Here it is, the big one. This is the superhero movie that received more hype than any before or since. The fact that this movie even happened is still kind of amazing. Iron Man kicked off the MCU, and what followed were three other movies introducing a superhero each, as well as one sequel, all building up to a cinematic event known as The Avengers. And to make things even better, The Avengers pretty much lived up to the hype.
Ideas for an Avengers film began in 2003, with Marvel Studios announcing plans to develop the film in April of 2005. They announced their intention to Wall Street analysts to release individual films for the main characters, before merging them together for a crossover film. Although writer Zak Penn (The Incredible Hulk, X2 and X-Men: The Last Stand) initially wrote The Avengers, director Joss Whedon pretty much abandoned the entire script, noting a near complete lack of character connections.
Whedon went on to write a five page treatment of his film plans, titles “Avengers: Some Assembly Required”. At one point, he was worried that the massive revisions would remove Black Widow entirely, so he ended up writing a bunch of pages starring The Wasp, just in case. He was also worried that Loki wouldn’t be enough of a threat for the Avengers, and at one point wrote a script involving Ezekiel Stane (Obadiah Stane’s son). For a time, he thought that many of these characters didn’t belong together, unlike the X-Men, but eventually realized their interactions could be like The Dirty Dozen. Whedon eventually shared the final screenplay credit with Penn, even if Whedon fought for the sole credit. Penn felt the two of them could have collaborated more, but that it wasn’t his choice.
Of all the cast members from previous MCU movies, only two major ones didn’t return to The Avengers. Don Cheadle (War Machine) didn’t appear in The Avengers, although he’s since appeared in both sequels as well as Civil War, and Edward Norton, who was replaced by Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner. As much as Norton was fine in the role, Ruffalo fits with the cast better, and I also find him more convincing as a scientist. In 2014, Norton stated that it was his own decision not to return, because he wanted more diversity in his career and didn’t want to be associated with only one character. That’s fair.
The movie wisely brought back Loki from Thor as the main villain, and like always, Tom Hiddleson is fantastic in the role. Not much more to say there.
Most of the filming took place in Albuquerque, New Mexico, with other film locations including an hour outside of Pittsburgh, Cleveland as a double for New York City, and parts of the movie were filmed in a large vacuum chamber at the NASA Plum Brook Station near Sandusky, Ohio. That vacuum room was mostly used for the SHIELD research facility at the start of the movie. The filming wrapped up in New York City, mainly on Park Avenue and in Central Park.
The decision to include Thanos in the post credits sequence was Whedon’s alone. “He is for me the most powerful and fascinating Marvel villain … he’s in love with Death and I think that’s so cute.” The other post-credit scene, where the Avengers ate Shawarma after the New York Battle, was actually filmed after the movie’s premier and quickly added in before the wide release. It was filmed so late that it didn’t make the initial European release. Chris Evans (Captain America) needed to wear a prosthetic jaw for the scene to cover up the beard he had grown since.
Fun fact – shawarma sales skyrocketed because of that scene. All that for a line that Robert Downey Jr. improvised on set, proving yet again how perfectly cast he is for Iron Man.
Alan Silvestri, who also composed the soundtrack for Captain America: The First Avenger, was hired on to compose The Avengers soundtrack as well. He noted that while he worked on other large casts before, “This one is somewhat extreme in that regard because each of these characters has their own world and it’s a very different situation. It’s very challenging to look for a way to give everyone the weight and consideration they need.” Whedon noted “The score is very old-fashioned, which is why Silvestri was letter perfect for the movie.” His soundtrack ended up being fantastic, and he would later return for Avengers: Infinity War. Some of his other soundtracks include the Back To The Future Trilogy, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Forrest Gump, Predator and Ready Player One.
This also happens to be the first MCU movie released by Disney. I remember a lot of doubt going on with Disney buying Marvel back in 2009, but for the most part, Disney’s allowed Marvel to do their own thing. What it means is that the MCU movies have enjoyed bigger budgets and wider advertisement since. Of course, with a multi film distribution deal with Paramount Pictures, it meant that the first few films wouldn’t be released by Disney. Overall, I think in hindsight most people would agree the deal was good for Marvel.
The Avengers ended up being a huge success, becoming the third highest-grossing movie in history at the time of release with $1.5 billion. It was by far the highest grossing movie of 2012 (Skyfall being number 2), it tied with Avatar and Deathly Hallows – Part 2 for reaching $1 billion in 19 days, and it was at the time the highest grossing superhero movie ever. It also became the highest grossing Disney film in history, of course that’s since been topped by both Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Avengers: Infinity War, both earning over $2 billion.
The movie was also a massive critical success, earning a 92% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes with an average score of 8/10. Roger Ebert commented “It provides its fans with exactly what they desire.” The Rolling Stone’s review commented that it epitomized an exceptional blockbuster, describing it as Transformers with a brain, heart and an actual sense of humour. Mark Rufallo’s performance as Bruce Banner garnered a lot of praise in particular, some critics going as far as to call his performance one of the film’s highlights. On the other hand, the New York Times review said that “Its failures are significant and dispiriting. The light, amusing bits cannot overcome the grinding, hectic emptiness.”
As for myself, I thoroughly enjoyed this movie the first time I watched it, and my enjoyment hasn’t dwindled one bit since. The Avengers is superhero entertainment at its best. The movie takes a little bit to get going, and the superheroes definitely fight and argue before they come together, but that all works in the movie’s favour. It’s a good way to highlight the various heroes’ differences and values. The relationship between Iron Man and Captain America is particularly well done. They frequently clash over how they see the world, even challenging each other to a fight. But when they realize the severity of the situation, they quickly set aside their differences and get to work, beginning a deep, even if sometimes uneasy friendship.
The action in this movie is consistently great, with everything culminating in an epic climax where all six Avengers fight an army of invading aliens led by Loki. All six superheroes have clear roles in the fight, making each of them equally important in the solution to the problem. It’s also great how the team creates multiple friendships between members, like how Tony Stark and Banner bond over their science experiments, Captain America and Thor become friends over their sense of honour, and how there’s a mutual respect between the Captain and Black Widow that develops further in Captain America: Winter Soldier. The only Avenger that gets the short end of the stick here is Hawkeye, who spends most of the movie under Loki’s control. He still gets a lot of feats in the movie, but you don’t get much of a sense of his personality. Thankfully that is rectified in Avengers: Age of Ultron, but Hawkeye is this movie’s biggest fault from a character standpoint.
Marvel’s The Avengers changed what superhero movies could be. Although the superhero movie landscape has changed a lot since, it’s still amazing this movie even happened. It’s the movie that DC has been chasing ever since. It’s successful in a way that the X-Men movies wish they could be, in more ways than one. It’s faithful to the original comics, while still simplifying the story and characters in a way that fits everything into one movie. Most importantly, it’s entertaining. Most of the phase one MCU movies feel dated compared to the newer movies, with perhaps the sole exception of Captain America: The First Avenger, but The Avengers has aged very well.
Next up is Iron Man 3, Marvel’s second billion dollar movie, followed by what is pretty much universally considered the weakest entry in the MCU, Thor: The Dark World. After that, we’ll get to what might actually be the best MCU movie yet, Captain America: Winter Soldier. I’m probably going to try and do Iron Man 3 this weekend as well, since next weekend will mostly likely be too busy for me to write a blog post of any kind.