As a muscle-building superhero, I wanted to take time out of my busy schedule of kicking down doors and fighting bad guys to share some thoughts about Marvel’s The Avengers… the superhero movie that every red-blooded comic-book fan has been breathlessly waiting for.
It’s been built up from Marvel’s previous flicks: Hulk (2003), The Incredible Hulk (2008), Iron Man (2008), Iron Man 2 (2010), Captain America: The First Avenger (2011), Thor (2011).
Before I get into the meat-and-potatoes movie review, it makes sense to talk about the background of The Avengers’ team. But first I want to give props to DC Comics’ Justice League (aka Justice League of America), a comic book title that pioneered the concept of the superhero super group. DC came up with the first Justice League comic book in 1960 and it was a big hit. The inaugural roster included Wonder Woman, Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, the Flash, Aquaman, and Martian Manhunter.
Marvel Comics realized the power of putting cool heroes together on a team, thus The Avengers title was born a few years later in 1963. And that was really popular too. But it’s important to know that over the decades, a bunch of different superheroes have come in and out of The Avengers’ world.
Let’s look at the comic-book backstories behind the main players in the movie…
Real Name: Tony Stark
Height: 6’1″; (in armor) 6’6″
Weight: 225 lbs; (in armor) 425 pounds
Strengths: Genius-level IQ. Business superstar. Powerful armored suit.
Comic book visionary, Stan Lee created Iron Man in the height of the Cold War. Tony Stark, the man inside of the protective suit, is the quintessential capitalist. He’s a billionaire genius playboy that counterculture would hate but that Lee would make them love.
Stark is a military-weapons manufacturer who suffers a major chest injury during a kidnapping. Even though he’s pretty busted up and dying, his captors make him build a powerful weapon capable of major destruction.
Possessing Einstein-like smarts, Stark instead uses the materials to construct a powered suit of armor to save his life, escape, and later protect the world as Iron Man.
The whole broken-heart-surrounded-by-a-protective-shell is a metaphor for Stark’s confident and successful exterior, yet tormented soul. That’s the kind of knowledge you can drop on your parents or English teacher to prove your comic book collection is indeed making you smarter.
Real Name: Steve Rogers
Weight: 220 lbs
Strengths: Almost-superhuman levels of speed, agility, strength, and endurance. High intelligence. Indestructible shield.
Captain America is probably the oldest of the characters in that he predates Marvel Comics. He was created in 1941 under Marvel’s predecessor, Timely Comics, by Joe Simon and the legendary Jack Kirby.
Captain America was popular through World War II but fell out of favor and disappeared for a while after the war, until he was resurrected in the 1960s so he could join The Avengers. He very quickly became the leader of the team.
In a failed attempt to join the U.S. Army during World War II, Steve Rogers volunteers for a top-secret project that promises to give regular men near-superhuman abilities. After he was given Super-Soldier Serum, Rogers is transformed from scrawny to superhero.
Armed with little more than an indestructible shield that can be thrown as a weapon, Captain America is the super-patriotic straight arrow who battles Nazis during the war. When his plane is shot down, and falls into the frigid ocean, he survives and is frozen in suspended animation… only to return decades later to a battle new villains.
Real Name: Thor Odinson
Weight: 640 lbs
Strengths: Thorforce gives him near-infinite and mystical power. Energy-channeling unbreakable hammer.
Jack Curbie and Stan Lee teamed up to create Thor, based on the god of Norse mythology with the same name. Stan and Jack really wanted a character who was stronger than the strongest man on the planet. So they made him into this guy who was banished from heaven and sent to Earth to find his humility.
Aside from the 80s heavy-metal-band haircut, Thor’s second coolest feature is his powerful hammer, named Mjolnir. This weapon can summon the four elements: wind, rain, thunder, and lightning. Pretty badass.
If you’ve ever played Dungeons & Dragons, this is probably your favorite superhero.
Real Name: Bruce Banner
Height: 5’9.5″ (Banner); 7’6″ (Hulk)
Weight: 128 (Banner); 1,200 lbs (Hulk)
Strengths: The Hulk possesses superhuman strength, speed, and power. Deafening hand clap. Resistance to injury. Banner is no slouch either. His IQ is so high that it cannot be measured on any known intelligence test.
The Hulk is an amalgamation of Jekyll and Hyde. He’s a monster who’s a good guy. The Hulk is basically the id unleashed. In case you slept through the psychology class that talked about Freud and psychoanalysis, “the id is the part of the psyche, residing in the unconscious, that is the source of instinctive impulses that seek satisfaction in accordance with the pleasure principle and are modified by the ego and the superego before they are given overt expression.” In other words, he’s a giant, green monster that punches through everything because he feels like it.
It’s important to mention that Lou Ferrigno played Hulk in the popular TV series, The Incredible Hulk. Ferrigno is a big bodybuilder who is really cool, but the comic-book version of Hulk is way stronger. In fact, comic-book Hulk is so powerful he can knock over buildings and leap into outerspace. Sorry Lou.
Real Name: Natasha Romanoff
Weight: 130 lbs
Strengths: Ages really slowly. Enhanced immune system and physical durability.
There’s been a lot of comic characters named Black Widow. But the one in The Avengers is the Natalia Romanova version. She was a Soviet superspy who was a villain in the Iron Man 2 movie. She defects to the West, joins The Avengers and then joins SHIELD.
Romanova’s got one of Marvel’s more complicated backstories: Originally a ballerina, she was taken in by the KGB, trained as a spy, and then chemically treated to give her an extended life-span.
She also has the distinction of often being romantically involved with other superheroes — including Daredevil, the Winter Soldier, Hawkeye, the Red Guardian, and so on. Superhero dudes get all goofy around her and can’t help themselves because she’s super hot, has red hair, and a sexy accent.
Real Name: Clint Barton
Weight: 230 lbs
Strengths: Can nail any target with a bow and arrow. Awesome with knives, darts, and boomerangs too.
Hawkeye is an expert archer and he’s considered the world’s best marksman.
He had a rough childhood, which included being orphaned after his parent’s were killed in a car accident and running away to join the circus. It was his role as a carney that helped Hawkeye hone his mad acrobatic skills.
While bows and arrows are old-school cool, I was wondering how Hawkeye is going to handle himself, along with Black Widow, because neither of them have super powers. And unlike Tony Stark’s powerful armor, they don’t really have powerful technology on their side either. So from a character development point of view that makes this a really interesting movie.
Real Name: Loki Laufeyson
Weight: 525 lbs
Strengths: Increased lifespan. Superhuman strength. Injury resistance. Magical ability (shape shifting, flight, telepathy).
Thor’s evil step-brother, Loki, is the dude that you love to hate. He’s based on the god of mischief in Norse mythology. Once again this is probably your favorite villain if you every played D & D.
Loki is a powerful sorcerer and can do really weird things like reattach severed body parts, including his own head. He has also been known to shape-shift into a female.
I know… really weird.
Real Name: Johann Shmidt
Weight: 195 lbs
Strengths: Master of disguise. Laser beam weapons. “Dust of death” kills a victim within seconds.
Red skull is Captain America’s arch rival. As the story goes, Red Skull was trained by Adolf Hitler himself. I cannot confirm or deny that the most vile of supervillains makes an appearance in The Avengers. Truth is there’s a second villain that has, until now, been kept a tightly guarded secret. Red Skull may or may not be the one helping Loki to destroy our team of superheroes this summer.
As the story goes, Joe Simon created this nasty character while watching a hot fudge sundae melt. The cherry on top reminded him of a red skull. In fact, “Hot Fudge” was the character’s original name. Probably good that they changed it.
The Avengers storyline is simple: A group of superheroes must work together to save the world from an alien invasion.
This is, without a doubt, one of the greatest superhero comic book movies. You can say it’s the best since The Dark Knight (2008). Essentially, this is Marvel’s Dark Knight.
Evil Loki is teleported from Asgard, a small asteroid-like place that serves as home to the Norse gods such as Thor, and their ruler, Odin. It exists in another dimensional plane and is about the size of the United States.
Within the first few minutes of the movie, Loki steals the Tesseract (a cube-like device of untold power) from S.H.I.E.L.D. and disappears.
Just as a refresher, S.H.I.E.L.D. (Supreme Headquarters International Espionage Law-enforcement Division) is an extra-government intelligence and security organization dedicated to protecting Earth from all threats, terrestrial or extraterrestrial.
S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) assembles the Avengers team to get the Tesseract back and give Loki and his alien army a serious beat down.
Whether it’s Robert Downey, Jr doing his best Tony Stark yet or Chris Evans, completely embodying the old-fashioned Captain America, the actors in this film are well cast. In particular, Jeremy Renner and Scarlett Johansson do a great job as Hawkeye and Black Widow, respectively.
Without a doubt, the two biggest standouts in this movie are Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner, a.k.a. the Hulk, and Tom Hiddleston as Loki. In my opinion, Ruffalo delivered the best Bruce Banner ever because his performance is so naturally low-key. It all just felt so real since Bruce Banner is such a fragmented character in the Marvel Universe.
Then we move on to Tom Hiddleston as Loki. He’s a very manipulative and cunning villain. He never really explodes in over-the-top anger like most modern villains. He’s very subtle in his performance. And he’s got this creepy smile that’s the embodiment of dirty-rotten nasty.
Even with the awesome cast, Joss Whedon is the true standout of this film. On board as both writer and director, he was 100% committed to this project from day one. He’s a lifelong fan of The Avengers. He read the comics when he was a kid and later wrote a bunch of issues of Astonishing X-Men. And after this film’s success, he’ll be doing more action-packed comic-book cinema for sure. Maybe even a story about a muscle-building superhero
The way that Whedon writes the movie is so carefully constructed. He does a great job of balancing out just about every character in the film. For the most part, he gave every character their time to shine. And the way he balanced out all the moments and executed them within his direction was just so well imagined and totally creative and entertaining.
Big props to Whedon for the way he adds on a very smart sense of humor throughout the movie. This was, without the doubt, the funniest of the Marvel movies. The situations are not only timed so well by the actors, but it’s the lines that he just writes for them that makes you laugh out loud. It’s not Eddie-Murphy-in-Delirious hilarious, but nevertheless pretty funny.
Okay I’m about to geek out a little…
Within Whedon’s direction too, he does a phenomenal job setting up the action sequences at the start… but the way that he shoots them in such a grand scale in terms of cinematography, and also within the tight editing as well, it’s mind boggling how he delivers so much visual eye candy… the destruction that you want to see when all these people have to fight one another throughout the film. Totally geeky and awesome.
And the way that Whedon creates this dysfunctional family is perfect. They work together when it counts, yet they don’t really get along after the job is complete.
Based on the action sequences, there’s hardly any shaky cam. Plus there’s a ton of shock-and-awe destruction in this movie, which is super cool if you like that kind of stuff (of course you do).
Overall, The Avengers delivers on everything. Great characters, humor, grand epic action, and visual eye candy from start to finish. And there’s never really a boring moment throughout the movie. Whedon balances this film out so well in terms of substance, great acting, phenomenal action, sharp timing, and smart humor throughout. The actors simply crush their performances in this movie.
And that’s why I’m going to give The Avengers four stars. My only constructive criticism was the way two particular characters were just slightly underused. But the more I thought about it, this movie lived up to the hype in the best way imaginable.
So, I hope you’ve enjoyed Marvel’s The Avengers movie review. Be sure to comment below.
Editor’s note: All images and characters are copyrighted by Marvel Comics.