Sick of films from Marvel Studios? Think list articles are cliche? If your answer to either of those questions is ‘no,’ then there is a chance you will not hate this countdown of the best (and only) films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe!
Before this hit theaters, I really was not impressed by this series of films. While the immensely talented Joss Whedon (seemingly) being put in charge of the film was very encouraging, the task of balancing six super heroes (most of them unproven as compelling on-screen characters still) while creating an exciting story seemed like too tall a task for anyone. Whedon somehow pulled it off.
While this film would be topped by both MCU films in 2014, this film still might be the most impressive. Characters like Bruce Banner, Thor, and Steve Rogers really felt over-matched when trying to carry a whole film by themselves, and Whedon proved how valuable each of them could be as part of an ensemble. (Rogers would go on to be a great lead character in his next solo film. We’re still waiting on Thor and Banner to prove they can do the same.) This remains and incredibly entertaining film that I can re-watch any day of the week.
What are some things the movie gets right?
Loki: Holy shit. After Thor, I was ready to be completely done with that character, and I could not believe anyone thought it was a good idea for him to be the main villain of the first film about the Avengers team. This movie completely salvaged the character though by stripping away all of the character’s timidness and leaving only the delight wickedness behind. Give me more Loki from now until forever.
Mark Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner/Hulk: While Ruffalo no doubt benefited from being in a supporting role, he still deserves credit for basically nailing every single moment/character beat. This was necessary because it’s a tough job for an action hero to be likable and endearing enough that the audience hopes he does not turn into the Hulk for his own sake. By the time he finally willingly transforms (more on that in a bit), the audience is fully invested in his character and appreciates his willingness to sacrifice his desire to keep “the other guy” from popping up.
Captain America and Thor: Both characters were so one-note in their introductory films that I really did not care about them at all going into this one. Joss Whedon managed to find a way to integrate them into the ensemble and establish their characters in a way that they had organic reasons to not completely trust the other members of the team (or Nick Fury). Great writing.
What are some things the movie gets wrong?
Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye was clearly the one hero that the film had little to no time for. He’s basically a mindless zombie villain lackey for Loki within ten minutes of the film and does not become a hero again until the final act. It was probably a creative decision that was best for the film (overstuffed with protagonists as it was), but the decision prevented us from getting a proper introduction to the character (in his first real appearance) while making his motivation in the final act of the film incredibly two-dimensional.
“That’s my trick, Captain. I’m always angry.” Wait, what? Perhaps this is something that will be explored in more detail later on, but this just made no sense to me whatsoever. We’ve already seen his inability to control his anger once in the film. So, he’s not always angry enough to just switch it on and off. This felt like a cheat.
CGI Climax: The alien army that shows up at the end to give Loki his planet are cartoon characters solely designed to be fodder for our heroes to destroy with relative ease. They’re boring. They look like they’re from a video game. They clearly won’t be able to kill any of the Avengers. I was hoping for something more creative from Joss Whedon for this climax.
DEATH IS MEANINGLESS: Agent Coulson’s death is meant to be the tipping for the Avengers team to give them something to…avenge. Coulson was a delightful side character for this universe played with the perfect amount of charm by Clark Gregg. He was likable and endearing. You knew you were watching a Marvel movie when he pops up. People like to feel like they’re at home and safe. He gave the universe that. And that is why he was the perfect person to kill.