Movie: The Avengers
Despite being an all-purpose nerd, I have never really been a patron of comic books. I know the heroes, I play the games and watch the movies, but the number of actual comics I’ve read in my life can be counted using only one hand. I think this is a situation that many people can relate to today; comic books span many decades and often it is impossible to really learn everything about a hero or setting. For this reason, I mostly stick to the recent developments in movies and TV series. That said, I’ve been waiting for this movie with great anticipation ever since we found out that Marvel was making all of these movies (Thor, Iron Man, the Hulk, and Captain America) for the express purpose of remaking the Avengers team for modern day audiences. The result was this movie. And it is phenomenal.
The Avengers is the ultimate superhero team movie. You can forget Fantastic 4, and probably even X-Men 2. This is about these heroes coalescing into a team, and it showcases their different personalities and motivations. Honestly, it’s less about fighting (although there is a ton of great fighting) and more about these characters, and exploring how they would act in different situations. Most of the time, I thought of it as more of a character study filled with action, rather than a superhero movie with believable dialogue. In fact, even though the plot is very simple, I thought the writing was top-notch, far better than you’d expect from a comic book movie, and indeed better than most action movies in general. For me to go into more detail requires spoilers, so from here down are spoilers. If you read all of this without seeing the movie, you will do yourself a great disservice, and you should watch it first.
So the basic premise is that Loki (Thor’s ambitious and evil brother) has a magical energy cube (The Tesseract), and has agreed to give it to the leader of an army in exchange for his help in conquering Earth. This army is made of humanoid bugs, and appears to live in space in another dimension (it’s not clear where they are), so to get them to Earth, Loki must first go there and use the cube to create a giant portal. Loki wants to rule Earth to spite his brother Thor, because he believes he has always been in Thor’s shadow. I have to say that judging from the Thor movie, this is probably true. Several people in the movie challenge Loki’s motives at different points, and everyone basically tells him that he lacks conviction and is naive to think he can conquer a planet just for petty revenge. However, Loki is cunning (he is a Trickster God, after all), and he manages to outwit the heroes many times throughout the movie. He also uses the cube to control the minds of scientists and other workers from SHIELD, including Hawkeye, a hero who is skilled with a bow.
Nick Fury, the Director of SHIELD, then gathers together Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, and Bruce Banner. It is noted that he doesn’t do this because he wants to, but only as a last resort, because he knows they may not work as a team. Also present is Black Widow, who already works for SHIELD as a spy. Their goal is to get back the cube and stop the army from reaching Earth, but every hero arrives with their own agendas as well. Over the course of the movie they actual figure out how to work together, and they eventually have to fight the giant army and defeat Loki. I paraphrased, but that’s a plot that isn’t really very new. The details are what make it interesting, and the dialogue between characters is what really sells this movie, and every hero is interesting in their own way.
Captain America is still adjusting to modern day America, since he was frozen during WWII. He’s a soldier, he follows orders and doesn’t question, and he’s not a fan of people who are out for their own glory. He doesn’t relate to Tony Stark well, because Tony is a narcissistic attention hog who is showy and flashy and in it for himself. The Cap also isn’t able to understand what people are talking about sometimes, due to his own 1940’s understanding of technology and the world. He’s actually kind of boring, but I would say that’s because he’s always to-the-point and honest. It doesn’t mean he never says things that are interesting, like when he gets into a shouting match with Tony Stark and basically calls him out, and he even gets a funny moment when he triumphantly exclaims that he understood a reference someone made (it was to Wizard of Oz). He’s not flat, but he’s what you would expect from the character, and I was happy that they got him right. He ends up as the leader of the team, and he manages to bring everyone into line at the final battle. That’s his job. Unfortunately, while he has a unique fighting style with the shield, Captain American is not the most interesting fighter on the team.
Iron Man (Tony Stark) is very true to his character, and honestly every line he has in this movie is gold. He’s snarky, sarcastic, witty, charming, and very self-absorbed with every sentence he says. He always has cool things to do as Iron Man, like flying around shooting things with missiles and lasers. He doesn’t get along with Thor or Captain America (and he even has a pretty long fight with Thor early on), but he does develop a really interesting scientist-buddy sort of deal with Bruce Banner. He’s the only person who encourages Bruce to be more open and expressive, and they work very well together. This unexpected relationship was actually one of my favorite parts of the movie. In the final battle, Iron Man manages to work with other people and help create a winning strategy, and even almost sacrifices himself at the end, which is real character development.
Bruce Banner (The Hulk) is actually not played by Ed Norton, who portrayed him in the 2008 Hulk movie. Instead, they got Mark Ruffalo, and I thought he did a fantastic job of playing the part, probably the best I’ve seen. Bruce Banner is always reserved in this movie, he seems slightly nervous all the time, and very aloof. He doesn’t often say much, and gives off the impression that he’s seconds away from turning into the Hulk, and that he’s spending most of his willpower fighting it. He’s very smart, and so he has the most in common with Tony. I really felt sympathetic towards Bruce, and that’s why I was glad to see Tony become friends with him. The Hulk is, of course, an entirely different character, and is really awesome. Basically every move The Hulk makes in this movie is amazing, he crushes people while leaping from building to building, and slams down into groups. When The Hulk runs into Loki, Loki starts to monologue about something, but The Hulk just beats him against the floor, because the Hulk doesn’t listen to anyone.
Thor is very much the straight man in this movie, having learned discipline from his own movie. He’s more rational most of the time, and while not amazingly smart, he’s able to relate to the Earthlings even though he considers himself stronger. He fights with his hammer and lightning, and he can fly. Honestly, he is the most “super” of the team, as his powers just come from being himself, and are very supernatural as a whole. I enjoyed his character, but I don’t really have that much to say about him. He does have an awesome fight with The Hulk, though.
Black Widow was kind of bland, her main motivations were to get Hawkeye back from Loki, and to do whatever Nick Fury said. She fights with martial arts and guns, and she’s level-headed and strong. I really can’t remember her saying anything particularly of note, except when she manages to trick Loki into telling her his plans, which was pretty great. Hawkeye was similarly bland, but that comes from him being mind-controlled 2/3s of the movie. I have to stop and say that I think his fighting style is really dumb, even though the movie did its very best to not make it seem so. He uses a bow and has arrows with different tips, for different uses. Regular arrows, explosive tips, grappling hooks, he even manages to blow up Loki once. He’s an amazing shot, but he still looks silly, especially when he fights alongside Black Widow, who uses guns.
Loki is very true to the mythology, he uses tricks to get his way, rather than fighting, most of the time. He creates copies and illusions, he mind-controls people, and he gets into people’s heads with his words. He uses guile and planning to get his way, and he does it pretty well, especially considering that he seems pretty insane in the movie. He is not good at physical confrontations, and I’m fairly certain that he takes a punch, explosive, laser, or shield to the face from every single hero at least once over the course of the movie. He even takes a hit from Agent Coulson. Speaking of Agent Coulson, I was very sad to see him go in this movie, I really enjoyed his character and I thought he was a good fit as an everyman for this world of heroes. He was very well done by his actor, and he had a very sad death scene.
A lot of things in this movie are just blatant fanservice, like when Captain American tells The Hulk to smash. There’s so many lines and moments that are funny or significant to both fans and newcomers alike. It almost felt decadent to have so many scenes where something enjoyable and memorable happened or was said. Also, and I cannot compliment this enough, the fights were very well done. There was no shaky-cam, everyone was very clearly portrayed and you never had to ask what was happening. I can’t even count the number of action movies that get this wrong. Simple clear shots and no blur or shaking is all you need, and Avengers gives us that. This movie is a joy to watch, not a pain. All of the characters are visually distinct, and fight in different ways, and you’ll never be confused as to which one is doing what. Also, as I said before, the plot is simple, but the writing is excellent. Look, if you haven’t seen it yet, go see it now. Thanks for reading.