This is not a movie review about superheroes.
This is a movie review about what it is to be human, a flawed, weak, noble human, because in many ways I believe that is what The Avengers is about.
Oh, BTW, spoilers below.
The Avengers begins with Loki’s attack on SHIELD’s headquarters in order to take the Tesseract, last seen in the hands of SHIELD in the Easter egg scene at the end of Thor and before that in Captain America. During this attack he pretty much destroys the SHIELD base on his own, brainwashes Hawkeye and Dr. Selvig, and steals the Tesseract. This causes Fury, Agent Coulson (from previous Marvel movies such as Iron Man I and II, Thor, and A Curious Thing Happened On The Way To Thor’s Hammer (a brilliant short film that’s an added feature on the Thor DVD), and Natasha Romanov, aka Black Widow, to go out and recruit some of Earth’s most brilliant talent in the form of Steve Rogers, Tony Stark, and Bruce Banner. Together, they, along with Thor who joins them after Loki allows himself to be captured, form “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes” as the Avengers are referred to as during the comic.
However, that does not make them a team.
Each one of them is broken in such a fashion that it gets in the way of them gelling together. Tony is his abrasive, smarmy, superior self as we’ve seen in the previous Iron Man films. Bruce is constantly haunted by “the other guy”, the Hulk, whose shadow he lives in constant threat of. Natasha is suffering from old guilt that she believes she’s repaying and new guilt and worry over the turning of Hawkeye (who we learn is responsible for her going “good”). Steve Rogers is burdened by loyalty and duty, two things that would normally be good if it wasn’t for the blindness which her pursues them at first. Later, when he’s freed from the grasp of Loki, Hawkeye is similarly filled with guilt for the actions he took while under Loki’s control and the lives he ended as a result. Even Thor, while not human, has his flaws; his sole devotion to Asgard gets in the way, initially, of his working with the team, even as he admires them and his love for his adopted brother is no help either, especially as it screws him over again and again and again. Finally, Fury is shackled by duty.
All of these are very real and very human issues that each of them deal with. Tony needles Steve, at one point telling him “Everything that’s special about you came out of a bottle” while Steve constantly remarks about Tony’s suit, implying that Tony would be nothing without it unlike Steve who is always special. Bruce is consistently down and dour, which is understandable considering that his condition will always, eventually, get away from him and that doesn’t leave him in the best of spirits. Fury, because his duty, cannot tell the rest of the team what is really going on. The only one who tries to be a team player is Natasha.
Well, and Coulson. Especially Coulson.
Coulson, you see, is the most human of them all. He’s not a super spy, a genius, a god, or anything. He’s just a guy who gets the job done, apparently a socially nervous guy with an interest in a cellist that moved to Portland. We’ve seen him in a number of movies and he just seems like a nice, likeable person, one who has a total fanboy crush on Captain America, who loves to poke back at Tony whenever he can (although I definitely got the feeling that the two of them had become friends of a sort in this movie). He’s the one who believes in the team, a fact that Fury remarks on later. And, because it’s a Joss movie, you just know he’s going to die.
Yep. Coulson is killed by Loki while trying to stop Loki from escaping. It’s Coulson who reads Loki perfectly, telling him that he’s going to lose because it’s his nature, that he lacks conviction. And then, to grind Loki’s face in it, Coulson blasts him with a laser, right in the face, as if to say “Yeah, you killed me, but you’re still nothing but a twerp.”
It’s Coulson’s death, and the emotional manipulation by Fury, that causes the team to finally click. It’s Coulson, normal, human Coulson, who reminds the rest of the team what it is they’re there for. As Coulson said to Fury before he died, “They need something to…” I’m going to agree with another reviewer and say that he probably would’ve said “avenge”. And that’s what they sought out to do, because, as Tony said, Loki made it personal.
And wow did Loki screw up.
The team clicks and clicks hard with Captain America taking the lead and directing the show, organizing the team in a way that they lacked earlier. He directs each of them to a task that is perfect to their skills, giving the simplest to the Hulk (“And Hulk? Smash.” *Big, green, shit-eating Hulk grin*). Before this there’s a scene with Loki and Tony in Stark Tower where Loki is being smug and Tony is being unimpressed. He then proceeds to tell Loki exactly why he screwed up. He explains the group of people whom Loki has pissed off and when Loki answers “I have an army” Tony immediately fires back “Yeah, well, we have a Hulk.” And considering the damage the Hulk does, Loki probably wished he had a Hulk too.
And then the Avengers proceed to wreck shop. I won’t go into the nitty gritty details, I want to save something for you, but the things Hulk does to Loki…Michelle and I giggled, GIGGLED, and were not ashamed.
And through all of the destruction, each member of the team is working to their utmost. Thor smites, Hulk smashes, Hawkeye snipes people, Black Widow and the Cap are bad asses and Iron Man mostly flies around solo demolishing bad guys. They fight with all the passion that Tony described to Loki and, to drive the point home of why they’re able to do this, just before all the fighting really kicks off, Tony says to Loki, “There’s one last person you pissed off too. Phil.” And then Tony blasts Loki, just like Phil did.
To cap it all off, the final scene of the movie after the credits. That scene alone underscores that these, despite Thor, are Earth’s mightiest heroes.
Go see The Avengers if you haven’t. I’d pay full movie price to see this flick again and happily so.