Here it is, the main event. The one we’ve all be waiting for. The Avengers are assembled now, and they have to do stuff together, I guess. You can’t waste all those movies of foreshadowing and seeding, can you?
My feelings about this movie are a little confused (what else is new?). I enjoyed the experience of watching it quite a bit. I put a blanket around my head, and turned off all the lights, crunched on some baby carrots, and had a lot of fun. It was great as that pure summer blockbuster. But, perhaps unfortunately, I’ve taken it upon myself to actually think about these movies, and once you do, there is one undeniable fact.
These characters don’t belong together.
I know shit-all about the comics, I’ve made no secret of that, but I do know that the whole “super team of heros” thing has a long history in both Marvel and DC. And I have no idea why. I guess there’s just a fangirl squee element, which is valid, but the result was that I felt like I was watching several movies at once. And with a 2:22 run time, why not.
Let’s go through each of the Avengers one by one, starting with the one we saw first, Hawkeye.
Who is this guy? I know he had a cameo in the Thor movie but that was hardly super essential or exciting. Does he have super powers? Or am I supposed to believe that he just has very, very good aim?
The aim thing was cool, of course, and it certainly gave the camera something interesting to do, but the problem is that a lot of the emotional significance of the movie relies on my being concerned that this man was being mind controlled by the villain. I have no idea who he is, so how can I possible care? And no, another character expositing how much he means to her does not help. (More on that later.)
But boy did he mean a lot to her, because all it takes is a bop on the head and he’s back in the Trust Circle. (Worked out great in Jessica Jones…) This is hardly the only contrivance this movie is guilty of.
Next to assemble is Steve Rogers, the hero that we all need, but do not deserve. Seventy years in ice have not made him less of a cinnamon roll. He’s the moral centre of the group in many ways, always trying to get them to remained focused on the fact that they have a planet to save. But the film also takes some time to shine a light on the “darker” aspects of Steve’s unquestioning loyalty. And how his loyalty to his moral code is stronger than his instinct to obey.
I’m always happy to see Steve. They should make more movies about him.
Then we get to meet the
token female Avenger, Natasha Romanoff, aka Black Widow. And she’s being assaulted. Yay! (Also being assaulted is the Russian language.)
My feelings about Natasha are very much like my feelings about Hawkeye. I suppose that’s not surprising, since they seem very closely related in the narrative. If anything, the problem is much worse with her. I watched Agent Carter out of chronological order, and I’m very glad I did, because otherwise there would have been no way for me to know that all those offhand references she made to her past meant that she grew up in one of those Leviathan Super Soilder Schools.
And you know what? That’s fucking interesting? I want to hear about that. I want to know what happend in Budapest, goddamnit! Why did Hawkeye make that call? Why in Odin’s name does this woman not have a Phase 1 movie of her own when that asshat Tony Stark got two?
I was actually very impressed with Scarlett Johansson’s performance, which surprised me, since I’ve never been a particular fan of hers. She gives a thoughtfulness and vulnerability to the part that made the character much more interesting. This might be despite the script, I think. Natasha is just implausible indestructible. She doesn’t have superpowers either, right? I’m sorry, I don’t care how fit and badass you are, if you land on a hard surface from a great height, you will shatter every bone in your body.
In any case, the first important thing Natasha does is put on a long skirt and a shawl and go to Calcutta to pick up Bruce Banner.
You’re all probably wondering what I think of the new Hulk. He’s fine. Though if you want to talk contrivance, let’s talk about how he can suddenly control his ability, literally only when it’s convenient for the plot. Because he’s always angry? What the fuck does that mean?
And then there is my favourite person in the whole wide world: Tony Stark. Maybe the well is totally poisoned with the character for me, but golly does our boy Tony like to be the centre of attention. He does several genuinely heroic things during the course of this movie, and yet he continues with that whole “rugged individualism” approach to heroism. I understand that this is a feature, not a defect, of his characterization, but I just cannot like him.
I do, however, like his interactions with three other characters enough to actually comment on them.
Firstly, the part of me that enjoys absurdity really like when Tony Stark and Bruce Banner were in a room together spouting literal nonsense at each other and calling it science. It was worthy of Star Trek: Voyager.
Secondly, may we please have more Steve calling Tony on all his bullshit? Can we have a whole movie that’s just that, in fact?
The third interaction, I’ll save for later.
Anyway, Loki randomly decides to hold up some random event in Stuttgart, to get an eyeball. (It kind of makes sense…) A heroic old guy stands up to him and then Cap and Tony show up to beat down Loki, for the first of, like, four times. And then, they’re transporting him when the final member of our team shows up, Thor, God of Family Drama.
And this, this is the point where your neck starts hurting from the Multiple Movie Whiplash. I mean, I thought I was watching a movie with scary aliens, then it was high tech spies, then I was watching two men standing broodily on a mountain talking about family issues and clutching each other’s faces affectionately.
Then three overpowered dudes started beating each other in a forest. Like, ow.
The choice of Loki as the villain of this piece was a little odd. Thor was definitely the movie that fit the least well into the MCU so far, as I noted when I first watched it, and most of this tonal mishmashiness comes from his inclusion.
And, like, Loki’s a good choice because he’s so interesting and complicated (though the Moral Event Horizon, she has been crossed), but he comes to Earth just because he’s so desperate for lesser beings to dominate. (To make Daddy proud? The flip Daddy the Bird?) Then Tony “What is Maturity” Stark has to point out to him that his plan sucks. And then the Hulk tosses him around like a petulant toddler with a stuffed bear? What.
Was the point that he was really just a pathetic man-child with a few dangerous toys?
And his allies are, like, also aliens, and they just want to blow shit up, I guess. And they seem to operate by the same rules of engagement as the Battle Droids in The Phantom Menace. As soon as you blow up the big ship, they all just fall over. Are they supposed to be robots? Or, like, drones? I’m confused.
Seriously, Loki is fleshed out well enough, but these other guys are just McGuffins, at least as much as the Tesseract is. They are just an excuse to get all these characters together somehow so we can have that lovely panning shot of them all assembled in a circle.
And it was a nice shot. All the action sequences were nice, if you ignore the laws of physics. I especially liked the sequence when Loki’s moops attack the Improbable Airship, if only because it is my boy Coulson’s time to shine.
Can we talk about Coulson? I love him in this movie. I love that he’s a Cap fanboy.
But I kind of have a question: was he stuffed in the fridge? Director Fury did seem to think that his death was a better motivator for the band of misfits than, like, the impending destruction of the world. Because it has to be personal, I guess?
And the MCU seems to like it when things are personal. When their heroes personally solve the problems of the world. Because authority figures all suck at it.
This was worst in the Iron Man movies, but it existed in the others as well too. Bruce Banner was determine to not let his power fall into the hands of the evil military, Steve Rogers disobeyed orders to save the 107th from Hydra, Thor’s Super Friends defied their king to go and help him. And this was all the “right” thing to do. Because authority is bad. Authority wants to nuke New York City and brow-beat Nick Fury. So he makes damn sure the Avengers don’t end up in Authority’s slimy grasp.
There’s just something wonderfully lacking in self-awareness when a multi-hundred million dollar movie backed by a giant studio tries to be “anti-authority”.
You know what? I think Marvel Studios might actually be Tony Stark.