Response: The Avengers

The Avengers movie posterI’m a lightweight fan when it comes to movies about comic-book characters. I usually enjoy superhero movies, but all the backstory and history and in-jokes go over my head because I’m not a comic-book reader. That goes double for The Avengers, because I managed to miss all the lead-in movies except for the first Iron Man. After The Avengers became the next must-see movie, I read enough online to pick up the gist of who most of the characters were, but for the most part I was flying blind.

So how well does The Avengers work for a complete and utter newbie?

The answer: surprisingly well. Yes, I was lost for the first chunk of the movie, but it follows the genre conventions and structure closely enough that catching up wasn’t too hard. Bad guy steals MacGuffin, head of supernatural organization calls in scattered superheroes to save the day, off we go.

That’s when the Joss Whedon magic touch kicks in. Unlikely ensemble casts are his forte. In fact, some of the characters would have been annoying on their own, but when brought together and allowed to play off one another, they shine.  (For example, Tony Stark rubbed me the wrong way when he was starring in his own movie, but he’s fantastic here.) Mismatched band of heroes…excellent dialogue and banter…character arcs for every single member of the ensemble…kick-ass female action hero…self-referential humour — all reasons why I’m a Whedon fan, and all present here in spades.

Better still, Whedon doesn’t lose sight of these things during action sequences. A lot of directors seem to think the characters are just stunt people, and the bigger the explosions the better. Don’t get me wrong, I like visually stunning action, but I still need the action to tie in to emotional/character arcs. I need to be reminded that the characters are not interchangeable — they’re different people with different strengths and ways of reacting, and the action affects them in different ways. Whedon’s pretty good at all that, too.

By about halfway through the movie, my lack of previous experience didn’t matter at all. I knew everything I needed to know from how the characters acted and what they said. (Aside from a certain confusion about the Hulk, since he doesn’t show up for a while and I couldn’t figure out who Bruce Banner was or who “the other guy” was that he kept mentioning!)

My main quibble is with Loki. He’s not strong enough to present a real challenge to our band of heroes. Of course he’s not going to win, but it’d be nice to at least pretend to worry about our heroes for a little while — and I couldn’t. The main reason is that Loki doesn’t use his own strengths. (And here I’m going to go all mythology-fangirl for a bit, since I don’t know the story from the comics.) He’s a trickster god. He should be pulling the rug out from under everyone’s feet, making sure nothing is as it seems, making them question themselves and each other. Instead he meets them where they’re strong. Sure, it takes them a while to start pulling in the same direction, and yes, watching that develop was a lot of fun. But the only trickster character in the movie is Nick Fury, and it should have been Loki.

I haven’t talked much about the plot, and that’s because in this kind of movie, it really doesn’t matter. All the expected set-pieces are there and in the right order and interspersed with quieter scenes at just the right pace. That’s all you need to know.

What did you think of The Avengers? Did you go in knowing some of the backstory, or did you walk in clueless like I did?

If you liked this post, you might like Movie Nostalgia: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan or Book vs. Movie: The Hunger Games.


5 responses to “Response: The Avengers

  1. I loved The Avengers. I’m a Whedon fan, too, so I had no doubts going in to the movie that I would love it.

    As far as Loki goes, I *think* Whedon actually did something brilliant with him. Moviegoers seem to think that Loki lost. But did he? What does he really want? His presence does cause chaos and destruction on Earth, which is something he wants. I don’t think his endgame was ruling earth or destroying The Avengers. Not just yet anyway.

    And now, I’ll stop talking before I get SUPER geeky about how awesome Bruce Banner is in this movie. 🙂

  2. The best part for me was the unexpected humor, most of it almost slapstick. The last scene after the credits made me fall out of my chair with its understated deadpan feel. I’m not usually a fan of fantasy, but I did love Superman and Lois Lane comics when I was a little kid. The Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, and now the Avengers seem to satisfy that little kid in me. I’m a fan!

  3. Amber, interesting theory and it’d be really neat if you were right…guess we’ll just have to wait and see! As for getting super geeky, that’s always welcome on this blog. 😉

    Jodi, I agree, the humour made the movie. Awesome that you’ve found a way to satisfy the inner kid…I’m still working on that!

  4. The part on the helicarrier was very much Loki up to his tricks. You don’t know the Hulk, so you wouldn’t realize how very weird it was the way he chased after Black Widow when she’d done nothing to him. The Hulk has never, in any incarnation, attempted to harm innocents. Then a smart person told me “it was Loki” and I remembered how everyone (except Black Widow!) jumped into that argument and then Dr. Banner for NO REASON AT ALL picked up Loki’s sceptre, and yeah.

    Loki, taking the fight to them, divide and conquer.

    And I’ve also seen (and avoided) some theories that Loki got exactly what he wanted at the end of that movie. If you want to find them, I’m sure you can. (try Tumblr. >_> )

  5. KD, I did notice that the argument seemed to be orchestrated by Loki (the sceptre glowing — not just a homing beacon), but yes, I missed that the Hulk was acting out of character. Thing is, neither the argument nor the Hulk’s rampage through the helicarrier actually got Loki very far in the end. But I’m willing to keep an open mind about Loki’s long-term plans!

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