MCU In Daughter Order – The Avengers
I’m rewatching the Marvel Cinematic Universe with my daughter in whatever order she feels like. Up next, a milestone in cinematic universe filmmaking, 2012’s The Avengers.
Our Progress So Far
She-Hulk inspired us to take this journey. We started with Incredible Hulk, before knocking out the other two of the first three films, Iron Man and Iron Man 2. After a detour to Black Panther, we went back to release order for Thor and Captain America.
Now, for the first time ever, we’ve watched three movies in sequential order. And because Captain America’s post credit scene did something few other MCU films before or since pulled off -hyping up the next movie- we’re primed and ready for The Avengers.
The Avengers And Me
When I got into comics in the 80s, this was The Avengers roster.
And I didn’t care for it. The tic-tac-toe of D&D characters in a super hero book turned me off of the book. I don’t even know who the wizard-looking dude in the upper corner is, and I don’t care to find out. Which I guess makes it ironic that when I finally read an Avengers comics, it was Heroes Reborn Avengers #2.
Maybe my tastes changed. Or maybe I didn’t want 50% of my Avengers to look 100% like D&D PCs, I wanted 100% of my Avengers to look 50% like D&D PCs.
Off The Page
In any case, my comic reading habits didn’t set up my expectations for a The Avengers movie. Neither did my video game playing. I remember renting Captain America and The Avengers on NES with my brother. On the ride home, we discussed which one of us would play Iron Man and which would play Vision. Which the box art suggested would be playable characters.
The game starting with a cut scene of the two of them getting defeated and captured, and it turning out to be a Captain America and Hawkeye game was pretty disappointing.
Even my cartoon watching didn’t instill any nostalgia for The Avengers. Individual members showed up on shows like Spider-Man And His Amazing Friends, but as a team? I don’t remember seeing them in animation until Avengers: United They Stand. Again, not the combination of A-listers that the movie promised.
But therein lies the most impressive aspect of The Avengers. When this journey started, these characters weren’t A-listers. They were the characters Marvel couldn’t license out. They weren’t A-list actors either. The biggest names in the cast were Samuel L Jackson, who wasn’t one of the main characters, Scarlett Johansson, who got cut out of a lot of promotional material, and Gwyneth Paltrow, who I don’t think was even announced ahead of the film. In any case, I don’t think anyone went into The Avengers expecting a Samuel L Jackson/Scarlett Johansson/Gwyneth Paltrow buddy movie. We were excited for The Avengers because the previous five films -even the ones that weren’t great on their own- made us excited for Captain America, Thor, and especially Iron Man.
The Avengers That I Remember
For whatever reason, the emotion I associate the most with The Avengers is relief. Not excitement. Not amusement. Just a lifting of the worry that they couldn’t pull this off.
Leading up to its release, I followed The Avengers news closely. Not only did I enjoy the MCU movies individually, I loved the then novel idea of a shared universe. Naturally, that investment made me hopeful but nervous about The Avengers’ chances.
No one else ever tried to release five movies in four years as build up to a crossover movie. At the time, Pixar stood out as a rare studio with no financial failures, and they only had a dozen movies over fifteen years. Marvel needed to be half as successful as the most successful studio of the day, in a third the time. All while talk of super hero fatigue picked up steam.
As a result, this might be the MCU movie I’ve seen the most. However, my enjoyment diminished with every repeat viewing. But it’s been a while, so let’s see if another trip to Avengers tower, this time with my daughter, changed my feelings.
Revisiting The Avengers
I don’t know if this is a controversial opinion, but I don’t think The Avengers aged well. And I’m not talking accusations of director Joss Whedon tormenting a pregnant lady, or that weird interview he did where me maybe admits he drowned a kid. The movie itself, divorced of being groundbreaking. There’s still a lot to like. But in retrospect? The Avengers isn’t great.
Let’s get it out of the way: The movie exists. More than any other movie, that deserves recognition.
There were some areas that exceeded my expectations. We had no concept of the size of MCU S.H.I.E.L.D., having only met a couple of characters across the first five films. So when the Helicarrier launched, what a moment for Marvel comic fans. Heck, even seeing Quinjets and hearing them referred to by name blew my mind. So for half of the second act to take place on and revolve around S.H.I.E.L.D.’s air force, it felt like a deeper cut than we had any right to expect.
Also surprising, The Hulk. As the only main character to get recast, and the star of what is still considered a low point of MCU releases (based on IMDb ranking), this movie finally found the best way to represent Hulk on the big screen. All thanks to the combination of his relationship with Stark, the effectiveness of his CGI, and a few key scenes that use him well.
Finally, there’s Coulson. Everyone remembers how upset we were when Coulson died, but does anyone remember going into The Avengers a big Coulson fan? My rewatch journey confirms it: Coulson wasn’t anything special in Iron Man, Iron Man 2, or Thor. It wasn’t until “That man’s name is Agent,” “Thank you, Son of Coul,” and Coulson fanboying over Cap that we fell in love with him without even knowing it.
Conversely, the two characters that disappointed me were also the two that surprised me the most in previous films: Captain America and Loki.
Cap acts exactly how I worried he would in Captain America: The First Avenger. A one-dimensional boy scout, the butt of the jokes. Worse, I really dislike his costume in this film. Thank goodness for his solo films, because if Joss Whedon’s Avengers movies were all we got of MCU Cap, he’d never have earned his Captain Hammer moment in End Game.
Then there’s Loki. Before Thor, I thought of Loki as nothing other than a moustache twirling villain in a silly horned hat. Thor showed how charismatic the character could be, and how cool his hat was. Then The Avengers reversed all that. At least Tom Hiddleston still comes off likeable, because none of Loki’s lies come off as believable. And for some reason, everyone dismisses him as crazy.
Ironically, I think their scene together in Germany is each other their strongest, but they’re both overshadowed by the old German man who won’t kneel to Loki.
I have one more complaint about The Avengers. In its defense, it’s more of a phase 1 complaint. After an amazing setup for The Avengers in the Iron Man post credit scene, only one of the next four movies (Cap) successfully built on that excitement. Unlike The Hulk, which tried but needed a Marvel One Shot to make sense of the continuity. And worse, Iron Man 2 and Thor derailed the hype train.
To justify Iron Man 2 ending with him getting kicked off the team, and Thor ended with him trapped in Asgard, I told myself these would be important plot points in The Avengers. Instead, S.H.I.E.L.D. re-invites Stark onto the team in his opening scene, and Thor getting back to Earth is handwaved as Odin magic.
My Daughter’s Thoughts
Nothing made me feel more jaded than watching The Avengers with my daughter. She was invested in everything. Iron Man and Thor were hilarious. Cap and Widow were cool. Hulk was scary, but she liked how he redeemed himself and loved watching him tear the Chitauri apart. Her absolute favourite moment was when Hulk restarted Iron Man’s heart by screaming at him.
As usual, she had a lot of questions. The Avengers failed the “why” test. When something happened that she didn’t understand, she’d ask for an explanation, usually followed by “why?” And, unfortunately, in The Avengers that usually came down to “magic” or motivations that she felt were out of character. Unlike more nuanced arguments in later installments, especially Civil War, The Avengers goes for shallow, melodramatic arguments. I think this is why I like The Avengers a little less every time I watch it. I’m curious if my daughter will have a similar reaction.
That said, she hasn’t asked to rewatch any MCU films yet, always asking for the next in order or another one that’s new to her. With so many to choose from, I’m curious how many MCU movies it takes her to want to watch one she’s already seen.
We move the release order ahead, and the timeline back with the MCU film set in the 90s, 2019’s Captain Marvel.