The Avengers Review with Joss Whedon

avengers1Although a young genre, superhero movies are a mixed bag, but The Avengers is one of those movies that is genre defining.  There is so much to like about this movie that it almost appeals to everyone.  I sat down with the director’s commentary on the Avengers DVD and listened to Joss Whedon talk about his grueling experience filming this movie.  It must have been rewarding to see so much success for your hard work.  Overall, this movie is fairly general, but it takes what we like from our Marvel favorites and improves upon it. The Hulk is there in spades, but now he’s a likable hero, not just a brooding monster.   Captain America is there to lead, Black Widow brings sex appeal, and Tony Stark brings everyone’s favorite dry wit.

On the DVD, Whedon explains that The Avengers is a story where being a superhero isn’t a free pass, it is one where things were tough enough that strength had to work on a human level, more than through individual prowess.  This is what happens in The Avengers.  Guys who are strong putz around for a while until they band together and become stronger.  That’s all it is.  Held together by great performances and good special effects.  And action.

avengers2The movie starts out at a NASA facility in Ohio, where SHIELD is gathering.  Nick Fury and Maria Hill get off a helicopter and head into the largest room in the country, a 180 foot tall room, according to Whedon.  It is a vacuum chamber room, which doubles as the holding place for the Tesseract.  You can see some of the NASA banners in the background, which I assume means that the movie acknowledges the connection.

Whedon admits that he had nothing for Hawkeye to do, so invented a way to rid himself of the character in order to focus on the other characters.  This is a shame, but I can see his point.  There’s too little time to do everything, but even Star Trek has character moments for the whole bridge crew, so I’m not sure why he can’t make it happen for all of the Avengers.   Oh well.

avengers3Loki takes out the SHIELD crew and creates his slaves using his evil staff.  One of the themes is how freedom is crippling, which is all the motivation Loki needs to conquer the Earth.  This is not a bad motivation, I guess.  It’s not the deepest thing int he world, but allows us a few minutes of dialogue as Loki explains himself before we get back to the action.  That’s the great thing about this movie: it doesn’t waste time, and every dialogue scene is complemented with a fight or chase.

avengers4The Black Widow warehouse interrogation scene is another example of dialogue and action complementing each other.  The action is short, but the scene is simple enough to give the audience what they need to know about The Black Widow without seeing other Marvel movies.  She’s a strong woman.  She’s a spy.  She is Russian.  That’s about all we need to know, besides the fact that she’s attractive.  Of course, this kind of action may never be possible in Avengers 2, as Scarlet is rumored to be pregnant.  Well, they might need more stunt doubles,  if nothing else.

avengesr6Bruce Banner as a character is somewhat wasted in this film, as the science and tech are both already covered by Tony Stark.  However, The Hulk really sticks out and becomes the star of this film, perhaps one of the most memorable ones, as he throws around Loki later on.  Perhaps the best interaction is when Bruce talks to Natasha.  Banner’s lines are delivered expertly as he touches a baby cradle, which give them all the more meaning, perhaps about his birth, his future, and his family.

Well I don’t every time get what I want.

–Bruce Banner

I heard that there was other Captain America stuff cut from The Avengers, but Steve Rogers hitting a bag in an empty gym tells you all you need to know about the character.  He feels isolated in the modern world.  The film is much better without any extra scenes “explaining” the character stuff involving Captain America.  I believe he makes a connection with performing a mission and getting the job done above all else, which becomes Steve’s new dilemma.

avengers7Tony Stark is introduced next in the movie, but I would say that he was the most important.  Or at least of the largest standing given his success in the movies.  Tony Stark throws around a lot of witty dialogue in this movie, but I think most of it works.  The complementary characters also do their part and I think the standout performance really has to go to Clark Gregg aka Phil Coulsen, a man who has been loyal to the Marvel franchise for many years and has appeared in many superhero movies to make The Avengers possible.  I think if Gregg was rewarded with a TV show because of his work, more power to him, that makes me happy.

I would have to say that introducing all the characters separately, all in the own set pieces, then bringing them together slowly, is a bit old-school.  Some interactions amongst the characters are problematic because all the characters basically have the same dry wit and the same ability to throw around one-liners.  The only difference is Phil Coulsen, playing a fanboy of Captain America, and Captain America himself.  I’m not sure Whedon will ever turn down the dry wit, but as they add new characters, I believe this influence will make everyone all the more different.

The scene with Loki taking over the museum is one of a slow-burn and fits the middle of the movie very well.  It is the opposite of the ending and has more of the team than the beginning.  Loki actually accomplishes something in this scene, unlike most of the other parts of the film.  One of the crowd stands up and doesn’t bow down to Loki, which I don’t think is as ham-fisted as other people believe.  Of course, this is a good introduction to Captain America, the man of the people.  At this point, The Avengers are still operating as individuals.  Notice that Iron Man and Captain America enter the scene separately and even still banter about later on.

The bullcrap meter is off the charts every time Loki speaks.  I’m not sure if he believes everything he says, especially in the Thor and Loki discussion scene in the middle of the movie.  But they don’t take Loki back to Asgard, they don’t turn him over to Odin, but decide to keep him on a helicarrier.  This is pretty silly, but I guess this is just as silly as keeping The Hulk on the helicarrier.  Either way, The Avengers are pretty trusting in doing both of those things.

I would have to say that all the sets are pretty gorgeous.  The only things I disliked about this movie were Captain America’s costume and the carrier attack.  The outfit is not the same outfit from the Captain America movie and looks gaudy.  The carrier attack is very implausible, given the abilities of radar, which must have gone down so as to not make Loki’s plane detectable.

avengers5I think one of the ingenious things done with this film was Bruce Banner deciding to be the Hulk.  Whedon says that Iron Man helped Bruce Banner decide to be the Hulk, which is classic Tony irresponsibility.  Why not be the Hulk?  Why not smash the crap out of stuff?  Why not go nuts once in a while?  Bruce and Tony don’t have this exact conversation, but both of their characters parallel each other.  Tony and Bruce have both internalized some problems and are both secure with their troubles, their differences, in order to help others.  The Hulk clearly is the most well-used of the characters and developed in a way that is great.

avengers8The end of the movie is near perfect and very well-done.  It is heralded by Tony Stark, who calls out Loki in their conversation at the tower.  The end is the biggest sequence in the film and carries it, as all of The Avengers contribute to the victory.  The Hulk is awesome.  Thor is cool.  Captain America is heroic.  The action is a mile a minute.  The ending is great.  

All in all, every superhero movie in the future will be compared to The Avengers.  It not only is a great action movie, but accomplishes Marvel’s vision, a much greater accomplishment.  It is such an entertaining vision that Marvel has brought us, I am happy to watch and rewatch The Avengers.  Now hoards of kids and adults don’t have to feel ashamed of liking comic books or superheroes because now they are celebrated as icons of Americana immortalized on film.  In the end, I think from his comments on the DVD, Joss Whedon was happy with the movie and I help he outdoes himself in the sequel.