’s mightiest heroes saving the world and stay for the feelgood family moments. Watch the trailer here. The movie is regularly available on streaming platforms or of course for sale on BluRay and DVD.