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rrramble retrospective: The Avengers (2012)

Updated: Aug 31, 2022

Reviewers, assemble!

Believe it or not, it’s been 10 whole years since the release of The Avengers. In this month’s rrramble retrospective, we tasked 3 writers to re-watch all 2 hours 23 minutes of the OG 2012 film, to help answer the questions on everyone’s lips: Does it still hold up in 2022? Or could we all do without it? And how has Mark Ruffalo not aged at ALL? (ok, maybe just the first 2 questions…)

Read on for three of our rrramblers’ verdicts…

A stylised comic book strip style illustration of the Avengers Tower (a grey metal tower, with a capital A of the Avengers logo emblazoned on its side). The background is striped red and white, with the words 'The Avengers' in capital letters along the illustrations bottom, in white block letters, against a pale blue background

Illustration by wonderful rrramble illustrator, Quinn Hair


I have always been somewhat sceptical about the genre of superhero films: for me, they seemed to have an endless capacity for spreading damaging values (“be strong, boys, and live up to our immeasurable ‘Murican standards”). In order to have a Captain anything, we must confine an entire nation in a single character, and this made me uneasy, as it appeared to be a perfect opportunity for propaganda.

That’s what I told myself, anyway, before becoming completely submerged within the Marvel universe. I watched the Spiderman films first, and was immediately charmed by the awkward, charming Peter Parker, and everything else followed.

I did not watch all of the Marvel films in order, and I suspect that those who did had a supremely different experience than myself. I only watched the things in the franchise which caught my attention, prioritising character first, chronology second. Returning to The Avengers, therefore, feels like returning back to the original question with all of the answers. We now know, as a result of the Loki tv series, our favourite anti-hero’s thinking-process; we can understand why Natasha Romanoff immediately draws her gun at Bruce Banner in their first interaction together. Even after ten years (I can barely believe it!), watching The Avengers feels as timeless as ever, as the narratives of all of the individuals jump back and forth in their own spin-offs, and are reunited together in this film.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that, given the arduous sufferings depicted in the Marvel universe, most of the heroes and villains in the franchise should display some long-term mental consequences of their pain. I have often wondered why Peter Parker is not more… well… messed up, given that he has a) lost his parents and Uncle Ben, his surrogate father figure, and b) various other figures in his life (his girlfriend, or his aunt) have either abandoned him or have been killed.

In The Avengers, there is a moment where Bruce Banner says that he “put a bullet in [his] mouth, and the other guy [the Hulk] spit it out”. This is (or should be) a highly dramatic moment in the film ⎯Banner has just admitted that he attempted suicide ⎯and yet this revelation is largely forgotten moments later, when the seemingly more pressing danger of “the tesseract” is upon them. Given the recent focus on the mental health of Marvel characters (Wanda’s foray into madness is explored in the new Dr Strange film), Banner’s speech is particularly jarring, and is, for me, particularly dated in its dismissive context.

Despite all of this, The Avengers is definitely still worth the watch, and feels like the natural conclusion to many of the characters’ individual storylines — so get your popcorn ready!

One of the original 'The Avengers' movie posters. At the top, the main cast is listed from left to right as: Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston and Samuel L Jackson. Beneath, we see The Hulk, Hawkeye, Nick Fury, Black Widow, Captain America and Thor posed in battle against a background of a battered, terrorised New York City. At the bottom of the image, there is the title 'Marvel: The Avengers' and the original release date: May 4th, 2012.

It’s been 10 years to the month!


Can you believe that The Avengers was released 10 years ago?! Only the sixth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, we now have twenty-seven of them, with even more still in the works. It’s safe to say that the MCU has become a beast of a franchise.

The Avengers is significant in establishing the tone of the MCU. The ability to balance humour with engaging action scenes has set the franchise apart, hooked a huge fanbase and created a benchmark for what Marvel films should be. But does it still hold up in 2022?

Back then, we had The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Hawkeye and Black Widow. Today, the roster is huge and with a plethora of multiverses being introduced, we could say that the roster is now infinite.

One thing that stands out from re-watching this film is the fact that we have so many more female superheroes today – in 2012, we only had Black Widow. Sure, there were female side characters (such as Pepper Potts), but they were exactly that: side characters, who don’t get the recognition they deserve. It’s easy to see why Marvel has often been criticised for its lacklustre representation of women: it took 11 years to get a female-led film with Captain Marvel, and Black Widow didn’t even get her own solo movie until 2021. Thankfully, in the 10 years since The Avengers release, the MCU has been slowly but positively changing to reflect the times we live in by providing important representation through its characters, especially for women. It’s empowering to see someone in books, film or T.V that you can relate to (I know I feel kickass in my Captain Marvel hoodie!). It’s also important for young girls to be exposed to a variety of interesting and in-depth characters so they know they don’t have to be reduced to one-dimensional identities, and instead see their complexities reflected.

Despite these downsides, The Avengers is still important in terms of character-building. This is when our heroes meet for the first time. Relationships spanning multiple films are established in The Avengers and then expanded on in later films; such as the beginning of the rivalry between Captain America and Iron Man which reaches a boiling point in Captain America: Civil War, where these heroes ultimately fight against each other. It is the conflict between all these characters that is at the heart of The Avengers, making the final battle all the more satisfying when the team finally assembles and become heroes we’ve grown to love.

Perhaps I am taking inspiration from Thor’s teachings, but I see the MCU like a tree. It branches out into all the different films, each one impacting the other and creating a universe that feels real, detailed and fleshed out. Without the first Avengers film, we would lose the vital plot points and character conflict which impact our journey through the films that follow. We could not do without it!

A group shot of the lead characters from The Avengers. From left to right, you can see The Hulk (a large green mutate snarling, arms outstretched), Hawkeye (a human man holding a bow and arrow as if prepared for a fight), Iron Man (in his red metal suit, hovering above ground in the background), Captain America (standing on top of a yellow New York taxi, in red white and blue costume and holding his famous shield), Thor (a humanoid God with armour, long red cape and flowing golden hair, holding his hammer Mjolnir), and Black Widow (a human woman with short red hair, wearing a black catsuit and holding a gun). Behind them is an urban New York street, covered in smoke.

The OG’s…


Reviewers, assemble for arguably one of the best comic book adaptations to date. The Avengers remains a near perfect example of how to build a cinematic universe and, 20-odd films later, how to stick the landing more stylishly than Black Widow dropping through a skylight. The DCEU and, as much as it pains a massive Star Wars fan like me to say it, Lucasfilm need to take note.

It’s clear that head honcho Kevin Feige knew not to rush when it comes to these characters. Major storylines had to be built up to (a mistake Fox made twice with the X-Men’s Dark Phoenix saga). Team-ups have to be earned. We had to get to know these characters before we could care about them. There’s no room for supporting players here.

So The Avengers, like Iron Man before it and Endgame many years later, was a massive risk. So much promise hung on Nick Fury’s warning to Tony Stark about becoming part of a bigger universe. And look how big that universe – that multi-verse now – has become, with countless TV shows and phase four of the MCU ramping up; none of which would have been possible if this time-bomb of a team had been a dud.

Martin Scorsese may feel Marvel films are formulaic and lack risk (bold words from someone who just makes mob movies). The truth is, this film was a game-changer. It goes far beyond raising the bar for comic-book adaptations, and it changed franchise filmmaking and studios’ general approach to blockbuster cinema. It’s little things too, like the proliferation of post-credits stings. The times I’ve risked bladder damage for a 20-second clip of a character only real Marvel nerds like me know (Pip the troll, I love ya)…

Marvel gets how important this film was; just look at how much fun the Endgame cast have playing in the ‘Battle of New York’ timeline, and how much it’s referenced in the Hawkeye series. Heck, I’d pay good money to see Rogers, The Musical.

While Joss Whedon’s star has, very rightly, collapsed; you’ve got to admit this film’s dialogue slaps harder than the Hulk himself. There’s a care-free, playful, breeziness to it, even when the stakes are high. Scarlett Johansson’s scenes with Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk and later Tom Hiddleston’s Loki are proper high drama. This makes The Avengers a wonderfully quotable film, too. I can’t count how many times my wife and I have been talking about some event we’ve just been to and riffed on the whole “you and I remember Budapest very differently” line.

The acting is a little wooden in places, but the interaction between the characters is on point. It’s exactly how you’d imagine a bunch of super-powered egotists would act (hello The Boys). You could argue The Avengers isn’t a superhero story at all, but a character study.

I remember the first of four times we saw The Avengers at the cinema. My wife (not a huge comic book fan at the time, now a Hawkeye groupie) and I walked straight out of that first viewing and bought tickets to see it again, only this time in 3D. That’s all you need to hear, really.

If this movie was a person, they would totally be worthy to lift Mjölnir. The famous rotating group shot alone is worth the ticket. Don’t be the only variant you who hasn’t seen it yet.


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