The Avengers (2012) is a superhero epic years in the making.
Unlike The X-Men, which arrived full formed in 2000, The Avengers is the comic book version of the supergroup, with stars in their own right coming together (not without some friction and ego-thumping) for a battle royale. So Marvel put together a long term plan, launching their stars in a series of solo films and building an entire universe of heroes and villains for the screen.
They teased audiences with brief cross-overs and then, after years of setting it all up, brought together the team: Robert Downey’s cheeky, cocky Iron Man, Chris Hemsworth’s warrior prince Thor, Chris Evans’ earnest Captain America, and Mark Ruffalo taking over as Bruce Banner and The Hulk (the third actor in as many films), giving the character a haunted, embittered edge. To round out the team, the film expands the role of Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), a slinky superagent, from the second Iron Man film, and adds Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), an archer marksman briefly seen in Thor. Samuel Jackson presides over it all as Nick Fury.
It could have been a disaster, with so many characters to juggle and personalities to respect while engaging in a big, noisy, apocalyptic battle with no less than gods and aliens. And it was a measured gamble to bring in Joss Whedon, a man with well-earned fan credentials and an affinity for this kind of genre storytelling, to write and direct. No question that he brings smarts and style and self-aware wit to his productions (Buffy the Vampire Slayer on TV, Serenity on the big screen) but his audiences have been, shall we say, small and passionate.
It was the perfect marriage of subject and sensibility. You wouldn’t accuse The Avengers of being good drama, but the sprawling, splashy spectacle and its much-much-much-larger-than-life heroes makes for a genuine comic book epic for the big screen.
Whedon loves his characters and enjoys tossing them together to watch the sparks of colliding egos fly. And he has a knack for keeping an eye on the stories and the characters in the mess of battle. But mostly, he embraces the elevated melodrama of the conceit—these superpowered beings are our answer to the Greek gods and heroes, and they were nothing if not unpredictable, mercurial, and vindictive—and then works his way back to the humanity under the costume.
And it doesn’t hurt letting Downey off the leash to rile up the gathered egos. You get the sense that, sure, Whedon is having a blast visualizing the scope of a comic book battle with the millions of dollars of CGI at his command, but he’s having even more fun setting these lone wolves loose to sniff around and bark at each other before warily settling into a pack.
It was the top box-office hit of 2012, raking in over $1.5 billion worldwide, and established the Marvel movie universe as a cinematic juggernaut.
It was nominated for an Academy Award for its visual effects.
Also on Blu-ray and DVD and on SVOD through Amazon Video, iTunes, GooglePlay, Fandango, Vudu and/or other services. Availability may vary by service.
Marvel’s The Avengers [Blu-ray]
Marvel’s The Avengers [Blu-ray 3D/Blu-ray/DVD + Digital Copy + Digital Music Download]
Marvel’s The Avengers [4K UHD]
Marvel’s The Avengers [DVD]
The DVD and Blu-ray editions from Disney include commentary by Joss Whedon and the featurette “Assembling the Ultimate Team.” The Blu-ray includes the more featurettes and deleted scenes), plus the “Second Screen Experience” (which requires an iPad, a downloadable app and a connection to the same WiFi network as the Blu-ray player) and a bonus DVD copy. And yes, there is a Blu-ray 3D edition, a 4-Disc Combo pack that also includes all of the above (so you’ve got a standard Blu-ray and DVD for non-3D showings) plus a digital copy and a digital download of the “Inspired By” album.