4 years and 5 movies later, we have the first culmination of the MCU, Phase 1 as it is known. Lot of stuff to dig through.
Start with the negatives.
1: Loki, and the whole bad guy plan... This version of Loki is easily my least favorite. They set him up in the first 2/3rds of the film as being a master planner, but in the end doesn't really accomplish anything. The whole attack on New York did nothing. What was the purpose of it? To destroy the Avengers? To destroy New York? To cause havoc and mayhem? The aliens didn't know either apparently, so nothing really got done. Some attack the Avengers, some attack buildings, some just fly around.
Of course we have the usual bad guy blunders too. Like sending the army practically one by one, instead of an all-out invasion... Loki not moving his staff a few inches to turn Iron Man. I hated Loki in this.
2. The worst Captain America in the MCU. He does nothing. Maybe instead of punching bags in a gym, he should have used his time learning how to be an actual super soldier. Fire a gun, fly a plane/copter, something to be useful. Lose the dopey helmet too. He was essentially a crossing guard during the battle. Hawkeye and Black Widow, as regular humans, did way way more than he did.
3. The absence of any military presence, in the face of actual war. It would have been way cool to see the Avengers fighting along side army/navy/marines/air force. This is the first large scale conflict of the MCU. The military should have been there. Besides just SHIELD and the shadow government.
As you can see, it is mainly the end of this film that I have issues with. I'm sure it was a fun spectacle for most to watch, but I need a war/invasion that actually has a purpose and feels like an actual threat.
1. Welcome to the MCU Mark Ruffalo. I like his portrayal of Banner, no offense to Ed Norton. His Banner meshes well with RDJ's Tony Stark, they synced really well talking science. And his Hulk actually looks like him. Or he just looks more like how Hulk should, over Norton.
2. They made it through 5 solo films successfully without wondering where the other Avengers were during those solo films. For example, Iron Man 1/2, for the most part, were self contained battles. Thor was off in Asgard, Banner was in "hiding", Cap was frozen. So they weren't needed. When Thor did come to earth, it was just a little town in New Mexico or whatever, and it was taken care of before Iron Man would have needed to arrive. etc. They truly could stand alone. It'll be interesting for me, going forward in this rewatch, to see how they handle this after assembling the Avengers. I will touch on that fact for each subsequent movie. I like continuity. The only question raised so far was just in this movie. Where was War Machine?
3. I liked the SHIELD plot line the first half of the movie. Developing weapons and technology to face what may come next, after the events of Thor thrust the planet into a new existence. That feels very realistic and logical. But it also made for an interesting development and moral debate between the main characters, and subsequently, us in the audience.
4. I may be in the minority, but I really like Hawkeye and Black Widow. I would love to see the stuff that they talk about in this, in a duo prequel movie. Her assassin days, him being tasked at eliminating her, a Mr. and Mrs. Smith like thing going on, without as much sexual tension. Who knows though, maybe there was before he settled down.
5. At least we get a throw away line referencing Natalie Portman's character. It's pretty hollow, but continuity nonetheless.
6. I love Cobie Smulders in this, minor role that it is. If this is how she looked/acted on HIMYM, I would have actually liked her character.
7. Overall, the Avengers cast seems to act pretty well together. A good cohesive group of 6, plus Samuel L Jackson.
8. As much as I didn't like Loki in it, it was a smart move to re-use a villain, pretty much the only villain that hasn't been killed off so far.
I know I'm harsher on the end of this film than most would be. It's just the things that I look for in a movie. I almost wish I could just rate each half. Overall, I'd give it a 7.5 out of 10. It successfully did what it set out to do. The score is great, the effects are great. Good comedy, good acting. Clean up the plot a bit, raise the actual stakes, and it would be right up there with Iron Man.
Current MCU Rankings:
1. Iron Man (8.5)
2. The Avengers (7.5)
3. Thor (7)
4. Iron Man 2 (6)
5. Captain America - The First Avenger (5.5)
6. The Incredible Hulk (4.5)
Next up, Iron Man 3 (2013)