Summary: If you like action movies, comic book movies, special effects, Jos Whedon’s work, or pop culture experiences: go see it. It’s worth seeing on a big screen with the sound a bit too loud.
Fair warning, there will be spoilers below. If you have a problem with that stop reading now.
As some of you may know, I’ve been an Avengers fan for the majority of my life. I was thirteen years old when I picked up a copy of West Coast Avengers issue #31. The next month I picked up Avengers #291, and from there on I was hooked. I own 90% of the issues published (including the myriad of spin-offs) between 1963 and 2006, when I decided to spend my discretionary money on LEGO instead of comics which just become increasingly difficult to store over time. I grew into my adulthood with the Avengers. I said this to give some context so that you might understand why I had been dreading and looking forward for this movie to come out ever since they released the first Iron Man movie in 2008.
Because it’s exceedingly early in the morning and I’m feeling like rambling, I will say that Iron Man is not my favorite Avenger. That would be Hawkeye, followed pretty closely by Captain Marvel (Monica Lambeau), She-Hulk, Captain America, and Hank Pym (Yes, really: Hank Pym). However the first Iron MAn movie was really excellently done. The updated the origin story in a way that made sense, they cast a nearly ideal actor for Tony Stark, and it really worked on a lot of levels and was very enjoyable to watch. For me it really hasn’t lost much of it’s luster either and when I saw it earlier today on the big screen again, it was still a thrill. It also started a flicker of hope that when the eventual Avengers movie arrived it would be worth seeing.
Oh yeah: I arrived at a local movie theater today at 11:10am so that I could watch Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk (Edward Norton version, not the crappy Ang Lee versions), Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America, and then (at midnight) The Avengers. To be honest I had already been planning on doing essentially this at home however the allure of doing so with a big screen, though without a pause button, was too much to pass up, and I’m glad I did it. It was an excellent opportunity to interact with fellow fans of all kinds and see the movies in a format that does them credit. It doesn’t quite feel like I actually spent 16 hours at the theater yet, though I’m pretty sure it will in the morning. Well, later this morning. Or perhaps this afternoon. Anyway…
As I said on Twitter while waiting for the traffic to clear out of the parking lot: I have a few quibbles with the movie but overall it was quite good and I am likely to see it at least one more time in the theater. I think it was true to the spirit of the comics and worked pretty well in the universe they’ve created with the movies so far. I was thrilled to see Maria Hill as a character, and a pretty kick-ass one at that, and having Hawkeye as a founding member in this version of the Avengers was a treat for me though really not nearly enough of him since he spent half the movie on the bad guy’s team against his own free will.
It was every bit a Joss Whedon movie. Long sections following a particular piece of the action without a cut. Witty dialog and the almost trademark humor. And he kills off a fan favorite character. I’ve really enjoyed the Agent Coulson character through the various movies. The way the actor continued to pull off understatement in the face of everything going on around him in some cases had him stealing scenes. During the marathon they had specially shot introductions to each of the five preceding movies with just Coulson talking to the camera for a couple of minutes and they were all funny and endearing and added to the experience. (I’ll be shocked if they aren’t a DVD extra) For those who may not be familiar with Mr Whedon’s previous history on this point, it’s an actual thing. Assuming he had the choice, I can see why he picked Coulson. Hill didn’t have enough time on screen to have enough impact. Nick Fury is… well, Nick Fury. I’m sure he’ll die someday. Or maybe not. Hawkeye or The Black Widow? It’s not worth killing off a character you can milk for merchandising and possible sequels later. Any of the big three (Cap, Thor, Iron Man) is pretty close to inconceivable for somewhat obvious reasons, including the previous. Hulk? Ditto. I don’t really pay much attention to channels that might have leaked Coulson’s death before hand. I don’t actively avoid spoilers, but I don’t generally seek them out. So when The Avengers finally started to roll tonight I went into it actively watching for who I thought he might take out, and I didn’t see it coming. Here’s the thing: Having that sort of reputation means that every time he does it, the impact is lessened and in the case of a character I really liked and to some extent cared about, I think it seriously cheapened the whole thing.
Oh look, Mr. Whedon killed off somebody we care about again. Ho hum.
I think I’m pretty much done with that Mr. Whedon. We get the point. We got the point before Serenity. Now that you’ve done it in a movie that a hugely significant portion of the population of the western hemisphere is likely to see I think it’s time to move on before that horse you are beating becomes less then paste.
Moving on, we have the three female characters with names in the movie. I’m not sure if I should feel elated or disappointed that there were three real characters with speaking parts that were female in a mega-blockbuster comic book movie. Given the demographics at the marathon that I was at today, which was at least 30% women (Really. Yes, I was a little surprised. And clearly MANY, or possibly most, were there NOT because they came with their boyfriends) having 25% of the major cast being female isn’t too bad for this kind of movie. Somewhat more interesting was the kind of range I thought the characters had. Maria Hill is a soldier, and as previously mentioned a pretty kick-ass one. On the other end of the spectrum, Pepper Pots played a purely supporting role as essentially a wife (Sure, not married, but whatever). Granted, a wife that didn’t put up with much from her husband and can give back in kind but unlike the strong, take-charge Pepper Potts we saw in the first two movies the very first opportunity for her to leave town for safety she gets sent packing. And then there was Natasha Romanov, The Black Widow.
Of ALL of the characters who should have emotional issues in the Avengers, it’s the Hulk. It’s kind of his thing. Yes, occasionally in the comics for whatever reason he gets over it temporarily. It is always, however, temporary. Why in this movie is the Hulk over his anger issues but they go back to the 1960’s to play out the Widow/Hawkeye stuff? I can tell you, it wasn’t very good the first time around and it didn’t come off a lot better this time. I dunno, maybe I’m wrong on that point but it didn’t quite feel right. I’m looking forward to hearing a feminist deconstruction of the character.
One last set of thoughts, and then I really must go to bed.
In all of my time reading comics the cliche that has always irritated me most is the bit where the good guys have to fight one another for the first half of a story. I know some people seem to adore that bit and debate endless who could beat-up who scenarios but I was bored with them before I was done being a teenager and have only thought the pretense for that particular brand of fan-service to have gotten more and more irritating since then. It will surprise no one then when I saw that in some ways that the big fight between Thor and The Hulk was the most boring part of the movie. I really thought about going and getting some more pop, maybe stroll to the bathroom, and then take in some movie posters but I figured how long could they possibly take to wank on the screen? Nearly 20 minutes is the answer, and it was about 19 minutes too long. The bit not long after that where they’re all in a conference room and bickering? That was fine. That shows actual relationships and conflicts of interest and all sorts of interesting stuff. But who would win if Thor and the Hulk got in a fight and Captain America tries to break it up? WHO THE FUCK CARES! That said, the single punch delivered by Hulk to Thor in the big battle at the end? Unnecessary, but funny.