Loosely, it is a movie that is a sequel of sorts to Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Thor and Captain America. In the movie, Thor's baby brother , Loki, who has grown extra villainous since his last outing in Thor, threatens Earth. S.H.I.E.L.D., a fictitious government agency, led by Nick Fury brings together a volatile amalgamation of characters to save the earth. Thor, Iron Man, Captain America, the Hulk, Hawkeye, and the Black Widow - all inherently flawed individuals have to set aside their self interest and personal agendas and/or damage to fight as a team and prevent the impending global doom. It's typical super hero fare. Baddie threatens world, Superheros come to the rescue. Drama, however demands some unique chemistry and plot lines to succeed in this.
Nick Fury, played by Samuel L. Jackson with a rock-star swagger, has been a constant in the previous Marvel movies, dating back to second incarnation of the Hulk. But another S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent has had a hand and presence in every single of one of these films too - Clark Gregg's Agent Coulson. He is, in fact, one of the most beloved characters in the Avengers separate films. I want to take a moment and explain why I love Agent Coulson best.
I warn you now, I am going to speak of significant plot points in the Avengers movie. If you have not seen it and don't want to know what happens, stop reading now. You're welcome.
When Tony Stark quips that Agent Coulson's name is simply "Agent," it was intended to be a funny Starkism. Personally, I think it establishes Phil Coulson's character as a permanent and invaluable character in the Avengers team. He's not a Super Hero with a cape, power or special gift, but he is an 'agent' of something greater in the Marvel Universe. Joss Whedon takes a character who had been played with a 'Men in Black' seriousness and panache by Clark Gregg and doubles it over with heroic courage, humility, and every fan-boy's government agent double.
Agent Coulson interacts with each Super in a way that demonstrates character, integrity, humility and faith in something more than himself. He believes in these men, he knows they are going to win. He plays straight man to Tony Stark's overblown ego and running mouth, but with respect and kindness. He is kind and even keeled with the potentially explosive Bruce Banner/Hulk, treating him sympathetically as a normal but extraordinary person. His encounter with Thor on the bridge of the heliocarrier shows a humility, awe and ease with a demigod. No scene is more clear of his belief and faith than the look on his face as he listens empathetically to Thor's concern about the whole scenario unfolding before them.
Coulson is respectful, kept together and in control....until he meets Steve Rogers. He geeks out a bit when interacting with Captain America and brief him on the new uniform he helped design, but still shows the level of respect and reverence for his (apparent) favorite super hero. Carrying around his own set of 'mint' Captain America trading cards and even going so far as to seek an autograph. In all of these interactions, Agent C demonstrates that he is a huge chunk of the team. He is their heart, the faith, the belief. While Nick Fury struts around trying to force belief in themselves, Coulson silently steals that role by his faithfulness to them all.
In a climatic scene, it is Agent Coulson who faces down Loki, the baddie. He is stabbed through and (apparently) dies. I have my misgivings about this being a true thing, but that's a whole other blog post. ;) When Agent C courageously faces someone who he is hopelessly ill-suited to match, even with a special weapon, it ends tragically and becomes the congealing 'agent' (pun intended) for the Avengers team. All of the super heroes are shown their magnificent ego and selfishness in the 'death' of the beloved Agent C because of his humble sacrifice in doing what none of them had the willingness or ability to do on their own at that point.
Tony Stark called him a fool for doing it, but the misgiving in his voice tells us that Iron Man's ego was pinched in the face of sheer self-sacrifice. Agent C is both the heart of the Avengers team and a representation of the world they so desperately need to save. That is why I love the character of Agent Coulson. He is the "better" in the world that needs to be saved -Not the arrogant, strutting Nick Fury or governments of the world he represents; Not the innocent screaming, faceless victims. No, it is the Agent Coulson's - the believers, the faithful and humble, the courageous, indelible human spirits that refuse to lose even in a hopelessly unmatched fight. Agent Coulson, is ultimately, in this film, the true Avenger hero. He is more than a SHIELD Agent. He is an agent of redemption, belief and hope.