‘The Avengers’ is still incredibly exciting to watch after all that has come after it. The characters are so young, so fresh, so new and so unfamiliar with one another-and like our buddy Bruce Banner says- they are a “chemical mixture that creates chaos”. Though they are cleaning up an overabundance of chaos in this film, from the beginning we are asked one simple question “Does the world need superheroes?”. Yes, yes we do.
And so, on the Road to Infinity War, I am so excited to talk about ‘THE AVENGERS’!
Writer, director and creator Joss Whedon was a pop culture darling to the nerd community well before he took on ‘The Avengers’ project. His slew of credits include such cult classics as TV shows ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ ‘Angel’ and ‘Firefly’, films like ‘Titan AE’, ‘Alien: Resurrection’ ‘Cabin in the Woods’ ‘Serenity’ and a little indie film called ‘Toy Story’. It seemed only fitting that a man who is so widely known in the community of pop culture loving nerds would be the one given the task of bringing one of its most treasured teams to the big screen. Whedon has some experience with establishing universes utilizing original characters, but a bit less with pre existing ones.
While Whedon wrote the screenplay for ‘The Avengers’, our buddy Zak Penn wrote the story. You may remember my mention of Zak in my entry for ‘The Incredible Hulk’-which he also wrote for Marvel Studios. Penn has a wealth of experience writing specifically for Marvel characters in everything from a Fantastic Four video game, ‘Elektra’ ‘Xmen 2’ and ‘XMen:The Last Stand’. While these credits may be spotty in their quality, there is certainly no contesting that he has the experience to be involved in this project. His experience with Marvel and comic book heroes in general fills in the holes where Joss Whedon may have lacked.
This film was unprecedented in its time- bringing together a canon universe of films that had spanned five years at the point that ‘The Avengers’ was released. This involved lengthy contracts with the actors and a whole lot of planning from the studio. If only we knew at the time what was coming down the pipeline in the future! ‘The Avengers’ proved to be a worthwhile investment in every way imaginable-making a harrowing $1,518,812,988 at the worldwide box office. OVER A BILLION DOLLARS!
I’m going to approach this section a bit differently since we have SO MANY characters to outline. So I am just going to get us caught up on what these characters have been up to before the story begins.
IRON MAN/TONY STARK: At this point, Tony has been through a hell of a lot of trauma. He was kidnapped by terrorists, there was a hit put on his life by his friend and colleague Obediah Stane, he was cut out of his company, attacked by his own technology FOR his own technology, and became a superhero. THEN, while masquerading around as if he was untouchable, he was attacked by ‘Whiplash’ (ugh) and Hammer Industries tried to take him out. Hes in a relationship now, he gave Pepper the position of CEO at Stark Industries, hes a part of the ‘Avengers Initiative’, he has an Iron sidekick, and he has upgraded his chest piece to prevent a serious case of death.
Tony is an incredibly powerful man and has a shiny new image, albeit one that may still be seen in a negative light-depending who you ask. While he has held onto his cocky confidence and his innovative, entrepreneurial spirit- he has also grown tremendously. His priorities have changed and he is fully focused on utilizing his ‘Iron Man’ persona to make the world a safer place- following in his fathers footsteps and making him proud. His daddy issues still linger heavily in the way that he approaches a challenge to prove that he can do absolutely anything that he tries, but he seems far more open to collaboration and- dare I say- help?
CAPTAIN AMERICA/STEVE ROGERS: Steve is waking up from being involuntarily iced for a few decades, and we saw him waking up in modern day New York City at the very end of ‘The First Avenger’. All that we know for sure is that Steve is an old fashioned guy who is terribly lost in the new world in which he inhabits. Everyone that he knew is either extremely old, or has passed on. He is now living in a world where the war that he fought has ended and another has begun, and one where war is a completely different animal. He has already lived through war, a runin with alien technology and an act of self sacrifice and he now has a second chance to live his life, and to fulfill his destiny as ‘Captain America’.
BLACK WIDOW/NATASHA ROMANOFF: We know a fair amount about Black Widow due to her appearance in ‘Iron Man 2’-namely that she is very skilled at deception, technology and combat. She is the total package, and she works directly under Nick Fury-so needless to say, she will have a big role in the ‘Avengers Initiative’ going forward.
THOR/THOR ODINSON/”DONALD BLAKE”: Thor has seemingly no access to Earth now that the bifrost and the rainbow bridge are destroyed, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that he has no way out. He has grown a lot since ‘Thor’, and he has taken on the role of “protector of the realms” now that he has seen a different side of the cosmos-and fallen in love with a scientist. Odin is still King of Asgard, but Thor is his right hand because his brother Loki is presumed dead. What they don’t know-and what we do know- is that he is very much alive, and he is already scheming.
HULK/BRUCE BANNER: The last time that we saw Bruce Banner, he was Edward Norton. Also, he was on the run after he and the ‘Abomination’ tore apart an entire neighbourhood. We know that he is on better terms with General Ross after working with him to bring down the beast, but he has inadvertently been forced into exile to prevent any future incidents and contact with the general public. We don’t know for sure if he has cut ties with his previous life or if he is still working on a cure or a way to manage his uh, “condition”. We also don’t know if he has been in contact with anybody from the “real world” or if SHIELD has contacted him personally. We do know that Tony approached General Ross about the Hulk, so he may have provided useful information, or he may have thrown him off the scent.
HAWKEYE/CLINT BARTON: I’ll be honest, I actually forgot that Hawkeye was in Thor. I always forget. So…we know that he is working with SHIELD, and that he observes things from a distance. Oh, and he has a bow and arrow. Sounds about right.
NICK FURY: Nick has been very busy looking badass and bringing together a team that will protect our world. We don’t know what he knows in the grand scheme of things, but we know that he is aware of at least two people who either live or vacation on Earth who have superpowers. He knows that there is life on other planets, and he knows that they have visited our planet for leisure and for business. He is one of the first people to make contact with Steve Rogers when he wakes up, and he is in regular contact with both Black Widow, Iron Man and presumably-Hawkeye. He is aware of Bruce Banner and Thor, but as far as we know, he has had no interaction with them personally.
Much like we saw in ‘Thor’ there are technically two evils at work in ‘The Avengers’-which we will come to find out almost immediately. But going into the movie, the only inkling that we have about the bad guy is the post credits scene from ‘Captain America: The First Avenger’ where we see that Loki has projected his form on Earth in order to eavesdrop on a conversation between Nick Fury and Dr Selvig regarding the tesseract. In a strong bit of foreshadowing, he delivers one simple line of dialogue that is repeated by Selvig, as if he is a ventriloquist dummy for Loki. Little do we know…
UPS AND DOWNS:
Love it or hate it, `The Avengers` is a movie made up of moments. This becomes both the downfall and the strength of it, because while so many of those moments are great- some are a little nonsensical for the sake of fan service.
This movie pulls off the very difficult feat of introducing and integrating a cast of established and beloved characters and turning them into a team-coming together for one common goal. We have a solid backstory for some of the characters, and others we have barely scratched the surface of. They had to bring Thor back to Earth, bring Bruce out of hiding, knock Cap out of his shellshock, and manage Tony well enough that he can play nice with others. They had to create a scenario where SHIELD and The Avengers work hand in hand and a balance also needed to be struck between the screen time for all of those players. To do that, they created a situation so dire, so sudden and so personal that these heroes HAD to come together. They pulled this off with great success.
Not only did the construct of the film come together very well, but it struck a great balance between action, drama, fantasy and comedy. The coming together of all Marvel entities is poetic and exciting, and they capture the spirit of each individual character while giving them all a fair amount of time to shine. The balance of personalities and the way that the actors bounce off of one another in every scene makes it so easy to escape into the world that they have created. Every character has their moment to show both their lighter side and their emotional side, and that contrast perks up the tone of a movie that could easily be drowned in doom and dread. The subject matter gets very dark and morose in scenes like the one where Loki commands a group of civilians to kneel before him, only to be defied by an older man who compares him to one of Earths most famous non-fictional villains. This comes after he steals a mans eyeball, by the way. Though not the most kid friendly of stories- it does its due diligence to keep things light enough that both adults and kids can enjoy the experience.
Mind you, I find that the clever quips and cheeky one liners can feel out of place. Joss Whedon is very good at delivering quotable lines and memorable shots, and there is a wealth of both in `The Avengers`. However, when a bit doesn’t quite fall into place it leaves an awkward gaze, a deafening silence where there should be a laugh track, or a scene that just confuses the tone entirely. Its one thing for Sam Jackson to spout off a sassy diss, but to listen to the tension between Cap and Tony right from the beginning doesn’t feel overly genuine, considering how much they know about one another at first meeting and what each other has lived through. However, how else will they set the groundwork for Civil War but to show that these two clashed right from the beginning? The entire scene where Thor steals Loki sticks out like a sore thumb and demonstrates my point rather well. Tony takes down Thor, leaving Loki completely unsupervised and alone to sit and wait for someone to come get him. While he happily watches as his brother fights with Iron Man, we are treated to a token superhero moment called the “BUT WHAT IF” fight. It is a fight scene that is set up specifically for the purpose of answering questions like: “But what if Iron Man was hit with Mjolnir?” and “But what if Mjolnir hit Caps shield?”. You see these types of one-off fight scenes all throughout the movie. Thor vs Hulk, Black Widow vs Hawkeye, and I mentioned-Thor vs Iron Man.
Now, lets talk about our HEROES as they exit `The Avengers` into the next stages of the MCU.
IRON MAN/TONY STARK: Tony has pushed himself to a whole new level of recklessness. He faced a god without reliable armor to make a statement-and almost didn’t make it. He jumped into a massive piece of moving machinery powering a Quinjet-and almost didn’t make it. He carried a missile through a portal into space, and he almost didnt make it. He continues to place himself directly in the line of fire-so although he may argue with Steve that they are “not soldiers”, he certainly behaves like one. He is on a path of self destruction and truly believes that he can fix any problem that comes his way-no matter the consequences. His mental state is more and more questionable as time goes on.
CAPTAIN AMERICA/STEVE ROGERS: Steve had very little time to come to grips with his new world before he was pulled right back into a fight, but he wasted no time at all establishing himself as a leader. While everyone around him is either idolizing or patronizing him, he keeps a very serious perspective and does not seem interested in letting anyone in. Only he knows exactly what he has survived through and there are few people for him to identify with. Considering the shocking changes that he has already had to absorb, now he has to come to grips with the existence of aliens. He remains very noble, honest and hands on, and much like Tony- he is willing to throw himself right into the mess to do the right thing.
BLACK WIDOW/NATASHA ROMANOFF: Natasha now knows what its like to fight alongside superhumans, Gods and monsters- and she never once showed that she was intimidated. She came face to face with The Hulk and lived to tell the tale, despite how truly afraid she was of him. She met in a battle of wits against Loki, and nearly beat him at his own game. She helped save her best friend, fought alien soldiers in hand to hand combat and eventually had the courage to personally deal with two infinity stones (not that she was aware of that). She proves her worth over and over again with her tenacity and first class combat skills. Though her relationship with people like Tony, Thor and Bruce are still up in the air, she has formed a bit of a kinship with Steve that we will see come into play in future MCU stories, and her friendship with Barton is clearly very important to her as well, so they will likely continue to be a loyal support system for each other.
THOR/THOR ODINSON/”DONALD BLAKE”: Thor has found his way back to Earth by some method that we have yet to be informed, and he made his way back to Asgard with his brother Loki in tow. So we know that he has access to our realm again-and in turn, he likely has access to others. He has a new sense of disdain for his brother, but he certainly seems to have a soft spot for him nonetheless. Loki is volatile and selfish to no end, but Thor does not want to give up on him. He realizes that he is angry and feeling cast out by everyone that he knows, and I believe that he sympathizes with him and hopes that one day he will grow and learn to listen.
HULK/BRUCE BANNER: Bruce was happy as a clam, all alone and dedicating his life to helping people who cannot help themselves. However, SHIELD pulled him out of his remote and quiet life to serve a greater purpose. This decision is a very risky one on their part, but they know by now that Bruce has been keeping his demon at bay for nearly a year. What they don’t know for sure is if the Hulk is manageable when he transforms. Even the way that they illustrate his control and intelligence is a little spotty in this film, because one minute he is set off by an explosion and goes after Black Widow, and the next he is able to turn into the Hulk on a moments notice with full control and full ability to “communicate” and understand his comrades. What we can tell for sure is that Bruce has successfully found ways to manage the Hulk-to an extent. He also confides in his new friends that he has attempted to kill himself in a low moment-bringing a whole new layer of tragedy to his story. He has now come to terms with the permanence of his relationship with the Hulk, but he still has not accepted it as a gift, rather than a curse.
HAWKEYE/CLINT BARTON: Hawkeye is desperately outgunned in comparison to his colleagues, but that doesn’t stop him from working his ass off to do his best. Much like Natasha, he is crucial to the team because of his…hawk-like vision and awareness, his agility and his combat skills. If theres one thing that we know about SHIELD agents, its that they can keep secrets and they are trained to be the best. Barton has been the unfortunate recipient of Lokis mind control, which will very likely have a lasting affect on him. He seems really willing and ready to take on Loki and anybody else who stands in his way.
NICK FURY: Nick Fury and SHIELD have been through a hell of a lot through the course of this movie. They were caught utilizing the tesseract to create weapons to defend the Earth from people like Loki-only to be attacked using the tesseract as a method of transport. The SHIELD facility now lays in a hole in the ground while Fury, Coulson, Hill and several other agents are basically stuck on their Quinjet for the duration of the movie. Fury flexes a whole lot of power in ‘The Avengers’ beyond what we have seen from him in the past. He makes most of the major decisions regarding global security-and although the special counsel doesn’t agree with his sentiment that the ‘Avengers Initiative’ is a feasible form of security- they let him get away with it nonetheless. Fury basically has complete command over how the events of ‘The Avengers’ unfold and his involvement is incredibly important, affecting the MCU from here on out.
COULSON: Coulson gets his 15 minutes of MCU fame in ‘The Avengers’ where we get to see how sharp his wit is and how sentimental he is at heart. For a man that is in charge of some of the worlds biggest and baddest secrets, he has a very soft side-mostly for Captain America. He ends up being the ultimate fanboy on behalf of all of us. Coulson died defending a group of superheroes. RIP you smug son of a bitch. OR MAYBE NOT……? (Spoiler alert…not.)
Ooooh Loki. You thought that you could make a deal with the devil and all the chips would fall in your favor? Classic villain mistake. Loki deserves a hell of a lot of credit for the amount of destruction and devastation that he able to create without putting himself in harms way, but he is still far too inexperienced and immature to understand how the universe works. He believes that every scheme that he hatches will ultimately bring him out on top-not quite realizing that there are much bigger fish in the sea-namely guys like Thanos and teams like the Avengers. He still believes that he is entitled to be treated as a King, and therefore he is above everyone else. He will not accept the reality that despite how highly he thinks of himself, he is not above anyone unless he proves himself worthy.
Thor has taken Loki back to Asgard as a prisoner, and we don’t know how long this will last.
POST CREDITS SCENE: How could anyone forget the grand reveal at the end of `The Avengers’? It opens on a member of the Chitauri brooding on a small, dark planet on which we saw Loki speaking to the them last. In that previous scene, the camera panned He is reporting to someone about their failure to take over Earth- claiming that “to challenge them, is to court death”. Then, we see the smirking side profile of none other than the Mad Titan-Thanos.
This “court death” line makes me think that they are eluding to the infamous Mistress of Death- who is a huge part of the ‘Infinity Gauntlet’ storyline in the comics. So, we have our first official clue that there may be an Infinity Stones story in our future.
What a time to be alive and nerdy!
Oh, and shawarma.
NEXT…IRON MAN 3!