SPOILER ALERT! THIS IS MY TAKE ON THE MOVIE THE AVENGERS. IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN IT, PLEASE STOP READING.
I went to see the movie The Avengers for two reasons: it’s gotten good buzz from people that don’t normally go in for comic book movies, and Joss Whedon directed and wrote it. Far from a Marvel fanboy myself; I was reading my parent’s collection of English literature when my friends were reading comics, I’m squarely in the demographic the studio needs to reach, and has, for the movie to be successful. My recognition of the main characters is limited to what I know from pop culture, and of the movies featuring the various superheros, I’ve only seen the first Iron Man movie.
The movie follows the standard action movie format, so that’s how I’ll write the synopsis.
Setting up the conflict
The movie opens in a Hollywood-style government lab. There’s some project going on with a powerful piece of equipment. The person I assume is head of the Avengers, and his assistant, seem worried about some malfunction. Hawkeye is hanging out. There’s a power surge, and the main villain, Loki, appears. I only know Loki from Norse mythology, so I assume when he shows up, trouble will ensue. It does. Loki knocks off some guards, and steals the power cube. Hawkeye and the chief scientist join Loki as he escapes. Wait, isn’t Hawkeye one of the good guys? Now I’m confused. A car chase, explosions, and the destruction of a very expensive base follow.
Recruiting the team
The movie spends some time showing the team recruitment. The first character shown is Black Widow. She’s apparently supposed to be in Russia, but the establishing shot very clearly shows a train with American locomotives. Maybe they’re in Brighton Beach. The Widow is undergoing interrogation when she gets the call. There’s a fair bit of humor in this scene, starting with getting a personal phone call right before something nasty with a pair of pliers happens.
The rest of the recruitment process is pretty straightforward. Each character gets a chance to establish themselves for the audience. Thor’s still missing, though.
The first battle, and setback for the villain
Loki and company need a retinal print to break into a security system, and the owner of the needed eye is in Germany. After crashing a party, and apparently removing the eye from the victim, Loki goes out into the street and announces his presence by forcing the crowd to kneel. An older gentleman, one assumes a Holocaust survivor, refuses. Right before he’s struck down, Capt. America saves him. This won’t be the first instance of blindingly obvious symbolism. Capt. America and Iron Man have it out with Loki, while Black Widow hovers nearby in her jump jet. Loki is defeated and taken prisoner.
During the transport, Thor makes the scene and takes Loki off the plane for a brother-to-brother talk. Capt. America and Iron Man follow. The forces of Asgard and Earth battle to a draw. Trees are harmed. Wait, isn’t Thor one of the good guys? Everyone dusts themselves off and return to the plane. Loki has been waiting around, I guess. For a god, he’s pretty limited.
Plot exposition and setback for the heroes
The Avengers assemble with their prisoner on what looks like a near-future aircraft carrier, but is actually some type of super airship. OK, I could have done without that. Loki is stashed in a glass cage intended to hold the Hulk. There’s some Black Widow back story development when she talks to Loki.
Now, I noticed that the railing around the cell was badly in need of a coat of paint. I understand that the set designers want to make the equipment look used, but the contrast between the gleaming, high-tech cell, and the badly chipped paint on the railing was distracting.
Capt. America uncovers a plan to create weapons of mass destruction using the power cube stolen by Loki. There’s bickering, and recriminations fly. Loki’s spear, which is in the room, starts to glow as tensions rise. This immediately reminded me of the Star Trek episode Day of the Dove. While the Avengers rip into each other, Hawkeye leads a team of commandos on a raid of the mothership, and disables one of the engines with what must be the most energy-dense arrowhead ever developed.
Things don’t go well for our heroes. Banner goes Hulk, and tears up more of the ship than the raiders. Thor gets trapped in the cell and ejected from the ship. Iron Man attempts to fix the engines on a now rapidly falling ship. Capt. America has his hands full repelling boarders. Black Widow is running for her life from the Hulk. The Hulk jumps on an attacking airplane, and tears it up, with expected results. Black Widow beats up Hawkeye, and he comes to his senses.
My observations on this scene:
- The ship is supposed to be at 30,000 feet, and the commandos are all wearing oxygen masks. Capt. America, who is also outside the pressure hull, isn’t, and doesn’t appear to be the least bit winded. Neither does Hawkeye, for that matter.
- One of the bridge crew exclaims that navigation is out due to engine failure. Really? That wouldn’t happen on even the most basic light plane. Are there no batteries?
- The aircraft that attacks the Hulk looks very futuristic and sci-fi, but is in fact a F-35. There are several of these aircraft now flying and engaged in flight tests for deployment in 2016.
The coach gives a speech, and the team regroups
Things are bad. Two Avengers have fallen overboard and are presumed dead. Knowing that Joss Whedon hasn’t been averse to killing off main characters in his other works, I didn’t know if they’d be back or not. The ship is in a shambles, and the rest of the team is dispirited. The villain is loose, and the power cube is still missing.
Nick Fury expresses disappointment in his people. Tony Stark figures out where the final battle will be, and we’re off to New York City.
The big battle
Loki’s tame mad scientist has built a device using the power cube that appears to open a dimensional gate for the invading aliens. Iron Man and Loki go at it to AC/DC’s Shoot to Thrill, which is maybe not the AC/DC song I would’ve chosen. Aliens and Avengers converge, and New York takes as much of a beating as Tokyo during a Godzilla invasion. Capt. America takes charge (more symbolism). Thor turns the Chrysler Building into a giant capacitor.
Every time a movie sets an epic fight in NYC, it’s in Manhattan. Maybe some time the heroes could lure the enemy into destroying Queens and clear out the urban blight, thereby solving a couple of problems at one time. When it appears the Avengers are going to be overwhelmed, the (implied) UN Council orders the nuking of Manhattan. Iron Man intercepts the missile and vectors it toward the alien fleet. Lacking missile defense, the main alien ship is vaporized. During the first couple of seconds of the explosion, there wasn’t any sound, and I had hope. But, alas, sound soon followed.
With the mother ship destroyed, the aliens fall over dead. There is some dialogue between Nick Fury and the Council on using the Avengers that clearly references the discussion over using nuclear weapons during WW II. The Avengers meet at an undisclosed location to see Thor and Loki off. Everyone else rides off into the sunset.
What I thought about the movie
It’s a comic book movie. Disbelief not only must be suspended, it’s got to thrown out the window. That’s cool. The casting was excellent: all of the actors were believable in their roles, and I don’t recall a weak performance. Clint Barton, playing Hawkeye, wasn’t given much screen time for most of the movie, but was still able to do a lot with his character in the time he had. All of the characters were given at least one scene in which to shine.
The script is notable for what it wasn’t. Unlike a lot of action movies, it didn’t suck. It didn’t sparkle as much as I expected from a Whedon script, but was well enough done so that the gaffes were all the more noticeable. In a sense the script was the offensive lineman of the movie. Likewise with the pacing. At nearly 2 1/2 hours, the movie never dragged. There wasn’t a lot of dialogue, and even where there was a chunk of plot exposition, it moved the story along and added to the depth of the characters.
The movie has a PG-13 rating, and there is a lot of comic book (bloodless) violence, and one mild drug reference. I don’t think there’s a single cuss word in the movie, although for most of the movie, as another Whedon characters would say, “Now would be the time to cuss.” I’d be comfortable taking a child to this movie. As long as you accept the premise, The Avengers proves that it’s possible to make a commercially successful movie without sex, profanity, or gore. Even for the uninitiated like myself, it’s a lot of fun. Highly recommended