You’ve seen The Avengers. You’ve all seen The Avengers. Don’t lie. God and Joss Whedon hate it when you lie. If I could leave my desk and go see it again right now, I would. So would you. Don’t make that face. What did I tell you about lying?
The film is too complex a work to have loved or hated everything about it. That would insult everything that went into it. And much did go into it. Someone, at least one person, was thinking about making the film. How to make it, why to make, and what not to do while making it. That’s something.
In fact, in a world where Michael Bay’s Transformers is becoming an apparent Homer Simpson-get-rich-quick-scheme of every Hollywood producer, it might be the only thing. We here at the Blog are avidly awaiting the CGI tour de force that will be the inevitable Hungry, Hungry, Hippos film. Eventually there will just be a movie called Michael Bay that is nothing but explosions and vacant eyed, leggy actresses for two and a half hours.
The Avengers is not one film. It’s not even six. It’s an amalgam of what came before, both on screen and on the comic page. Some of you know who Jack Kirby and Joe Simon and Don Heck and Walt Simonson and everyone who isn’t Stan Lee are. Most of you probably don’t. That’s okay. We’re not here to talk about the unforgivable indignities done to great men. We’re boosters! To that end, here is our take on The Avengers, midwife of the greater, grander Marvel Movieverse!
New York City, the eighth Avenger.
If you’ve never lived or worked in Manhattan you may not know what it looks like. You think you know what it looks like after seeing it in shittier movie than this one. But you don’t.
After seeing the film, a friend of mine who’s worked in Manhattan for years, said that while the movie was great she was most happy that none of the characters found an excuse to require a fly-over shot of Times Square. (Granted, they covered The Obligatory Times Square Shot in Captain America during his “holy shit, everything is flashy and bright” scene.)
This may be a shock but Times Square is not New York City. It might be geographically located in the City (though that level of tawdry should be reserved exclusively for Jersey) but it’s a cesspool of neon-tinged crap that should be avoided at all costs. This movie spent most of its final forty minutes showing an extensive battle in an around Grand Central Terminal, the beating heart of the city. Hulk crashes a Leviathan into my morning commute. I loved it. Avengers Tower is now the friggin’ Met Life Building. Most important, they got it right where so many other films got it wrong.
Scenes in The Avengers are set in specific, real places in Midtown Manhattan. Iron Man leads the I-promise-we’re-not-Skrull-iens on a chase down the streets and through the corridors that an untold number of actual people walk every day. And not one scene was set aboard an elevated subway car, dripping in heavy handed messianic imagery. That’s right Spider-Man 2, fuck you.
Spider-Man is supposed to be the quintessential New Yorker of the Marvel Universe. If the citizens of New York ever Kickstarted a Rocky or Robocop type statue for the city I’d say it should be of Peter Parker (assuming Bill Murray wouldn’t sign-off on the likeness rights for Peter Venkman). Not that anyone would see it, what with being located atop whichever bridge it was that Gwen got thrown off of.
His movies don’t seem to take place in any version of the City I’ve ever been to. There aren’t dark alleyways or needlessly involved elevated trains that just stop because the CGI guys were tired of rendering buildings for the background in Manhattan. Each Spider-Man movie is guilty of something similarly egregious. It’s a version of New York that only exists in other shitty films. The viewers need to be told that they take place there because that’s not at all evident from what you see on screen (if you’d ever been there).
This is one of the reasons I could never truly get into the DC Universe. Gotham City, Metropolis, Star City, Blüdhaven… all of these places sound great and each represents at least an aspect of a specific city, or an amalgam of some of the larger cities in the United States, but they never felt real. It’s always been a fundamental thing that disconnected me from DC regardless of how many colors of lanterns there are (apologies to Geoff Johns).
The Marvel Universe mainly being set in and around New York City seemed more identifiable to me, especially with so many of these guys living and fighting crime there. I would have loved to have seen Peter Parker, Matt Murdock, and Johnny Storm all sitting down and having a drink as Hulk and Abomination fought in Harlem. Johnny and Peter could have both turned to Matt and said, “Whoa! Did you see that?” He would just look past them with his vacant, Affleck eyes and say, “You guys are dicks.” That would never happened for several reasons (copyright, too much awesome, pacing) but all the same, in the Marvel world it COULD happen. These guys all live there, and so do I.
Why is this a boon for anyone who doesn’t live and work here? The truth is that those of us who claim that New York is the greatest city in the world are the same ones that have, proudly, never been to many others. New York is the World. Why’s this important when discussing Marvel Superheroes? Because it was the world to Stan and Jack. ‘Nuff said.
Queen to A8… checkmate.
Back in the days before The Ultimates, Nick Fury was a curmudgeonly, old, white guy who only showed up at Avengers Mansion to make requests on behalf of his generic military superiors. The requests were usually bullshit as Fury was never a Company Man. In this movie each and every event we see on screen is the result of something Fury does (except Thor somehow being able to come back so easily. And really, “dark magic”? WTF is that? Come on!). All of the nonsensical crap that will have to be explained away by people seeking the cinematic equivalent of No-Prizes can be summed up by the simple concept that Nick Fury was playing a grand game of chess with Loki.
Loki is serving his master and Fury is, ostensibly, serving the People, represented here by Powers Boothe (acting particularly Powers Boothe-ish) and his fellow Generic Faces on Monitors. These people are scared, and they overreact. They want to nuke the City because they grew up in an era where that was the Most Dangerous Scenario and, clearly, a bunch of aliens would feel the same way. As long as Powers Boothe’s not hurt then everything will be okay.
It’s Fury who has the big picture front and center (well, off center what with only having the one good eye). And he’s got his pawns. All them, Agent and Avenger alike.
Fury’s the one that tells Agent Phil Coulson to go to the armory. He’s the one that tells Agent Maria Hill that that same man has died off screen. He’s the one holding all the cards. Until he covers those cards in someone else’s blood and throws them, despairingly, across a conference table. Fun times. Though I very badly need there to be a deleted scene that’s just Fury scraping the cards on the dead bloody body. And I mean what a waste, they were A VINTAGE SET.
At no point in the film am I ever convinced that Zeus Carver over there wouldn’t sacrifice each and every costumed hero if that meant we, the little people in the audience, get to wake up the next day. He beats Loki but that’s only because that’s not who he was playing against. Loki’s just another piece on the board (and, judging by his outfit, he’s the queen). Though I would have loved to hear Fury say, just once, that he was tired of having these mother fucking Chitauri on his mother fucking Helicarrier.
We find out in the end that Fury has no idea who he’s really playing against. More importantly, we see that the game is not over. By sending an entire extraterrestrial invasion force packing, and then gloating about it, all he’s done is escalated the game. He gives that same “cosmic deterrent” speech he gave at the end of Ultimate Galactus. Then he smiles.
He’s proved to whoever is out there that he is ready for a “higher form of war.” As a result, he makes Thanos, the God of Death, smile. I can almost hear Jim Gordon’s escalation speech from Batman Begins playing over the credits.
And that is why Nick Fury did not get any shawarma.
Who’s that purple dude?
One of my first comics was an issue of The Infinity War. You’re never going to convince me that seeing The Mad Titan on screen was a bad thing. But looking around the theater after that reveal, I saw that I was part of a small group. Judging by the box office of the film so far, maybe Director Joss Whedon just said “Fuck it, people are going to see it anyway” and reminded us Loyal Fanboys that he’s one of us. Same with the Cosmic Cube at the end of Thor. I knew what these things were but the guy I work with doesn’t. Thor’s hammer he can recognize. Nick Fury he can recognize. Thanos? No.
Whedon understood the risk of alienating new fans with such a reveal and then did it anyway. Just wanted to throw that in there. Regardless of these few scenes the films have grossed in the billions of dollars and will continue to do so. But now a few more people will have to go read the wiki on Jim Starlin. This is not a bad thing. Gives me hope that Sony will have Ben Reilly show up in in the next film.
The Joss is a fair and just God. He’s made sure that fans of his other work saw him mercilessly murder a beloved fan favorite that was not a beloved fan favorite before he started writing them. Here’s looking at you Anya! And Penny. And Wash… that one still hurts.
To be Whedoned is to be martyred in the worst way because at this point we all know that it’s coming. I was half expecting it to be Maria Hill but I was expecting it. So were the people I saw the film with. We could have had a Cabin in the Woods style betting pool going.
Sure, Phil Coulson is the connective tissue that makes you feel like all the movies matter. He was one appearance in a Hulk film away from being the Rick Jones of the Movieverse. He assembles the Avengers in the same way Rick Jones did way back when in Avengers #1 (after Reed Richards told him the Fantastic Four were busy, cuz that guy’s real superpower is just straight up being a dick).
Phil’s the short, nonchalant guy who kept his shit together no matter what was attacking him only to lose it when he met Captain America. His hero. The guy created specifically to fight Nazis. Proof that America, even the idealized version of it shown in The First Avenger, is capable of being as good as its enemies are at not being good.
You can almost see this little guy pouring over reprints of Jack Kirby comics and saying “Yup, gonna do that one day.” Sound familiar? I’d bet anything Coulson had a weekly Pull Sheet at his Local Comic Shop.
He’s us. And he’s killed, violently, to inspire the other heroes to get their act together. What does that say about us and our relationship with these characters? How about our relationship with the very concept of escapist adventure fiction?
I have no idea, but I hope Phil hates The New 52 as much as I do.
From what I have read, the killing of Agent Coulson, wasn’t a typical Whedoning. He didn’t get “Wash”-ed out (to coin a phrase). The choice to kill Coulson was made before Joss was even signed by Kevin Feige, and that’s why I have a certain Vision that Agent Coulson may be used for a higher purpose. I mean come on, did you really think he was going to be content doing voiceover work for Ultimate Spider-Man? I’ve heard rumblings of a SHIELD movie, and what better way to bring a certain man named Hank Pym into the fold than to make his work on cybernetic androids front and center.
Finally a Credible Hulk
For anyone who has even breathed near a comic book convention, I’m sure you’ve met Lou Ferrigno. Dude is everywhere, he’s the WWE’s Virgil of superhero actors. It almost gets to a point where you just expect him to be in a cosplay competition of Lou Ferrigno look-alikes, just so he has something to do that isn’t awkwardly sitting at a booth trying to fight off his roid rage. But do you know why he’s always around? He’s the only version of the Hulk that we as a collective fanbase have had that we can be proud of. The old TV show was corny, but Ferrigno is universally accepted as the Hulk.
That brings us to Ang Lee, the first attempt at recreating the mean, green machine. And I’m not sure if it was the snarling Hulk dogs, The Stranger trying to be Thunderbolt Ross, or Nick Nolte maybe being the Absorbing Man, but something didn’t work. Okay… a lot of things didn’t work. I mean Ang Lee originally wanted Johnny Depp as Bruce Banner, that alone is a bad sign. Fast forward to the Marvel Movieverse proper, and we get TYLER DURDEN SMASH! Don’t get me wrong, I love me some Ed Norton, but something about his performance did not scream Bruce Banner.
Hulk in The Avengers was much better. The CGI made him look right and we finally heard him, which was nice. Norton had seemed like he was trying to do too much with Banner. Instead of a man on the run he just seemed like a paranoid nut who was himself scared of the Hulk. Mark “I’m Always Angry.” Ruffalo just worked.
This is a man who knows that at any point he can be hunted, but simply doesn’t care because he has a pretty unbeatable exit strategy. Being able to take the little jabs and barbs that Tony threw at him was fantastic. I think it also helps that this Bruce Banner tried to end it, thus realizing that Hulk couldn’t be stopped even after he tried to just bite a bullet. Banner reached rock bottom some time between defeating Abomination and screaming at Widow, and it helped him evolve.
Odds and Ends
Iron Man using Cap’s shield to blast a repulsor beam off of it.
Finally being able to see how vibranium reacts to the hammer down being brought down.
Despite never calling him Hawkeye in the movie, it was clear in the files on Tasha and Barton that’s his code name.
It was great to see Pepper Potts, even for a bit. She helps Tony’s character at least 12%.
Every Stark nickname in the movie (Capcicle, Point Break, Legolas, Reindeer Games, Rock of Ages, etc.)
“Puny God.” That line alone I have still only been able to hear upon one viewing of the movie, the other three times it was drowned out by applause.
Mjolnir Uppercut!!! I’m assuming it’s being said like Sagat in Street Fighter 2.
Tony Stark insisting that he has entrance music for his fight with Loki.
Shoot to Thrill, indeed.