Over the last four years, Marvel has taken on quite an ambitious project. Possibly truly unprecedented. In the comics, The Avengers was a team formed from the biggest names the company had to offer. Now, they wanted to bring all that to the silver screen, and they wanted to do it properly. They started off giving each of the core members an entire introductory movie (two in Iron-Man's case), before finally bringing them together.
Review by Crispy
Added: May 28, 2012
Despite the last five movies repeated references to the Avengers Initiative, it seems the whole project has fallen through. Can't blame the head honchos' decision. I mean the whole idea rests on gathering together a group of super-powered freaks to join forces; the potential for a massive backfire was way to great of a risk, so the whole idea was shit-canned. Fury doesn't like it, but it's not his call to make, so he focuses on other endeavors. Among them is the Tesseract, Hydra's secret weapon which S.H.I.E.L.D. has found deep in the ocean. It's the key to unlimited energy, so obviously they're rather interested in it, and they have Thor's buddy Dr. Selvig working on the project. Unfortunately, it's also the key to bridging the Worlds, and Loki is able to use its power to return to Earth. In the blink of an eye, he destroys the base and converts Selvig and master archer Hawkeye into mindless slaves. It seems that Loki has made a deal with an otherworldly creature who has provided him with an army, and he plans on recreating the portal on a massive scale to make his attack. Knocked back on his heels, Fury makes a few calls. Risks be damned, the earth needs an elite fighting force to counter this threat. It's time for the Avengers to assemble.
With a film like this, it's obvious that the main strength is going to be the chemistry between the group, and this is asking a lot. Hell, it's nice when you have two actors able to throw down some chemistry, now you're asking for seven? No problem. Whedon performed nothing short of magic bringing both actor and characters together in a perfect balance, as his writing gave each character their own personality and made them a piece of the puzzle. Even that age-old "everybody-fights-before-coming-together" trope plays off because everyone has their own reason for mistrusting the others: Stark due to ego, Thor to his superiority complex as a deity and the personal stakes with his brother involved, Hulk to his self-loathing and bitterness, Cap to his frustration at having to deal with the others' immaturity. You see, right here is where giving everybody their own movie played out so beautifully, as each character is fleshed out to a degree they never could have achieved in a single movie, even if they did significantly increase the running time.
While they're technically six Avengers (seven if you count Fury), the big four stepping in from their own features all brought the same fervor that made their own films a success. Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth and Robert Downey Jr. were awesome across the board, and again, the chemistry between them is unreal. Still, I do think they should have modernized Captain America's uniform. Maybe using that metallic mesh that's all the rage these days. Anyway, the big story here was Ed Norton being replaced by Mark Ruffalo as Dr. Bruce Banner, and the results were, in my opinion, something of a mixed bag.
You see, Ruffalo was incredibly good, and chemistry-wise was at the same par the others brought, but Norton just has a natural, intangible charisma about him that Ruffalo just doesn't have. Throughout the entire movie I found myself imagining Norton there in his place. With that said, that same lack of charisma fits Banner incredibly well, especially when lined up with his outspoken, over-muscled counterparts. He's supposed to be out-shown, the quiet guy in the background, until the Hulk emerges. Plus, five years later, Banner has something of a hold on his big, green condition, but it's left him bitter and sarcastic. Personally, I liked this shift in the character. It adds a bit of humanity and realism to the character after living with the fear that Norton portrayed in 2008, and in my opinion, was more entertaining as a result.
On the other side of the spectrum, the Hulk himself was a little disappointing. Not what he was doing. No, he was my favorite of the lot and had a smile on my face the entire time he was on the screen, but he looked horrible. First of all, they used Ruffalo's face and his voice, both decisions a detriment. Lou Ferigno's role in providing the barely used voice was not just a nice throwback; he was awesome at it. Just because you've replaced Banner doesn't mean you had to reinvent the whole damned wheel. Still, I liked the new relationship between Hulk and Banner. Before, it was like a small child firing a large machine gun; no control and the recoil was blowing all over the place. Now, he's still not in full control, but he's learned to point it in the general direction he wants to wreck. Anyway to sum it all up, I like Norton over Ruffalo, Whedon's Banner over Leterrier's, but the latter had an infinitely better-looking Hulk.
You know, I was never really a fan of bringing in Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury. Sure, everyone loves Jackson, but he has the same damned schtick in everything he plays. I'd like to see Fury be a bit more of his own character. I think Brad Pitt could have pulled it off, channeling Lt. Aldo Rayne, with a little less murderous redneck, of course. Scarlett Johansson didn't get too much time to flesh out her character in her brief stint in Iron-Man 2, and Jeremy Renner got even less in Thor, but they shine here. ScarJo in particular showed that even though she's smoking hot, she was chosen for reasons beyond her body, amazing as it is. Renner didn't quite hit the bar she set, but I'm still looking forward to Hawkeye in the sequels.
Never mind the actors and the chemistry and all that fluff. We want to see these people get down and dirty, damn it! And when the shit hits the fan, I was all but hopping in my seat. With such a diverse group of fighters, everyone brings a different style to the battle, and I loved them all. Hawkeye sits on top sniping, Captain owns the straight melee game while Widow's fighting adds an acrobatic twist. Meanwhile, Thor fuses hammer blows with lightning strikes, Iron-Man's got the technology, and Hulk...well Hulk fucking smashes. Our big green friend absolutely ruled the whole scene, and watching sheer destruction wade through enemy troops like Godzilla in Tokyo was breathtaking. Hopefully the sequel has a lot more action, now that all the introductions have been made.
Looking forward, Marvel is returning to the individual franchises, and sequels have been announced for Iron-Man, Captain America and Thor; and reaction to Ruffalo was strong enough that Marvel is talking about The Incredible Hulk 2, as well. Speaking of the fans, they've been yelling about an Ant-Man movie for years, many of which felt that actually doing the Avengers without him was a significantly dropped ball, so don't be surprised if you see his feature announced sooner or later, which would also bring Wasp to the fold. Obviously, they're building the stage for Avengers 2, who's villain has already been hinted at. I can't wait.
So, all of the work has come to fruition, and Marvel's gamble has more than paid off. I mean shit, other than a few casting issues, my biggest gripe is that Iron-Man and Captain America are unmasked on the poster, and let's face it, Gwenyth Paltrow's legs more than make up for that. 10/10, no question.