Today! Because that’s my secret, Captain – I’m always angry –
The Avengers (2012)
Directed by Joss Whedon
Starring Robert Downey Jr. (x7), Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth (x2), Mark Ruffalo (x4), Scarlett Johansson (x2), Jeremy Renner (x2), Samuel L. Jackson (x2), Tom Hiddleston, Gwyneth Paltrow (x2), Paul Bettany (x2), Clark Gregg (x2), Cobie Smulders, Stellan Skarsgard, Powers Boothe (x2), Harry Dean Stanton (x2), James Eckhouse
Not to be confused with one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen (the 1998 adaptation of the ’60s spy TV show of the same name – list coming in 2023!), The Avengers was not positioned as the Biggest Comic Movie Ever when it was coming out in the summer of 2012. That was reserved for The Dark Knight Rises, releasing nearly three months later, the first sequel ever made to a film grossing over $500 million domestically. However we quickly realized the error of our thinking, as apparently people really did enjoy Captain America and Thor, despite their films having under-performed with the almighty dollar, and when coupled with the juggernaut of RDJ in the Iron Head, well – dough was going to rake down.
It didn’t hurt that the movie is terrific. At the time (and I might argue, to this day) the second best film in the franchise, Avengers I managed to be a lot more fun than its superior predecessor Iron Man (which also had the disadvantage of needing to kick this whole thing off), while also raising the stakes, wrangling a half dozen characters from different movies, and sustaining an epic extended run time of pure popcorn excitement. We’ll also never know if Dark Knight Rises would’ve stood taller and challenged for summer ’12 box office champ, what with its opening night tragedy in Colorado likely driving business away that weekend, and trickling down from there. I know it’s a callous way to talk about domestic terrorism – but we’re not even talking about that movie here. Let’s consider that more another time (spoiler alert).
Joss Whedon turned out to be a great, big budget action movie director – what with Serenity/Firefly being the only thing to really indicate previous prowess in this area. But the foundation for capabilities in this joking/brawling superhero mashup was sturdy, between his years of action/comedy work on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and…working on the screenplay to that fourth Alien movie, I guess? It was a great decision. He laid the blueprint for all the team films that have followed, some of which managed to be very good.
But this was the peak entry for the entire team, so far. Sure, there have been other good mashups – Civil War and Ragnarok are both terrific – but Ultron wasn’t anything special, and I’m in the minority on people kinda let down by Infinity War. As of this writing, Captain Marvel and whatever Avengers 4 ends up being haven’t come out, so maybe that’ll change Infinity for me? But I just felt it super gimmicky to kill off so many characters you know can’t stay dead. I get that it’s a comic book movie, and what’s more comic book-y than bringing characters back to life, but then why should it be moving when superheroes explode into dust? The first two hours – solid. The last half hour – meh.
Hey, it still beats whatever nonsense is going on in the heads of DC executives!
By the end of its run, The Avengers was the third highest grossing movie of all time – second if you don’t count re-releases – and was universally acclaimed as the greatest Incredible Hulk movie ever made. It picked up random sci-fi/fantasy awards and nominations, and did get a Visual Effects Oscar nod, but little has been made of its most lasting contribution to modern society – Best Shawarma Recommendation. Come on, show of hands – who sought out and tried shawarma for the first time because of this movie?
Loads of new Two-Timers today – #265 Iron Man 3 alums Paltrow and Bettany, Mace Windu himself Sam Jackson (#332 Phantom Menace), Curly Bill Brocius Powers Boothe (#306 Tombstone), Clark Gregg (#260 The Usual Suspects), Hemsworth (#292 Cabin in the Woods), Renner (#244 Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol), Johansson (#320 Match Point), and Harry Dean Stanton (#368 Anger Management). And advancing on, frequent list co-stars Ruffalo (Four-Timer!) and Downey (our first Seven-Timer!), both for #278 Zodiac and Iron Man 3, Mark also in#228 Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, RDJ for #397 Wonder Boys, #242 Chaplin, #259 Soapdish, and #383 Sherlock Holmes. Spotlight!