Marvel’s The Avengers is a miracle. By all rights, it shouldn’t work as well as it does, but it managed to be one of the most fun films I have ever seen. It ranks right up there with How to Train Your Dragon, Back to the Future, and Apollo 13 as a movie I could watch dozens of times and never get bored with. It’s that good. The fact that so many filmmakers and studios were able to team up to bring a half-dozen iconic superheroes together after having their own adventures in separate films must have been a logistical nightmare. But the end results are spectacular.
My wife gave me The Avengers for Christmas (after we watched it twice in theaters, which is something we almost never do), and I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying it again and again over the past few weeks. Now that I’ve had some time to let it marinate in my mind, I would like to count down my 10 favorite things in The Avengers. Let’s start assembling this list. Spoiler alert, by the way.
10. The Flying Aircraft Carrier
Maybe it’s because I saw a completely silly trailer for Battleship right before The Avengers started, but it was so satisfying to see The Avengers beat that overblown board-game movie to the punch with the unbelievably cool liftoff of an aircraft carrier from the ocean. There’s just no way Battleship could top that. A movie about superheroes managed to leave a naval movie in the dust with its awesome special effects in the service of its story. Not bad.
When the ultimate villain was revealed in the middle of the end credits, I got so excited. First of all, the line building up to it was, “To challenge them is to court death.” And, as any comic-book reader worth his salt knows, that is exactly what Thanos does in the epic Infinity Gauntlet series. Thanos is literally in love with Lady Death, so much so that he will do anything to prove his devotion to her. Even killing half of the living souls in the universe with the snap of his fingers. Seeing his familiar pruned face smiling at the audience made me want to cheer at the prospect of an Avengers 2.
8. Tony Stark’s Wit
Tony Stark’s quips in the first Iron Man were spot-on, but they fell flat in Iron Man 2 for various reasons. I was worried that the character had worn out his welcome after that disappointing sequel. Thankfully, all my fears were allayed in his first scene in The Avengers. His little tit for tat with Pepper Potts is a delight to watch unfold, and when Agent Phil Coulson enters, it just gets better. Throughout the film, Stark is having fun, playing with people’s emotions, and, most of all, endearing himself to the audience. That’s a tough act to pull off, but the writing and acting are up to the task.
7. Bruce Banner’s Interactions with His Teammates
Not only is Mark Ruffalo’s portrayal of Bruce Banner sure to go down in history as the greatest interpretation of the character ever, but it also brings out the best qualities of every character he interacts with. The moment Black Widow confronts him, it’s clear that she is both terrified of him and adversarial toward him. She starts out by trying to deceive him into a false sense of security, then she appeals to his humanity and offers some half-truths before finally resorting to the threat of deadly force to get him to come with her. All of this says so much about her character while also giving us a little peek into Banner’s psyche and backstory, as well.
When Steve Rogers meets him, Banner is curious to know if Rogers shares the same prejudice as everyone else against him. But Rogers responds perfectly by noting that he’s only interested in Banner’s scientific knowledge, nothing more. Tony Stark has the best interactions with Banner. He doesn’t dance around him or worry about upsetting him. He openly challenges him, teases him, and encourages him to embrace his inner Hulk. All of this leads to a perfect payoff when Banner shows up at the final battle and makes peace with Black Widow, Captain America, and his own personal demons.
6. The Incredible Hulk
I wrestled with whether to put this one ahead of or behind Bruce Banner, but I decided that this deserves a slightly higher spot, ironically because the Bruce Banner scenes did such a superb job building the desire to see the Hulk. Unlike 2003’s Hulk, which bored me to tears long before the Hulk ever arrived, The Avengers keeps ratcheting up the tension level involving Banner until when he finally gets angry and Hulks out I am primed to see what happens next. And he doesn’t disappoint. Every time the Hulk is on screen he is absolutely gripping, literally, e.g., grabbing a pilot’s ejector seat, punching Thor, catching Iron Man, and trying to pick up Thor’s hammer.
5. Black Widow’s Interrogations
Even though Black Widow is the weakest Avenger in terms of physical strength, she more than makes up for it with her fighting techniques, psychological prowess, and unparalleled ability to confound her enemies’ expectations. The first time we see her, she looks like she’s in way over her head while being interrogated by a Russian crime boss. But we soon learn that she’s been in control of the conversation the whole time, and she could have escaped anytime she wanted. It’s a brilliant introduction to her character, light-years beyond anything she got in Iron Man 2.
Even though the film set her up perfectly in that scene as a force to be reckoned with, I still didn’t see the twist coming when she confronts Loki in a later scene. He verbally abuses her for quite a while and just when it seems like she is on the verge of tears Loki gets overconfident and shares a little too much information with her. That’s when she turns the tables and makes Loki feel like a fool for letting his guard down. She beat him at his own game.
4. The End Battle
I’ve seen a lot of battle scenes, from Braveheart to Saving Private Ryan and The Dark Knight Rises, and none of them is as well-paced or satisfying as the one at the end of The Avengers. The way the film cuts from one confrontation to another and uses each hero’s strengths to the fullest advantage is breathtaking. I love how each fight is exciting in its own right, but it also builds the tension, raises the stakes little by little, and feeds into the other conflicts seamlessly. I don’t know if any other action movie will be able to top this.
3. “Puny God”
Loki gets the surprise of his life when he tries to belittle the Hulk by claiming to be a god during their short-lived faceoff. The Hulk won’t have any of it, though. He just grabs the spoiled brat and slams him repeatedly into the ground until Loki is left to gasp for breath in silent shock and pain. And then the usually mute Hulk says what everyone in the audience is thinking: “Puny god.” Simply brilliant.
2. Captain America’s Epic Rebuttal
While the Hulk’s line is awesome, Captain America’s is even better. After Thor appears out of nowhere and grabs Loki, Iron Man gives chase and leaves the flightless Captain America and Black Widow behind in a jet. I worried that Cap would look like he’s out of his league compared to all the super-powered guys flying around who are clearly stronger than him. But then the film does something very smart. It actually addresses that issue by having Black Widow warn Cap not to follow Thor and Loki because, “They’re practically gods.” But Captain America matter-of-factly responds, “There’s only one God, ma’am. And I’m pretty sure He doesn’t dress like that.” With those simple words, he reminds us that even if he’s not the most powerful superhero in the world, he’s fighting for the right cause, and that makes him a force to be reckoned with.
1. Agent Phil Coulson
Agent Phil Coulson was a fun little addition to the first Iron Man film. But then he kept popping up in other Marvel films, like Iron Man 2 and Thor. In The Avengers he is a welcome, comforting presence from the very first scene, and he just keeps getting better. His interactions with Black Widow, Thor, Stark and especially Steve Rogers are all heartfelt and fun. He is the glue that holds these characters together and eventually unites them. It’s sad to see him die, but it’s so fitting that he should be the one who brings the Avengers together and becomes the very person they are avenging. Even though he won’t appear in any more Avengers-related movies, his influence will continue to be felt. Maybe he’ll even have trading cards made for him.
Bonus: The “How It Should Have Ended” Tie-in
The after-credits sequence of each Marvel film became something that audiences looked forward to seeing because it gave a little peek into the larger universe of superheroes that Marvel was building. I had no idea what they were going to do at the end of The Avengers because the task of bringing everyone together in one film was complete, so what more was there to show? I’ll tell you what: Shawarma.
The iconic image that all of those teasers had been building up to turned out to simply be all of the Avengers sitting in a restaurant enjoying a silent victory meal. I seriously thought that Superman and Batman were going to show up in the booth right next to theirs since that moment is clearly meant to hearken back to all of those hilarious How It Should Have Ended videos. I’m so glad that the HISHE saw that opportunity and capitalized on it in this video:
The bottom line is The Avengers is a great movie with more memorable scenes and lines than most other superhero films combined. Well done, Joss Whedon and everyone else involved in this production. If I missed one of your favorite moments or if you disagree with anything on my list, feel free to let me know in a comment below.
This is the Deja Reviewer bidding you farewell until we meet again.
All images from The Avengers are the copyright of Paramount Pictures and Marvel.