REVIEW: AVENGERS MOVIE DELUXE CHITAURI - COSMIC CHARIOT INVASION
I don't go to a lot of movies in the movie theater. This is nothing against movies per se. I just don't like the movie theater environment all that much. It's too loud, the seats aren't especially comfortable, and if the theater is crowded, I seem to too-often have the misfortune of ending up next to the guy with the extra-crunchy nachos or directly in front of the screaming, seat-kicking toddler whose parents didn't want to spring for a babysitter for their urchin.
However, some movies demand to be seen on the big screen. Green Lantern demanded it (hey, I liked it). Tron Legacy demanded it. Transformers demanded it. And Avengers got up and yelled its demand to get one's tail into the movie theater. And plenty of people did, given the record-breaking box office numbers it pulled in.
Of course, there has been a superb line of action figures from Hasbro based on the movie. Hasbro has had the Marvel license for some time now, and along with their Marvel Universe comics-based line, have done a superb job producing action figures for the two Iron Man films, Thor, Captain America, and so forth, all leading up to this biggest super-hero epic of all time.
The main bad guy in the movie is, as I'm sure you know, Loki, Thor's evil half-brother. But he didn't come alone. He made a deal with some alien invaders known as the Chitauri. And they've finally been brought into the action figure line. There's an individually carded figure, as well as a Chitauri, as far as I can tell an identical figure to the individual one, that's sold in a card with a small vehicle called a "Cosmic Chariot".
This was the one that I ultimately decided to purchase. For one thing, those funky flying whatever-they-ares played a significant role in the movie. That -- and I saw it before I saw the individual one. So, what the heck...
Let's consider the history of the Avengers, both in the comics and on the big screen, and then delve more into who the Chitauri are before we consider the action figure.
The Avengers made its debut in The Avengers #1 (Sept. 1963), and was created by writer-editor Stan Lee and artist/co-plotter Jack Kirby, following the trend of super-hero teams after the success of DC Comics' Justice League of America.
Labeled "Earth's Mightiest Heroes", the Avengers originally consisted of Iron Man, Ant-Man (Dr. Henry Pym), Wasp (Janet Van Dyne), Thor, and the Hulk. The original Captain America was discovered by the team in issue #4, trapped in ice, and he joined the group when they revived him. The rotating roster has become a hallmark of the team, although one theme remains consistent: the Avengers fight "the foes no single superhero can withstand". The team, famous for its battle cry of "Avengers Assemble!", has featured humans, mutants, robots, gods, aliens, supernatural beings, and even former villains.
The first adventure features the Asgardian god Loki seeking revenge against his brother Thor. Using an illusion, Loki tricks the Hulk into destroying a railroad track. He then diverts a radio call by Rick Jones for help to Thor, whom Loki hopes will battle the Hulk. Unknown to Loki, the radio call is also answered by Ant-Man, the Wasp, and Iron Man. After an initial misunderstanding, the heroes unite and defeat Loki after Thor is lured away by an illusion of the Hulk and suspects Loki when he realises it is an illusion. Ant-Man states the five work well together and suggests they form a combined team; the Wasp names the group "the Avengers" because it sounded "dramatic".
The roster changes almost immediately; by the beginning of the second issue, Ant-Man has become Giant-Man and, at the end of the issue, the Hulk leaves once he realizes how much the others fear his unstable personality. Feeling responsible, the Avengers try to locate and contain the Hulk, which subsequently leads them into combat with Namor the Sub-Mariner. This would result in the first major milestone in the Avengers' history: the revival and return of Captain America. Captain America joins the team and he is also given "founding member" status in the Hulk's place. The Avengers go on to fight foes such as Captain America's wartime enemy Baron Zemo, who forms the Masters of Evil, Kang the Conqueror, and Count Nefaria.
In the 1970s, the adventures increased in scope as the team cross into an alternate dimension to battle the Squadron Supreme and fight in the Kree-Skrull War, an epic battle between the alien Kree and Skrull races and guest-starring the Kree hero Captain Marvel.
As to the movie, officially known as "Marvel's The Avengers" it was produced by Marvel Studios and distributed by Walt Disney Pictures, and is the sixth installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The film is written and directed by Joss Whedon and features an ensemble cast that includes Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston, Clark Gregg, Cobie Smulders, Stellan Skarsgård and Samuel L. Jackson. In The Avengers, Nick Fury, director of the peacekeeping organization S.H.I.E.L.D., recruits Iron Man, Captain America, the Hulk and Thor to form a team that must stop Thor's brother Loki from enslaving the human race.
Development of The Avengers began after the success of the film Iron Man in May 2008, when Marvel announced that The Avengers would be released in July 2011. With the signing of Johansson in March 2009, the film was pushed back for a 2012 release. Whedon was brought on board in April 2010 and rewrote the screenplay originally written by Zak Penn. Production began in April 2011 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, before moving to Cleveland, Ohio, in August and New York City in September.
The Avengers premiered on April 11, 2012, at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood, California. The film, released everywhere else May 4, has received positive reviews from most film critics and set numerous box office records, including the biggest opening weekend ever in North America.
As to the storyline: After his fall from Asgard into space at the end ot the Thor movie, the Asgardian Loki meets the Other, the leader of a warmongering alien race known as the Chitauri. In exchange for retrieving the Tesseract, a powerful energy source of unknown potential, the Other promises Loki a Chitauri army with which he can subjugate the Earth. Nick Fury, director of the espionage agency S.H.I.E.L.D., arrives at a remote research facility during an evacuation. Physicist Dr. Erik Selvig is leading a research team experimenting on the Tesseract, and Agent Maria Hill explains that the object has begun radiating an unusual form of energy. The Tesseract suddenly activates and opens a portal, allowing Loki to reach Earth. Loki takes the Tesseract and uses his staff to enslave Selvig and several agents, including Clint Barton (Hawkeye), to aid him in his getaway.
In response to the attack, Fury reactivates the "Avengers Initiative". Agent Natasha Romanoff is sent to India to recruit Dr. Bruce Banner; agent Phil Coulson visits Tony Stark to have him review Selvig's research; and Fury approaches Steve Rogers with an assignment to retrieve the Tesseract. While Barton steals iridium needed to stabilize the Tesseract's power, Loki causes a distraction in Stuttgart, Germany, leading to a confrontation with Rogers, Stark, and Romanoff that ends with Loki's surrender. While being escorted back to S.H.I.E.L.D., Thor, Loki's adoptive brother, arrives and frees Loki hoping to convince him to abandon his plan and return him to Asgard. After a confrontation with Stark and Rogers, Thor agrees to take Loki to S.H.I.E.L.D.'s flying aircraft carrier, the Helicarrier, and imprison him until the Tesseract can be acquired.
The Avengers become divided, both over how to approach Loki and the revelation that S.H.I.E.L.D. plans to harness the Tesseract to develop weapons of mass destruction as a deterrent against hostile extra-terrestrials. As the group argues, Barton, and Loki's other possessed agents, attack the Helicarrier, disabling its engines in flight and causing Banner to transform into the Hulk. Stark and Rogers try to restart the damaged engines, and Thor attempts to stop the Hulk's rampage. Romanoff fights Barton, and knocks him unconscious, breaking Loki's mind control. Loki escapes after killing Coulson, and Thor and the Hulk are each ejected from the ship. Fury uses Coulson's death to motivate the Avengers into working as a team. Stark and Rogers realize that simply defeating them will not be enough for Loki; he needs to overpower them publicly to validate himself as ruler of Earth. Loki uses the Tesseract, in conjunction with a device Selvig built, to open a portal above Stark Tower to the Chitauri fleet in space, launching his invasion.
The Avengers rally in defense of New York City, but quickly realize they will be overwhelmed as wave after wave of Chitauri descend upon Earth. With help from Barton, Rogers, Stark, and Thor evacuate civilians, while Banner transforms into the Hulk again and goes after Loki, eventually beating him into submission. Romanoff makes her way to the portal, where Selvig, freed of Loki's control, reveals that Loki's staff can be used to close the portal. Meanwhile, Fury's superiors attempt to end the invasion by launching a nuclear missile at Manhattan. Stark intercepts the missile and takes it through the portal toward the Chitauri fleet. The missile detonates, destroying the invaders' lead ship, thereby disabling their forces on Earth. Stark's suit runs out of power and he falls back through the portal, but the Hulk saves him from crashing to the ground. Romanoff deactivates the portal to prevent further invasion. In the aftermath, Thor returns Loki and the Tesseract to Asgard. Fury notes that the Avengers will return when they are needed.
In the first of two post-credits scenes, the Other confers with his master - who turns out to be none other than Thanos - about the attack on Earth.
Which brings us to the Chitauri. Early speculation indicated that Loki's alien allies were in fact Skrulls, a race of alien shape-shifters that had given the Avengers, not to mention the Fantastic Four and a few other super-heroes, no shortage of grief over the decades. Obviously, based on early images prior to the release of the movie, these Skrulls had been heavily reworked. But then it came out that the aliens were not in fact the Skrulls, but the Chitauri. Leading some of us -- myself included -- to ask, "Who!?"
Brief side trip to the Marvel comics universe. Some time back, Marvel created a second universe, called the "Ultimate" universe, because the titles were all called "Ultimate" -- something or other. Ultimate Spider-Man, Ultimate X-Men, and the Ultimate Avengers were simply known as the Ultimates. These titles were a way for writers and artists to re-imagine the legendary Marvel Comics characters without all the decades of history.
Personally, I wanted nothing to do with it. I believe that history exists for a reason, and should not be casually ignored. On the other hand, these days, I suppose the Ultimates are far less of a fiasco than DC's "New 52". At least when Marvel created the "Ultimate Universe", they didn't tamper with their mainstream universe in the process.
But here's my point. While the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which consists of the movie versions of Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Hulk, etc, is considered a separate continuity from any of the comic books, it's arguably a little closer to the Ultimate Universe in some respects. For example, the Ultimate Universe's Nick Fury was based on Samuel L. Jackson. So when a cinematic Nick Fury was needed, Marvel Productions was able to get -- Samuel L. Jackson.
And the alien Chitauri -- are from the Ultimate Universe. Here's what's known about them from that standpoint.
The Chitauri are a race of extraterrestrial shapeshifters that appear in publications by Marvel Comics's alternative universe, Ultimate Marvel, in the Ultimates series. They were created by Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch. They were created for the Ultimate universe franchise in place of the existing Marvel Comics alien species, the Skrulls, which play a similar role in the franchise's mainstream continuity. Later, Marvel would choose to distinguish between the Skrulls and Chitauri of the Ultimate universe. The species would later be adapted to other media, notably appearing in the 2012 film The Avengers as the invasion force led by Loki. They were provided to Loki by Thanos in a deal for the Tesseract.
In other words, they started out as the Ultimate version of the Skrulls, with many of the same capabilities, but then Marvel decided to bring actual Skrulls into the Ultimate Universe, and -- ohhh, my head. Where's the aspirin?
The race called Chitauri appeared as Ultimate Marvel's counterpart to the Skrulls. They are a shapeshifting alien species who have attempted to conquer the Earth, most notably during World War II and again in the early 21st century.
The Chitauri claim to be part of "the immune system of the Universe", wiping out disorder and free will wherever they find it. They seem to prefer to act behind the scenes, mimicking and influencing the social and military methods of the species they are currently infiltrating.
For example, they aided the Nazis in their attempt at world conquest by providing them with the technology to create a nuclear bomb carried by an intercontinental ballistic missile. However, this attempt was thwarted by Captain America. Through the entire conflict of World War II, the Chitauri were being driven out of their operations in Africa and Europe, even from their main Japanese training camps in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Following the end of the war, the Chitauri withdrew to make new plans.
The next attempt at conquest was more subtle (at first), involving long-term methods of manipulation such as will-inhibiting drugs in many nations' water supplies, influencing the media, and R.F.I.D. (radio-frequency identification) microchips to be implanted in schoolchildren, among other means. The Chitauri also infiltrated S.H.I.E.L.D., particularly the Psi-Division which could telepathically ferret out Chitauri agents. However, S.H.I.E.L.D. was able to detect some of the low-ranking "drone" staff of the aliens, disguised as common office workers, and wiped them out in an assault led by Black Widow and Hawkeye.
The Chitauri planted false information through the compromised Psi-Division that led S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Ultimates into a trap on a small Micronesian island; due to the combined efforts of Iron Man and Thor, the Ultimates, Nick Fury and a handful of SHIELD soldiers survived, but thousands of S.H.I.E.L.D. soldiers were killed and dozens of Helicarriers were destroyed.
The Chitauri then counterattacked by infiltrating the Triskelion and capturing The Wasp. The Chitauri leader, known only by his former Nazi identity as Herr Kleiser, took the Wasp to a hidden Chitauri base in Arizona. However, their location was given away when a fleet of damaged Chitauri starships suddenly entered Earth's atmosphere to hover above the formerly secret base, claiming that they were fleeing major defeats across the galaxy by their intergalactic enemies and that the remainder of their forces are forced to the "backwaters" of the Milky Way Galaxy (i.e. Earth's solar system). Disregarding Herr Kleiser's long efforts, the Chitauri ordered him to destroy Earth and its solar system with a doomsday bomb as part of a scorched-earth policy and retreat to the "lower fourth-dimension". The Ultimates and all available S.H.I.E.L.D. and military forces immediately converged on the alien fleet.
Although Iron Man and Thor were able to damage the ships, who as well in ridding the Chitauri bomb by teleporting it to the wastes of Nastrond, where its detonation caused only a small ripple in space-time, it was the Hulk who downed the majority of the fleet. At the same time, Captain America battled his old enemy Kleiser, but was unable to defeat him alone. At Captain America's urging/mocking of Kleiser touching Betty Ross -- Hulk's girlfriend as much as he has one, the Hulk was able to beat, dismember, and devour Kleiser. Ouch.
It is presently presumed that the combination of the Chitauri's series of intergalactic defeats and the destruction of the Chitauri fleet on Earth spelled the complete and total defeat of the alien race.
As to their powers and abilities, the Chitauri were able to mimic human form and absorb human knowledge, apparently by ingesting the bodies or brains of the humans they imitated. In their natural form, they appear to be large, and reptilian, but no clear images of their native form have been shown. Although the drone workers were nearly mindless and not much more durable than ordinary humans, the high-ranking officers such as Kleiser possessed enough strength to rival Captain America, superhuman stamina and durability, extremely rapid regeneration, and the ability to see or sense invisible objects or people.
Another race called Skrulls, physically resembling the Skrulls of the mainstream Marvel universe appear later, led by the billion-year-old Skrull Emperor, Kl'rt; these Skrulls dislike being confused with the Chitauri, whom they call terrorists. They have extremely advanced technology, but have not been observed to shapeshift.
The version of the Chitauri that appear in the 2012 live-action superhero-team film The Avengers, set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, act as Loki's personal army and serve as the secondary antagonists of the film, since even allowing for Loki's status as a legendary "god", it would make for rather lopsided fight scenes if nothing else. In the film, the Chitauri are a race of grey-skinned, six-fingered reptilian humanoids that have a heavily cybernetic or biomechanical physiology. These Chitauri display none of their shapeshifting capacities from the Ultimate universe, nor the comics' Chitauri tendency towards subterfuge, but have highly advanced technology, such as hovercraft-like skimmers, staves that also operate as rifles and large airborne troop carriers, known as Leviathans, that resemble biomechanical arthropods or limbless reptiles, encased in mechanized armor. They seem to have a neural link to their mothership as, when Iron Man destroys the ship with a hijacked nuclear missile, the aliens seem to drop dead instantly. They are thought to be led by one hooded Chitauri called "The Other". During the conversations had between the Other and Loki, the Other repeatedly mentions his master, a powerful being later revealed in a mid-end-credits scene to be Thanos.
So, how's the figure? Really quite impressive. Obviously, the Chitauri were realized through CGI computer animated effects. Sit through the end credits of the Avengers movie -- not just for the bonus scenes, but watch all of the personnel from all of the various special effects studios roll past. ILM, WETA, and plenty of others. I think most of the major special effects houses involved in the movie business had some contribution to Avengers.
The thing about the Chitauri is, they appear mostly during the high action battle scenes. As a result, it's rather hard to get a really good look at one. They're either being knocked off their flying sleds, slammed into buildings by the Hulk, punched out by Captain America, or -- you get the idea. I can't recall one scene from the movie where we see a basic Chitauri soldier just -- standing still long enough to get a good look at him.
I have to believe that Hasbro was given access to computer renderings of the Chitauri, individual images that would hold still so that an action figure could be designed around them. The end result is an impressive piece of design work.
The Chitauri are humanoid -- for the most part. The background describes them as "gray-skinned", but it's a little hard to tell on the figure where there might be any exposed skin, although let's assume that the gray is supposed to be skin. This would seem to be borne out with the gray hands and feet, which clearly show fingers and toes.
The Chitauri's head is covered in a metallic gold helmet that reveals no facial details. There are two black dots that doubtless represent eye holes. The helmet is quite ornate, as is much of the armor, with upswept sides and a rather ornate sculpted area where the nose and mouth would be.
The Chitauri is wearing a very ornate chestplate, that tapers down into armor that hangs below the waist on the front and sides. It is gold, with black and reddish-purple details. The paint stencils for this figure must be considerable. Hasbro's sculptors had a challenge here, but they rose to it most impressively, with the result being a very intricately designed figure.
The upper back of the figure is gray, and there is no purple detail on his back, but there's no shortage of ornate armor back here, either.
The arms and legs are mostly gray, but have metallic gold cybernetic implants. I am reluctant to call them "boots" or "gloves" or even armor, since they seem to be at least somewhat random, and the patterns do not match from one arm or leg to the other, except that the lower arms and legs have more protection than the upper arms and legs.
Exceptionally unusual are the hands and feet. The hands have four fingers -- and two thumbs each! The second thumb is located further back than the first, as if it were emerging from the wrist. I'm trying to figure what sort of biological advantage something like this would be. Piano playing? Card shuffling?
The feet bear little structural resemblance to the hands. The feet each have three large toes, the big toe and two slightly smaller ones in succession, and a possible fourth toe near the inner ankle, although on both feet, this area is metallic gold, so I suppose it could simply be an extension of the cybernetics.
The Chitauri figure is very neatly painted, which is impressive given how complex it is.
Now let's consider the Cosmic Chariot. Wow -- this thing is weird. It certainly looks alien in design. I knew it was reminding me of something, but I couldn't quite place it for a while. Then I remembered what it superficially reminded me of -- the creepy huge heads of the aliens from "Independence Day". It's got that same alien, bizarre, techno-organic look to it that just doesn't seem to know what a straight line is.
And you won't find one on this cosmic chariot, either. It's almost impossible to describe this thing in terms that can be compared to any human vehicle. There are two control handles that could sort of be likened to a motorcycle, and is has a sloping front, and a couple of foot stands that jut back from the front, but -- whew. Look, just see the picture that's included with this review. I'm out of adjectives on this one.
The vehicle does have a number of moving parts, including the leg stands, and the handlebars. It also features a spring-loaded missile launcher up front. I will say this for it -- while exceptionally difficult to describe in recognizable terms, the Cosmic Chariot is exceptionally well made, and is loaded with intricately sculpted detail, and I commend -- and extend a certain amount of sympathy to -- the designers who enabled this toy to be made. The vehicle is almost entirely gold in color, with a little bit of silver trim hear the front that could almost be headlights. There's a little silver trim on the sides of the leg stands, too.
Any complaints? Unfortunately, yes. One -- and also unfortunately, it's a doozy. The figure's articulation. Now, I am well aware of the fact that vehicle drivers in these Marvel movie lines tend to get the short end of the articulation stick. So be it. That's modern toy production economics for you. I don't blame the toy companies for having to find more economical ways to turn out their product.
What I WILL criticize is the fact that the prototype figure shown ON THE PACKAGE clearly shows a Chitauri with articulated knees -- something the figure does not have, and it does hinder his ability to properly "operate" his vehicle.
The Chitauri is poseable at the head, arms, legs, an upper leg swivel, and ankles. In fairness, the leg movement is fairly considerable, as are the ankles. But he really needed knee movement. Unfortunately, the figure is just ornate and complicated enough that you can't quite tell from the sealed package whether his knees are poseable or not. And they're not.
Worse, the single-carded Chitauri, whose package picture ALSO shows articulated knees, seems to be the same figure as this one with the Cosmic Chariot. In other words -- no articulated knees.
I can accept limited articulation. I don't like it, but I can accept it. What I have more trouble with is a package photograph that indicates a level of articulation that the toy does not have.
Let me offer a suggestion, those of you that have been enjoying the Avengers movie action figure line, and might want to build up some sort of enemy army for the heroes to fight. There's another individually carded figure in this line. It's a Skrull Soldier (see my separate review). Now, technically, the Skrulls are not in the movie. However, in my estimation, this figure is the finest Skrull figure ever produced, certainly in the 4" scale. The uniform design is impressive, if a little different from what has appeared in the comics, the headsculpt looks like a Skrull, but also works well within the more realistic environment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and the Skrull Soldier has plenty of articulation -- head, arms, elbows, legs, and knees, with rotational movement as well as back and forth in most articulation points. Get a Chitauri so you've got the official aliens from the movies, but if you want to do some "army-building" -- get Skrulls.
So, what's my final word? The Chitauri are the aliens from the Avengers movie. That cannot be taken away from them. And the figure has an extremely impressive look to him. He is very finely-detailed, well-painted, the works. The articulation limitation is a definite down side, but really I'm mostly upset over the fact that the package illustration showed a more articulated figure. If you can live with that, then the Chitauri is still an excellent figure.
And the Cosmic Chariot is a very impressive -- and admittedly rather bizarre -- piece of work. It doesn't look even remotely like anything a human would design. And these vehicles did appear in the movie, quite extensively, actually. I've got no complaints about it whatsoever. I believe that if you enjoyed the Avengers movie, you'll like the Chitauri, and you'll definitely like the Cosmic Chariot.
The CHITAURI SOLDIER with his COSMIC CHARIOT from the AVENGERS movie line of action figures definitely has my very enthusiastic recommendation!