We continue to the next film in the Superhero Movie Power Rankings — Marvel’s The Avengers. As always, if you are new to this blog, I recommend you start with the inaugural post on the Super Movie Power Rankings, which can be found here. Also, check out the Man of Steel review here. The Avengers announced to the world that superhero movies are here to stay by raking in over $1.5 billion, the 3rd highest total of all time. In doing so, it established itself as a standard by which all other superhero movies will be judged. But where will it fall in the Superhero Movie Power Rankings?
1. How entertaining is it? (30%)
While this is a serious question for most of the movies we will be reviewing, for The Avengers, it is mostly rhetorical. This is probably the most entertaining superhero movie of all time. While “most entertaining” does not necessarily equal “best,” it certainly pushes a movie in the right direction. Virtually everyone agrees this film is entertaining, but in what ways was it entertaining? What sets it apart? Great action sequences and fight scenes should be a given in all superhero films, but unfortunately they are often underwhelming. Either the villain doesn’t quite offer a big enough challenge, or the fight scene is too short, or there are no real fight scenes whatsoever.
The Avengers avoids all those problems. In this film, we get to see Captain America vs. Loki; Iron Man vs. Loki; Iron Man vs. Thor; Thor vs. Hulk (HOLY CRAP!!!!!); Loki, Hawkeye, Hulk, and random henchmen vs. Helicarrier and assorted Avengers; the Avengers vs. EVERYTHING EVER, and this gem:
No other superhero movie can compare to the sheer number of big time fight scenes, and nearly all of them are done very well. The Avengers was very well-made, but it also had some serious advantages that most other superhero movies don’t. Because every major hero and villain had been introduced in one more more previous films, the movie was able to get right into the main plot without a lot of gearing up time for introductions and the like. As we begin to see more and more superhero sequels, these movies will also experience this advantage. It does make me worry about the long-rumored Justice League movie’s strategy of introducing most of the heros in that movie first. In any case, Joss Whedon did an excellent job of creating an exciting film that is just as entertaining on the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, and so on viewings.
Verdict: 10/10, as if there were any question
2. How good is the plot and character development? (20%)
The plot was not as strong as some other superhero movies, but it still provided a serviceable reason to get the Avengers together to beat down some baddies and save the world. An alien invasion may be a somehwat generic plot device, but it honestly took something on this scale to be able to succesfully launch the first movie. Adding Loki as the mastermind/key antagonist was a brilliant move as it allowed some action sequences toward the beginning and also gave us Thor vs. Hulk, AKA every comic book geek’s dream. Character development was surprisingly solid. We got to see the Avengers move from arrogant mavericks to uniting under Cap’s leadership, as it should be. We got to see Tony Stark make the final move from carefree billionaire playboy to self-sacrificing hero. Mark Ruffalo added some great nuace to the Hulk.
Plot and character development are always going to be weaker in an ensemble film than in a movie featuring a single hero. There are simply too many faces that need screen time. However, The Avengers did a great job of balancing this screen time and gave us the best combination of plot and character development we’ve probably ever seen in an ensemble film. The generic nature of the alien invasion coupled with the fact that the aliens’ motivation was never explained (though I expect this will be fleshed out in the next movie or perhaps the third with Thanos) prevents a perfect score, but this movie still performed admirably.
3. How good is the casting and acting? (20%)
Another solid job by Marvel here. Since every character had been introduced in a previous movie, there was little work to do besides recasting the Hulk. For some reason, quite possibly the studio’s increasingly bad reputation for being quite cheap with their actor pay (despite making money hand over fist), they were not able to come to terms with Edward Norton. This is ironic since they are paying Robert Downey Jr. bajillions to return to future Avengers movies.
In any case, Mark Ruffalo turned out to be a great choice. While he doesn’t project the same kind of under-the-surface rage that Norton harnessed, he was much more believable as a genius scientist and also as the Hulk. The rest of the actors ranged from transcendent (RDJ) to very good (Chris Evans) to serviceable (Jeremy Renner) to surprisingly not-as-good-as-you’d-expect (Jackson). Still, the characters with the most screen time were great, Tom Hiddleston was amazing as Loki, and no one was actively detracting from the movie.
4. How true is it to the source material? (15%)
Earth-616 or Ultimate? That is the question. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is obviously more influenced by the Ultimate Universe, and I’m fine with that, as long as they stick the early years of Ultimate and not the latter. The Ultimate Universe is based in more realism, and in a post-Christopher Nolan climate, that is immensely important. The characters all matched up very well with their comic counterparts. The main complaint I’ve heard deals with Hawkeye being much too serious, but again, this fits with the Ultimate version of the character. All other characters were presented brilliantly.
5. X-Factor (15%)
Well, it’s only the highest grossing superhero movie of all time. Its success guaranteed we are getting Phase 2 and 3 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It proved that ensemble films could be done much better than they had been done in the past, with each major character getting the proper balance of screentime. Did I mentioned it made over $1.5 billion?
Oh yeah, and it got a 92% on Rotten Tomatoes. It was so much fun, even the critics couldn’t crash the party. This one’s obvious.