Contrarian Fanboy: Avengers (dis)Assembled



It’s the morning after, the smoke has cleared, so to speak, and Marvel’s The Avengers is breaking records worldwide. You’ve seen it. You better have anyway, or you need to stop reading now. Because your friendly neighborhood Contrarian Fanboy is here to disassemble The Avengers and get his blasphemous little hands dirty once again. First, I’d like to disclose that my arbitrary rating for this film would be a 4.5/5 stars or what-have-you. Loved it. One of the top 3 comic book-inspired movies ever, in my book. After all, I am truly, genuinely, very grateful that this film even exists for me to pick apart. But like any good healthy obsession, as this monumental movie has been for me for so very long, there come the inevitable criticisms. Yet I think others are having these thoughts too, as indicated by a brief chat with my fellow UTFers across the pond. That’s why I’m here, friends. I’ll take that bullet, fall on that sword, and even worse, be labeled a “hater”, and as always you are welcome to tell me so in the comments at the bottom. Let’s start with praising the (oh, so-very) good and work our way through, pausing to vent the minor grievances, because the only way to really examine a movie made up of such rich and diverse characterization is to do so piece by piece.

Don’t worry, I won’t be taking a massive Chitauri all over your new favorite superhero flick. It’s all in good fun.

HULK

Mark Ruffalo, boosted by a very well written role, has redefined the Hulk. I think it’s virtually unanimous
that Hulk was MVP of the movie. This Bruce Banner was a crowd pleaser with both the depth and comedic  sensibility necessary to make such a character engaging. Much how the first Iron Man movie breathed new life into that character, I think it’s safe to say that Marvel has found their new direction
for The Green Goliath in future films. The Hulk was real onscreen,
thanks to WETA and ILM. You could really tell there was great focus
on redeeming this fan-favorite character in the cinematic universe. What’s next for the Hulk? I’m willing to wager some smashing will be involved.
Our next guy was done rather well also. I would go so far as to say almost too well.

IRON MAN

How can Iron Man be too well-executed in terms of character, plot, amazing action, and sheer high-caliber actor performance? Well, at times this movie really turned into The Iron Man Show featuring The Avengers for me, from the focus on Tony’s personal life(compared to the lack of for most others) in the first act, to his ballsy confrontation with a demi-god, then his self-sacrificing moment in the climax. These were moments that made the movie terrific, no doubt. But as you will read later on, I think some star-spangled epic moments were sacrificed instead for some moments catering to the bigger star with the more profitable solo film franchise.

BLACK WIDOW

I was pleasantly surprised by Black Widow’s role in the movie. She was integral to connecting several characters and as important as other higher-profile Avengers during the film’s climax. I was unimpressed  with her little glocks. I think I recall one clear moment where she actually hits a Chitauri by firing her guns. And what’s the point of the Widow’s Sting bracelets if she isn’t going to use those? Instead, we got 3 different scenes where she either verged on tears, or was literally crying in the corner after an encounter with the Hulk. But really, this character was much more interesting than I expected and much respect goes out to ScarJo. Her best performance since those cell phone photos. I look forward to seeing more from her character in future movies, where Marvel will have opportunities to explore her better.

LOKI

Tom Hiddleston had a large burden, coming into this movie as primary antagonist. He really seemed to take a huge bite out of Loki in this, unafraid to be even more vengeful and less petulant than in Thor. Whedon was able to write Loki with a sense of dread, but also allowed him some great dialogue and even some laughs. (His “performance issues” with Stark, his request for a drink after facing off with Hulk). And in the end, we still don’t hate Loki. Loki has truly been set up as the god of mischief, not just some two-dimensional villain. If only his brother had gotten the same attention in the script. More on that later.

HAWKEYE

Clint Barton was represented well. I heard someone complain that he was brainwashed through the first 2 acts of the movie, but Hawkeye was a villain first in the comics. This paid tribute to that, while giving some backstory and depth to not only Barton, but SHIELD,and provided a great connecting thread to Agent Romanov. Again, I’d like to see his character more well-defined later on, but for now I think we have our Hawkeye.

S.H.I.E.L.D.

Nick Fury, Agents Phil Coulson and Maria Hill were done very well. Without this aspect being well-written and performed, the entire movie would have fallen flat. I’ve heard some folks say Hill was under-used and not bitchy enough compared to her comics counterpart. I disagree. She served her purpose, albeit a limited one of dealing directly with the helicarrier crew, like the X.O. of a Battlestar to Fury’s commander. Of course, there’s the death of beloved film-only character Son of Coul. I truly grieved for a few minutes afterward. A poetic and inspired bit of writing by Mr. Whedon, who excels at killing people for plot’s sake. Plus, there have been whispers in the fanboy community for a possible new “vision” for Phil.

Joss Whedon obviously has tremendous passion, knowledge, and respect for the source material, and he clearly has his finger on the pulse of what we, the fanboys want. This is why there are a few glaring oversights, missed opportunities, and even missteps that began to fester in my brain despite the immensely satisfying film. We at UTF Media Empire, LTD. all agree that the Chitauri were “meh”. But that’s kinda the point. We needed faceless, non-relatable monsters to smash, shoot, and kick (with surprising ease) off of buildings. Some say they came off as weak. Doesn’t really matter. I think we all were a bit disappointed when the aliens were revealed, but that’s our own faults, not Whedon’s and Marvel’s. You have to maintain a bit of realistic expectation, and I think it was a wise move to downplay the Chitauri. One thing some of us here at UTF agree on is that some of the environments didn’t feel “lived-in”, and seemed a bit thin. A minor technical complaint though, for a movie with some of the most excellent special effects and action shots ever. Now let’s take a look at two major characters who I think were slightly under-utilized and under-written in this movie.

THOR

It seems that Whedon may not have to same reverence or knowledge of Thor and our final entry below, or perhaps he’s saving some of the fanboy-pleasing fodder for the sequel. In this case, it was a bit sad to see Thor represented in such a nearly-two-dimensional way. Not Hemsworth’s fault; he did the best he could with what he was given.  But I really hope we see some more character-defining moments with him in the future, because so far I think he is the least engaging of the major players in the MCU. Thor is still waiting on the Iron Man and Hulk treatment, in which he is vividly defined as a super-hero. One well-written Thor sequel could correct that.

CAPTAIN AMERICA

Let me begin this final entry by saying I love Captain America. I grew up barely interested in him, even thinking of him as sort of cheesy and outdated. But Ed Brubaker’s run on Cap’s solo book, along with his role in Civil War, really shaped Steve Rogers into the very heart and soul of the Marvel Universe for me. He’s the beacon, the inspiration, the spirit that carries these Avengers when they are weakened. So, I took issue with the way that Cap’s uniform looked in certain shots of this movie. Almost like a child’s footie pajamas. Especially considering the money that went into making sure Tony Stark’s armor looks super-bad-ass every time it appears, you’d think they could have made the costume more cinematic. This one was actually a step-down from his original. But I am not that damn heartless. I still loved every moment Chris Evans was onscreen. He’s done a great job portraying Cap’s isolation and evolution through 2 movies. But Captain America is the revered superhero’s superhero. Other Avengers should have a great respect for him, or at least come to that point of respect through his leadership. I never got that sense in The Avengers.  As for his leadership role itself, I think it may have been diminished by some Iron Man moments. Yes, he got to bark some orders in the movie, but he never really got that “Avengers Assemble!” moment, neither in action nor dialogue. I think any fan of the Avengers, even moderate fans, noticed that strange absence from the film. The only thing I can assume is that Joss is saving some of these special elements for a sequel. I can only hope that is the case, because I really feel like over time, once this terrific film comes home on blu-Ray, it will gnaw at the back of my nerdy little brain: The Avengers have assembled, but I’m still waiting on The Sentinel of Liberty to make it official.