Director: Joss Whedon
Writers: Joss Whedon & Zack Penn
Actors: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Renner
Rating: PG 13
In one of the most anticipated movie events of the last decade, a team of five big-name superheroes must get past their differences to join forces and take down the villain Loki before he can enslave Earth.
Violence/Scary Images: Fistfights, gun battles, and most other types of combat are a major part of the movie. Several characters are killed. There are several prolonged and intense battles which contain a great deal of destruction and explosions, particularly the climax. Some blood is shown.
Language/Crude Humor: H*** and D*** are used occasionally. A**, Ba***d, and b***h are each used once.
Sexual Content: Some kissing and implied bedroom talk.
Alcohol/Drug Reference: Some characters drink champagne. Tony Stark makes a snarky quip about Bruce Banner having a “huge bag of weed.”
Spiritual Content: Loki occasionally refers to himself as a god. It doesn’t work out well.
Other Negative Content: The protagonists are often petty and turn minor squabbles into full-blown fights as a result. The “good guy” organization in charge of defending Earth has their own morally questionable projects and goals.
Positive Content: The value and importance of teamwork are highlighted.
In May of 2012, a blockbuster hit theaters that would mark the beginning of a new cinematic era. The release of Marvel’s Avengers was the moment that really cemented the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) into the minds of the moviegoing public, setting the groundwork for all of these characters to begin popping in and out of one another’s movies and connecting them all in one overarching story. With Marvel movies and their unique style having been a defining aspect of the movie industry for the better part of a decade, it’s hard to remember what the theater landscape was like before the MCU came about.
So, looking back after all of the films that have come off the back of this one: did the inaugural joining of the titans live up to all its hype?
It certainly delivers what it promised in terms of action: there are plenty of epic, high-stakes battles with all the amazing visuals that you would expect from a high-budget superhero movie. Getting to see different heroes face off with their unique powers was definitely one of the treats that fans came to see, and they got it in spades.
The movie’s real staying power, however, comes from seeing how these superpowered beings interact with one another on a personal level. The film brings together a group of four characters, none of whom are accustomed to sharing the spotlight or having to play by others’ rules: There’s the snarky, narcissistic banter of Tony Stark; the culturally ignorant but morally upright Captain America; Bruce Banner, the mild-mannered scientist with a raging green alter ego; and Thor, a being who rules another realm but has only the loosest grasp of Earth customs.
Through their constant struggle to cope with each other’s vastly different personalities and motives, we get a movie packed full of golden one-liners. (This is, after all, the 2010s, where we can measure the worth of a movie by how many memes it spawns.) Beyond that, though, it gives us a chance to see different sides and different weaknesses of our beloved characters, and how they deal with the world when they aren’t locked into their own personals stories and arcs. Seeing how difficult it is for these heroes to have to use their humanity and not just their powers is, I think, the epitome of what superhero movies are really about, and it makes it all the more epic and rewarding when the climax hits.
The Avengers also largely set the tone that Marvel movies are now known for, a tone characterized by complete irreverence towards world-threatening danger (and most other things), and where clever quips are treated as more pressing than actual fights. The inappropriate juxtaposition, for example, of classical music with a string of assassinations gives insight as to how seriously Marvel takes its own characters and plots, as well as just how bothered the characters really are by the events that they’re a part of.
I honestly can’t believe that it’s been six years since The Avengers came out. I still vividly remember seeing it in theaters and the almost-tangible excitement that surrounded its release. Looking at it again now, though, I think that The Avengers embodies all the reasons that Marvel has remained so successful. Because, even though it’s capable of putting together complex character and intriguing, well-woven plots, it doesn’t feel the need to take itself seriously. Avengers and all the Marvel movies since have fed off of a sense of fun rather than grittiness. They capture the whimsical escapism of comic books, reveling in the unrealistic nature of it all instead of trying to deny it.
And so, with Infinity War now coming out and yet another highly anticipated blockbuster set to make its place in movie history, we can continue to enjoy the simple bigness of it all.
The Bottom Line