The top 10 films of 2012: The Avengers

Feature Duncan Bowles 29 Dec 2012 - 07:13
The Avengers

Who’s at number two in our ten favourite films of 2012? It’s The Avengers, and here’s Duncan to tell us why it’s so great…

As we close in on the top spot in our writers' film of the year countdown, we arrive at the biggest box office hit of the year. It's Joss Whedon's The Avengers...

2nd place:

The Avengers

Regardless of whether you’re a fan of comic book movies, Joss Whedon, or even the film itself, the one irrefutable fact about Avengers Assemble (or The Avengers if you live outside the UK) is that after years of planning, Marvel managed to pull off a unique cinematic achievement - and an overwhelmingly well received one.

Seeing Avengers come to fruition was something of a fever dream, as in previous decades fans watched as once promising franchises barely made it past a second movie before any semblance of respect was flushed away (see: Superman III, Batman Forever, X-Men: The Last Stand, or in The Crow’s case, just City Of Angels). Yet somehow, Marvel reached the previously unattainable height of combining their separate successful licences (Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and, to a lesser degree, Hulk) into the highest grossing comic book movie of all time.

In an age where big budget event movies are still prone to start shooting with half-written scripts, Marvel had the forethought to start building towards a larger story arc from the moment Nick Fury walked on screen at the end of Iron Man’s credits. What amazes, though, is how many core elements exist in Avengers from the separate tales – it would have been much easier to lump all the heroes on screen at once under a standalone plot, yet everything from the energy weapons of Hydra, to Tony Stark’s renewable energy, to Loki’s betrayal are not just included, but fleshed out and essential to the story.

Furthermore, moments that seemed like cheeky throwaways, such as Stark using a half-constructed Captain America shield as a prop in Iron Man 2, all enrich the payoff in Avengers when those plot threads, large and small, come together so beautifully.

At times, the road to The Avengers got a little bumpy, with sharp intakes of breath and more than a little internet rage from fans when Edward Norton was unceremoniously ditched from appearing again as Bruce Banner, or when there were doubts that Marvel’s coffers were going to pay out for the mighty Samuel L Jackson’s Nick Fury contract, but that’s all past history, and paved the way in many respects, to the greatness of The Avengers.

Certainly the biggest vindication came from Mark Ruffalo’s performance as The Hulk, as it marked the first wholly successful rendition of the character on film to date, with fans and critics heaping praise upon Ruffalo after such an initially hostile reaction to his casting. The handling of Hulk by Joss Whedon helped in no small part, with an absolute understanding of the character and his limited dialogue/physicality providing, arguably, the comic highlights of the film, either through his one-line handling of Loki, or his one-fist handling of Thor.

It’s easy for Whedon fans to praise the incredibly sharp dialogue throughout the film, which was perhaps a given as soon as he signed on (special mention goes to the Point Break reference), but where his Avengers really delivers above and beyond is in its balancing of the characters. Somehow, equal time is given to each and every hero, with their own unique personalities tied to the very fate of the story, which combined with all previous knowledge of their plights, makes for one hell of a powerful and emotional punch. There’s a delight in seeing Banner and Stark bond over their love of science, an explosive dynamic between the contrasting attitudes of Rogers and Stark, the fear of Banner by Romanoff, her connection with Barton – the list goes on, but it’s an incredible feat.

Yet despite the screen time given over to the main heroes' relationships with each other, there’s still time given to the more quiet moments, such as the isolation that Steve Rogers feels being a man out of time (sadly, some of them only exist within the deleted scenes, but here’s hoping that we see an extended edition in the future), or the sweet hero worship that Agent Coulson has towards him, which again strengthen the film as a whole.

There was some criticism over the opening sequence, and by Jeremy Renner himself over the ‘zombie Hawkeye’ element, yet both can be defended. Hawkeye was the only character from the team without any substantial screen time pre-Avengers, so it made absolute sense to sideline him for the duration rather than trying to cram in backstory for a relatively unknown character. Don’t get me wrong, it was a shame, but a necessary evil to save the pace of the story. Equally, while expectation for the opening set piece was no doubt tempered by stupendously high expectations, Whedon didn’t make the same mistake as most James Bond films by throwing everything into the first few minutes; rather, he started with an underhanded and frustrating jab and slowly built from there.

By taking his time, Whedon's audience was able to witness the onscreen joy of ‘what would happen in a fight between The Cap and Iron Man, or Iron Man and Thor,’ and the result was pure geek spectacle of the highest order. Better yet, there was then the superb action set aboard the helicarrier with a terrifying Hulk at its centre, followed by one of the finest (and longest) action scene finales ever committed to film, which managed to remain breathless throughout while, again, making sure each hero was seen fighting alongside each other – the fine detail that could only have been bestowed on the film by someone who adores the characters.

The Avengers is the crown atop Marvel’s ambitious and deservedly successful cinematic achievements, and one of the most perfectly formed and infinitely re-watchable blockbusters to date. Expectations for Avengers 2 are almost insurmountably high, yet with Joss Whedon at the helm, it couldn’t be in safer hands. And who knows, perhaps next time even Spider-Man will get a look in.

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For getting mewling quim! past the censors alone this film deserves its place.

Spiderman? Isn't he dead? lol

Such a shame Spiderman's in the weak hands of Sony and not in the good hands of Marvel :(

Proof that a big, dumb blockbuster can also be very clever and utterly brilliant. Joss Whedon is a legend.

One of the greatest superhero films of all time and one of the funniest films I've seen too.

So Dredd's number 1, right?

RIGHT?!

So does this mean there's a big conspiracy to kidnap Spidey and deliver him to Whedon? I'm in! Pretty fantastic movie, helped wake me up to the joy of superhero films again, and I haven't seen a livelier audience since Kung Fu Panda

Spidey is owned by a different company and unless the rights are transferred, will NEVER appear in the Marvel film universe.

So what's going to be number one? Hunger Games? Prometheus? or Dredd? - My vote's on Dredd!!!!

Dredd..was awful sorry, THG..should be first.

The Avengers has its obvious flaws, which a lot of my friends like to point out but for me but the overall execution was brillant. I'd love to sit down with Michael Bay to watch the Avengers and tell him, this is how its done. Action scenes are pointless when you don't care about the characters and when you see The Avengers take a beating you really care about them. Special mention should go to Tom Hiddleston, he was in all my favourite scenes and I can't wait for Thor 2 because of him.

I second that !

Hope you choose Dredd. Considering you are Den Of Geek it's fitting. And what a great film it is.

I call "Chronicle" for number one.

DREDD! My favourite film of the year.

don't think so, they only gave it a 3 out of 5 review if memory serves

The top ten list for me is The Avengers in every spot.

Can I just ask everyone, without getting crucified, what the big deal about this film was? I mean I watched it on Bluray and really enjoyed it, but I did not think it was all that amazing...just good / pretty good. You did not get to see much of the Hulk as the Hulk, and I cant get my wife to sit through it, I have tried twice and she usually gets up and leaves just after the baddies nick the cube of doom and there is all the running and shouting / chasing and explosions. As a comic book movie, it was great, Thor / loki / Iron Man and Capt America etc....but I think its another of those films that went hype mad...like the first Jurrassic Park film. Ok...please dont hate me! I was just saying thats all, feel free to comment...(runs for cover in terror....) ahem...

Yes I just saw Dredd and was amazed by how good it was, cant believe no one went to see this, and everyone thinks Skyfall is great.....sigh....

I just don't get it :/ It was just Transformers with Superheroes and more "witty banter". A few likeable characters in a sea of boring or annoying ones, and lots of CGI battles with silly looking alien/transformer monsters. And a magic cube thing? The only thing I liked about any of it was Thor and Loki because they were so absurd it was kind of fun, but mostly it was just a bit dull. What's the big deal?!

Fair enough it appeals to it's demographic of comic book fans, so why does Twilight get such a bad rep for doing exactly the same thing?

I actually thought Avengers would be top, so am incredibly curious to see what the outcome is - there could be upset as I know Frankenweenie got a lot of love. Sadly I don't think enough of us saw Dredd...

Couldn't believe that one. "What was that...? Maybe he said 'mewling crim'?" (watches it a second time) "Nnnnope." Hilarious Weldon got that one past the radar.

The Avengers was a lot of genuine fun and awesome spectacle in turn. The kind of thing every big-budget popcorn blockbuster aims for, but a very rare few hit. I'm not even someone that worships and fawns over Weldon's every move like some sections on the Net, but I'll sing his praises with this one loud and clear.

Thank you for clarifying that - we had to pause and check we heard that right!!

Its not for everyone. My husband and I are complete geeks and each have a fav character(s) in this movie. This is perfect for us and our number 1 for 2012 (we havent seen Dredd yet). Agreed on Hulk. For us this representation made the movie!

Argo will be number 1 !!

Yes indeed. I did like it though, I just thought it was over hyped. For the record I never fell for the hype, media etc. I waited until it came out on BluRay and then watched it at home on my big screen in peace and quiet. Thats how I see most films these days, as I am not that into or impressed with 3D and cant see the point of spending £10 a ticket when you can get it on Bluray in better quality than most cinemas a few months later and keep it. So its probably got to do with the fact I saw it in the cold light of day after all the fuss. However if someone told me 15 years ago that a comic book movie would be this popular and successful I would never have believed them.

Did they? Oh well...at least it was a proper 18 rated adult action film, like we used to get back in the days of the first Die Hard and Aliens films etc. Probably thats why I liked it so much. It was not kidified and designed to sell toys..

As for Spider-Man, well, we all know Sony owns the film rights but I think Marvel still owns the TV rights. And what's that they're working on? Oh yeah, a tv show set in the MCU. Hmmm... interesting...

So 'Argo' is at number 1....it shouldn't be but it is.
At least it's not 'Prometheus'...or 'The Hunger Games'.

No need to apologise about being wrong, mate

So it's 2013, still no number one...

The Hunger Games better than Dredd?

Are you a teenage girl?

From a purely action movie standpoint, if you can't see the difference between the craft of the action sequences at the end of Avengers and what Bay does in Transformers, then I can't help you.

One is an great example of storytelling, scriptwriting and film making, finding the human element in what could be seen as fairly standard comic book fodder. (Instead of concentrating on the supers, follow the Black Widow story.

The other is a wretched tale of a personality free teenage girl who hooks up with a much older man who really should know better.

To be honest I fell asleep watching Transformers, and didn't when I was watching The Avengers, but as far as I can remember both films basically end with a big silly looking cgi thing smashing up a city while people pose for money shots. I didn't see anything special about Avengers, I think you have to already be a fan to appreciate the film, it doesn't stand up in it's own right.

I don't think The Avengers had good storytelling or scriptwriting, character development was replaced with 'banter' and most of the characters, especially Iron Man, Black Widow, Arrow boy and Samuel Jackson were actually unlikable. I don't think it was all horrible, but it was certainly standard comic book fodder, and it didn't offer anything to people who aren't already fans.

If you don't find the characters (or their journeys) interesting then I understand but likeability shouldn't be what you're looking for. Likeability brings you bland.

And while i'm not always the biggest fan of Whedon's often too cute dialogue. I'd say that banter is the essence of how strangers communicate. It's why the British complain, it's the awkward joke in the lift. It's also about a set of characters that are formed and don't need yet another introduction they need a purpose.

And finally, I think it did offer something to people who weren't fans you don't get those numbers for niche films, Most reviews and comments at the time were about the relationships and The Hulk but as I said the Black Widow arc is all I needed in one film. TV is the place for ensemble character development.

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