If there was one thing that had been made clear from series of origin films we have reviewed in the MCU up to this point, they were all leading up to The Avengers (2012). Actually, this is a cycle that will seemingly repeat itself as they were constantly setting up the pieces in the individual movies for the big blow outs of the Avengers installments. One could say that this strategy of the MCU might take some of the suspense out of, say Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014), since you know that Captain America will be in the next MCU flick. Luckily for Marvel, most theater-goers do not pay attention to such nitpicking. And to be fair, The Avengers was pretty darn good.
It is really tricky pull off such an ensemble film like The Avengers. To put it in a more comic book fashion, it is difficult, cinematically speaking, for the Avengers to assemble. You have a cast of characters who had all, aside from Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), had their own headlining films. What I am trying to say is that there were basically six or seven main characters. That is usually a recipe for disaster. In order to pull off this seemingly impossible task, Marvel turned to Joss Whedon to write and direct the first Avengers movie. It would seem that this was to be his swan song, though, and not much of what Whedon has done since then has been as good. There were some signs that his previous genius was beginning to crack in The Avengers in the occasional clunky dialog. How was the Black Widow “compromised” again? It was just put in a strange way. Otherwise, Whedon managed to give enough of a reminder of where all these characters came from, and provide for them all with the right motivation of getting even with Loki (Tom Hiddleston). The Viking god of mischief came to Earth bent on world conquest, backed by the (at this point) mysterious Thanos (Jim Starlin, uncredited). Wielding the Tesseract, a stone of immense power, Loki opens a portal to deep space through which the hordes of the Mad Titan can launch their attack on New York City. Up to this point, Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans), Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Bruce Banner/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), bickered more among themselves than fighting any bad guys. But as they are all heroes on their own, all they needed was the right push to put aside their differences and form the title team. And therein lies the genius of Whedon’s writing, that he was able to find a sensible way of getting these disparate characters to work together.
The Avengers is a deceptively long movie, though the premise is laughably simple. It is one of those blue laser films, if you get my meaning? If not, take a look at science-fiction/action films with plots involving potential global destruction. They usually have a blue laser that is about to blow up the planet, or end life as we know it. In this one, the laser brings an invading force, but the concept is basically the same. The problem with so many of these films is that they take themselves way too seriously. Yes, the possibility of life as we know it ending should be approached with gravity. But most of the time directors forget that you can have some levity in these situations. This is one area where Whedon shines. While our favorite heroes are punching aliens and dodging tumbling skyscrapers in Midtown Manhattan, they also take the time to crack wise. I appreciate this strategy because it humanizes the superhuman, in a way. It also ratchets up the impact if something were to happen to one of the characters. Thankfully, they all survive, and to sum this all up, they tiredly celebrate their victory in my favorite end-credits scene in the whole of the MCU: by eating shawarma together.
If you read my review of Thor, you might remember the slight quibble I had about enjoying a movie about a Scandinavian deity. The Avengers somewhat amusingly addressed this when Black Widow warns Captain America not to get involved in a quarrel between Thor and Loki early on in the film. Captain America replies with the kind of old school wisdom you might expect of somebody born in the 1920s by saying that there is only one God, and He does not look like they do. True enough. But the true Christian act of this film comes from this group of individuals learning to work together as a team. Up until this point, they all had to face their trials essentially on their own. When you get used to being a solo act, it is hard to all of the sudden be forced to rely on another. This is important for us to remember as Christians. None of us have to face our day-to-day difficulties alone with God in our lives, and He will never let you down.
I do not feel any compunction about saying that The Avengers should be seen because, if nothing else, the good guys win in the end. There are some intense battle scenes that might be difficult for some of our youngest to handle. But otherwise it is a great way to kill two and half hours of your quarantine, if you are still forced to do so.