In addition to that, though, I think a good chunk of my excitement comes from the fact that this is a superhero team movie, and the superhero team genre is my favorite of the comic book medium. Even though I love the Batman books - and even though I'm going to see The Dark Knight Rises and expect that it will be very fun - it's that core dynamic of the disparate personalities coming together as a supportive (if snarky) family who work together to do hero stuff that I really love best. (Of course, the Bat-family has this dynamic, but the Nolan movies are more about Batman-the-dark-angsty-urban-legend-lone
So I saw The Avengers at midnight on Friday, and then again on Sunday (with different people! so it's totally justified! :P) and loved the shit out of it. (And have been largely useless since then.)
- I did go in with the assumption/caveat that the movie would be a white, (overtly) heterosexual sausage-fest, and that is the case. We have Nick Fury as our only POC main character and Black Widow as our only female main character (though they are both showcased well), with Pepper Potts and Maria Hill as prominent supporting female characters and several brown people as background in a slum in India. If you don't have a love of the comics, or at least the MCU, to help you overlook that, I wouldn't blame you for throwing your hands up and not even watching. I was disappointed, but I knew I would be, so that made it easier.
- The action is fabulous. One of the things I dislike about Nolan's Batman movies is that I can't see the action very well because the scenes are often dark and overwhelming. I get how that can be good for establishing the feel of the movie and Batman-as-urban-legend, but as a superhero comic fan, one of the things I'm looking for in the big-screen translation is awesome action that I can visually follow and revel in. I loved the action in The Avengers, both the grand spectacles such as the Chitauri ships devastating Manhattan and (more importantly) the smaller moments of two characters working together. Cap and Iron Man busting out the repulsor-blast-off-the-shield move? Very cool looking - and so, so significant for their burgeoning partnership and trust. Admittedly, the Cap-Iron Man-Thor throwdown did not do a whole lot for character development, but the "heroes have a misunderstanding and fight each other" trope is kind of obligatory, and also fun.
- I loved, loved, loved Black Widow. I haven't read all that much of her and don't know her backstory that well (though she's sort of like Marvel's version of Donna Troy, in that if you ask "what's her backstory?" the answer is "which one?"). I did pick up Marjorie Liu's The Name of the Rose trade awhile back, and was hoping for a movie representation who would be similarly badass ... and she is. She isn't just the flat caricature of a "strong female character" who kicks ass and looks sexy but doesn't do anything else; she is loyal, devious, caring, guilty, funny, afraid, resilient, resourceful. No superpowers to fight the alien invasion? Use the aliens' own weapons against them. No ability to fly? Hijack an alien vehicle by stabbing its driver and using it to steer. Partner/friend mindwhammied by the bad guy? Take him down with brutal efficiency ... but also stay with him to help him recover, and keep him from losing himself in guilt. I love how Scarlett Johannson gives us a terrified Natasha at the appropriate moment, but settles immediately into her game face when it's time (such as post-Hulk chase/pre-kick Clint's ass).
The butt shot as she interrogates Loki is a bit gratuitous ... but for me, since we also get the gratuitous butt shot of Cap at the punching bag, and that's the only bit of cheesecake (that I noticed), I don't mind it.
- Speaking of Hawkeye: Jeremy Renner does a great job of playing mindwhammied Clint, and he has amazing, amazing arms. But, as a character, the most I cared about him was in relation to Natasha, and the intimate relationship they establish through subtle gestures (like him calling her "Nat" and "Tasha," or the way he casually lays his leg over her chair in the post-credits scene). I would be interested in seeing him in more of a starring role, with some exploration of his backstory, such as in a Widow/Hawkeye movie.
- I also loved Mark Ruffalo as Bruce/Hulk. I didn't have big expectations for him going into the movies, just because I haven't seen Mark Ruffalo in anything and didn't know what he would do. But his Bruce is really pitch-perfect: tired and cynical, but oddly gentle and self-effacing. His comic delivery is great, too, from his weary tolerance of Tony's jabs to his "Puny god" line as the Hulk (which, by the way, I didn't even hear until my second viewing, because the theater exploded when he slammed Loki around like a ragdoll). I loved his dynamic with Tony, their sort of unexpected camaraderie as a pair of brilliant scientists with their unique sets of "armor."
- And Tony. Oh, Tony. I don't even know if I need to say anything about him, or Robert Downey Jr. His charisma is utterly ridiculous. Oh, and his vulnerable moments - such as his face when the call to Pepper fails at the end, or the way his gaze subtly drops when Cap says he would never sacrifice himself for others - are wrenching.
- Speaking of Cap: still love him. He is, as Joss Whedon says, "a beautiful fuddy-duddy," and was a great straight man to the others' (mostly Tony's) humor. I like how he shows some teeth, though - he's one of the most decent human beings you'll ever meet, but that doesn't mean he can't be a bag of dicks to someone who annoys him while he's still processing his recent trauma (read: Tony).
In a physical context, I loved his movement. I loved that they didn't try to make him into a tank who's all about hitting - with Thor and the Hulk on your team, that wouldn't fly. So instead, his strength is expressed with the fantastic jumps he makes, or his ... unique ... "super-spy" technique of ripping open doors; and you see his superhuman reflexes when he bare-handed bats a grenade back onto the enemy. The use of his shield was also great; I loved the moment when he sees the Chitauri throwing a bomb and jumps up and behind his shield. And, of course, the aforementioned repulsor blast maneuver.
- I feel like I have the least to say about Chris Hemsworth as Thor, though I also loved seeing him. I think it's because I put him and Loki together in my mind, and whenever I think about them I get distracted by thoughts of "damn Tom Hiddleston's remarkably expressive eyes!" :P Seriously, though, I love the sympathy Tom infuses into Loki, without falling into the trap of, "oh, he's just misunderstood/needs a hug; he isn't really evil." Because dude is fucking evil, and does some wildly cruel and destructive things. You hope he finds redemption, but you also know he deserves every bit of punishment that's coming to him.
- I liked Cobie Smulders as Maria Hill, and feel like she shows just the right amount of spine against Fury to express their tension, without her coming off as unlikeable because she's the naysayer. I also think the opening scene with the car chase and shootout is great to establish her very human, very mortal, but very impressive skill set.
- Samuel L. Jackson is a superhero. 'Nuff said.
- And, finally, Coulson. He's so not dead. I believed it, at first, because I thought Joss had Jossed him and was a bit disappointed at his cliched final line ("This wouldn't have worked if they didn't have something to [avenge]"). But then ratzeo told me to give Whedon more credit, and the more I thought about it, the more it makes sense.
1. Tony name-drops the Life Model Decoys at the beginning, which I initially took to be a wink-nudge joke to comics fans. Except that this movie doesn't have much in the way of wink-nudge jokes; it feels very accessible to fans who haven't read the comics or even necessarily seen the other films. So why mention LMDs, which SHIELD has a long history of using, in a movie where a SHIELD agent dies? (I have to pat myself on the back a little for this one, because I was the first person to make that connection out of our group at the midnight showing. <--dork)
2. Coulson is also not stupid. He's faced the Iron Monger in Iron Man and the Destroyer in Thor; he knows how to handle big threats and is aware of Loki's abilities. In the opening scene, we see him telling agents to leave the fallen "Phase 2" materials, even knowing how vital they are, because time is running out and the materials aren't worth the agents' lives. So while I think Coulson is willing to sacrifice his life if necessary, I also think he's shrewd enough to come up with alternative plans first, and wouldn't just stand alone against Loki. (The fact that Tony calls him an idiot for doing so makes me think that Tony may actually figure out on his own that Coulson is alive, perhaps in Iron Man 3.)
3. Coulson's last line essentially tells the audience that he's being fridged, which is a poor choice from a craft perspective. But what if Coulson, who is losing control over his LMD as it "dies," is trying to inform Fury of his actions in the most concise way possible?
4. Fury is a manipulative bastard. We know this from the "Phase 2" deception, and also his trick with Coulson's Captain America trading cards. Coulson is Fury's right-hand man, so it follows that he is also a manipulative bastard, who would be willing to let colleagues and friends think that he is dead in the service of a strategic purpose.
5. In a meta sense, we know that every scene in the movie needs to have a reason to be there. Whedon already revealed that the original cut was 3 hours long. So why would we need the trading card scene, when we have already established Fury's bastard-ness? It's a great dramatic moment, sure; but so is (I assume) the Steve/Peggy scene that Whedon describes in that article. It isn't really necessary unless we need to think about Fury's manipulation specifically in this context.
6. In an even more meta sense, Coulson was just introduced into the main Marvel comics universe. I don't see them letting go of a surprise-hit character like this.
Now that I've gotten all that out of my system, maybe I can finally go back to being functional ... or maybe I'll just go obsessively hunt down news about Iron Man 3/Thor 2/Captain America 2/whatever else they announce next. :P
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