Movie Review – The Avengers (2012)
by HELEN GEIB and NIR SHALEV
Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.; Iron Man and Iron Man 2). Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans; Captain America: The First Avenger). Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson; introduced in Iron Man 2). Thor (Chris Hemsworth; Thor). Dr. Bruce Banner/The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo, taking over from Ed Norton; The Incredible Hulk). Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner).
What will it take to get them to work together as a team? S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson; progressively larger recurring role) needs the answer, and fast, when Loki (Tom Hiddleston; Thor) decides to make the earth his personal kingdom in writer-director Joss Whedon’s The Avengers.
The series so far has given us the self-titled origin stories of four of the Avengers. The Avengers is the origin story for The Avengers. Strictly speaking you don’t have to see the other movies in the series first, but I don’t recommend going in cold.
First, if you haven’t seen the other movies  by now, then this is clearly not your genre. If you’ve seen them and didn’t like them, or saw them and thought they would have been better if they were more like The Dark Knight or Watchmen, then this may or may not be your genre, but it isn’t your series. Following the lead of first Avenger Captain America, the Marvel comic book movie series is unabashedly old-fashioned: big, bold, straightforward, colorful, action-packed, laugh-filled, crowd-pleasing tales of heroes and heroines with extraordinary abilities who battle personal demons and public enemies. These superheroes are doers not mopers. You can count on them to save the day.
Second, this is the sixth episode of a series with its next three episodes already in the works and more likely to follow. The Avengers simply isn’t written to be viewed in isolation. The starting point is a large cast of familiar  characters, a complex network of pre-existing relationships, and an established world order (specifically, S.H.I.E.L.D.). The characterization picks up from where we last left them. Many of the jokes play off the earlier films.  As in those earlier films, some stuff is in there just to set up plot points for future episodes. Even this episode’s standalone “save the world” plot is an outgrowth of Thor and Loki’s contest in Thor.
Sure there are negatives. It’s a given in any comic book superhero movie that there are things that just have to be accepted; this one has its fair share (most of which the movie glides past smoothly enough). Joss Whedon has never been a visually-oriented director and the visual aesthetic is only serviceable, a does-its-job show window for the costumes and CGI. This is a movie that exists entirely at its surface. 
The Avengers succeeds because it excels where it counts: at corralling a fractious group of superheroes on the same stage. A crowded stage also occupied by a fan favorite supervillain and numerous supporting characters variously beloved, enthusiastically reviled, and new on the scene. Whedon apportions the funny lines and action beats among this motley crew without favoritism. Everyone’s favorite character gets a turn in the spotlight. Nobody’s least favorite character is in the spotlight for too long. When the Avengers again go their separate ways at the end, new adventures in new combinations lie just over the horizon.
3 1/2 stars
 The easily and best forgotten The Incredible Hulk is excluded from this discussion.
 With three exceptions worth noting: The Avengers is a proper introduction to Barton/Hawkeye after his cameo in Thor, a re-introduction to Banner/Hulk after his origin story misfire, and the first appearance by a Fury aide whose obvious interest in Steve Rogers signals her next appearance.
 The script is further studded with unobtrusive references and in-jokes for Marvel comics fans, some of which were pointed out to me by a Marvel comics fan, a friend who is my go-to source in these matters, and some of which I got on my own, thanks to knowledge acquired in conversations with my friend about the earlier films.
 I didn’t see, hear, or discern anything new on the second viewing. I also enjoyed the movie precisely exactly as much. Zero diminution of enjoyment on further acquaintance is nothing to scorn.
For half a decade the world had been anticipating the arrival of The Avengers. And now that they’re here, The Avengers have nothing to do.
Early in the film there is mention of an oncoming alien invasion led by Loki. The reasoning is unknown but Loki seems to have a God complex (in which he believes that he’s an unstoppable God) so I’m guessing that he seeks world domination because evil people dominate worlds. But between the announcement of the alien invasion and the final climactic action extravaganza that unfolds during the film’s final 30 minutes, nothing of any consequence or real importance transpires.
The Avengers, an overly expensive exercise in banality, reintroduces and develops fully Black Widow. And that’s it for character development. Captain America, Iron Man, Hulk, and Thor have all had previous films detailing their backgrounds and developing their characters down to a tee. Also in the mix are Nick Fury, leader of S.H.I.E.L.D., and the Tessaract, the blue glowing cube from Captain America: The First Avenger (2011). Loki plans to use the Tessaract in order to open a wormhole to another universe, bring an alien race known as The Chitauri to Earth, and with their help destroy or enslave it. That’s it for character development AND the so-called plot.
Even with so much at stake, after introducing the oncoming alien invasion the film forgets about it and decides to focus on the individual members of The Avengers team as they bicker with one another about superfluous and uninteresting things. The film quickly loses focus and meanders about for almost two hours. Characters create the story’s actions and the film’s titular characters bicker on and on aimlessly like children. And their bickering doesn’t create any action, rather it incites further bickering. There’s even a scene midway where Thor engages in a fight with Iron Man because at that point in the film they’re unable to simply talk things through. Captain America eventually joins the fight in hopes of stopping it and the three men fight because- well, it has nothing to do with the film’s overall plot so it’s an entirely pointless scene. I honestly didn’t know why the fight took place and I didn’t really care.
This film is also chock-full of Whedon-style moments of childish humor, not belonging in this film at all. All of the comedy bits also fall flat unless uttered by or involving Tony Stark, but that was a given. The Avengers aren’t even made aware of the invasion until the third act of the film so the film lacks all sense of urgency and suspense; to add insult to injury the team doesn’t even really have a reason to assemble because Nick Fury does a terrible job as a boss. He knows that trouble is brewing yet not once throughout the film does he simply explain to the group that he wants them to become a team in order to defeat Loki and whatever plan he’s cooked up. So how did the filmmakers manage to waste so much time, focusing on developing the characters that had already been developed in previous films while keeping audiences entertained without any true purpose or reason?
I dislike most aspects of the film: the story is basically non-existent; the characters meander about and constantly bicker over unimportant matters; Loki steals all the scenes that he’s in but seldom has important or interesting things to say; the team doesn’t have an articulated reason to assemble as a team, for the most part; the sense of urgency and suspense that should exist is replaced with humor and quirky bits of dialogue, not pertaining to the film’s story (if you can call it that); and the final 30 minute action extravaganza is well shot but has reminded me too much of those dreadful Transformers films.
The Avengers feels like a TV director was given a ridiculously huge budget, one that he’s not used to and was unsure how to use because TV and film are two remarkably dissimilar mediums. I’d call this film a mess but that would require happenings to have occurred and mostly nothing happens throughout this film and also, one uninteresting sequence logically follows another. I am truly and utterly disappointed in this film.