Spectating Spoilers: The Avengers (2012)

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[Note: The series “Spectating Spoilers” will be an ongoing series in which the many comic book movies that have been produced for a theatrical run will be critiqued and nit-picked from the author’s [Mike] point of view. Be warned. This column will reveal major and minor plot lines.]

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First and foremost, The Avengers will be standing as the most successful movie in the Marvel publishing universe. It was a long production believing in the idea that a movie franchise can extend so fluidly that it would gather all of it’s major protagonists into a dream team of legendary heroes.

The Avengers, starts out introducing its project head, Nick Fury, as a commander of a clandestine spy commando group cleverly code named Strategic Homeland Intervention Enforcement and Logistics Division or  S.H.I.E.L.D. for short. He’s introduced right from the start of the movie. But for some Marvel fans, this isn’t the same Nick Fury that we’re introduced to. This is Sam “f’ing” Jackson who unfortunately can’t be anything else but himself in all his movies. His casting dates all the way back to a re-imagining of the Nick Fury character. Since his more modern incarnation was based on Sam Jackson’s movie mythos, it would only make sense for Sam to portray him in the movies.

Avengers_Mike_nn-10Nick Fury is being briefed about the danger at a SHIELD research facility. An extra-dimensional force that they’ve obtained had been growing in power. For fans of the series, we’ve already been introduced to The Tesseract in the Captain America: The First Avenger movie. But for being intelligent scientists, one would think they have the sensibilities not to tinker with a previously unknown complex extra-terrestrial power source. They don’t explain just how much knowledge they’ve gained, if any, from the HYDRA terrorist group from the 1940’s experimenting on the same object.

The next immediate telling of humanity’s tampering blunder is the arrival of The Avenger’s antagonist – demigod Loki (yes, of Norse mythology). His grandiose entrance initiates a confrontation between himself and Nick Fury. This is where all the fangirls swoon. Loki, masterfully portrayed by Tom Hiddleston, insists that he has to fulfill his destiny as ruler and he needs the Tesseract. He is a seducer and a trickster and with a forked tongue and Norse weapon, he manages to corrupt several of SHIELD’s best agents including Superhero archer Hawkeye. What do women see in this guy? He should be the most unsympathetic character in all of Marvel’s movies to date, but he and his screenshots remain to be the most shared on every fan-girl blog.

Now that Fury has seen, with his classic signature eye patched features, the impending doom that results from squaring off against an extra-dimensional foe, he is forced to call in the team of super powered individuals.

We next get introduced to future feminist-worthy icon Natasha Romanov. To all appearances, she’s the one being interrogated, but in reality, it’s the Russian arms dealers who are the victims of espionage. Natasha, wily portrayed by the gorgeous Scarlett Johansson, dispatches her captives, then gets roped in to recruiting Dr. Bruce Banner to help find and secure the Tesseract.

Then while all the male eye candy changes over, we are back to more female eye candy as the debonair Chris Evans is pounding on a heavy bag. Where much like Loki was ogled after, it’s Evans’ muscular tush that steals the spotlight of the scene. Even though they don’t say how long Evan’s character of Captain America, the 1940’s war hero, had to re-integrate himself into the modern world. So, I get the impression that it wasn’t for very long. Now he has to pull himself together and acclimate himself with a new team. One of the best lines of the movie gets hidden in this segment. “When they  woke me, they told me we’d won. But they didn’t tell me what we lost.”

Now that the team is forming together, it’s nice to see all the actors reprising their roles for this giant project of a movie. It’s taken quite the dedication and belief in the same vision that would make it such a successful and loved film. The best gratitude for their dedication goes to Robert Downey Jr. who gets introduced next in the film. He’s already put in two movies to develop his Iron Man character.

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Captain America is a non-assuming character who’s just a decent guy with military training. He obeys orders like a soldier. Iron Man is the contrasting character. He’s spontaneous and charismatic – and he’s got a loyal girlfriend. Everything a guy could wish for, Iron Man has.

Now that the super team has been introduced and suddenly thrust into a mission where the safety of the world is at stake, they have very little time to gather with one another before Loki once again shows himself, this time in Germany. There, he again rants on his self-delusion and attempts to subjugate what he sees as a weaker species. Again, he uses the same old timeless speech of seduction that I am loath to admit people are actually buying into. It’s a message as old as time itself, yet some German citizens that he attempts to subjugate out of fear remember other men with the same message.

This is what has to be my favorite scene in the whole movie. It didn’t take a super-powered soldier, a rich technocrat, or even a sultry assassin – all it took is one man’s courage to not submit to Loki’s demands. That brings in another champion of the people, Captain America, who’s seen Loki’s act before. In a way, Loki knows he’s right. Humans in this time would rather subjugate themselves to a central power figure than live in freedom. Loki’s lie is so seductive! But the red, white, and blue rings true to counter the argument and save lives.

Avengers_Mike_nn-480Once Loki is apprehended by Captain America and Iron Man, he’s transported to SHEILD’s flying aircraft carrier only to be absconded by the introduction of Thor. There’s plenty of hammy dialogue to again offset the diverse masculinity on the screen. Soon, Thor tries to talk sense into Loki, but we learn a little more of Loki’s desires and his need for revenge for his upbringing. Yet again, Loki surrenders to the Avengers team that’s already begun to bicker amongst themselves.

They continue to bicker amongst themselves as the personalities clash. But instead of turning their thoughts to what Loki’s plan is and how to stop him, they debate wildly on the prospects of SHIELD and how they all came together.

There is some additional exposition where the Black Widow explains the bond she has with Hawkeye to Loki. But in similar fashion, she gets Loki to reveal his true maniacal nature. It’s like her own special superhero talent. She exposed Loki for who he really is. It didn’t take a magical hammer or any kind of giant muscle, but the cleverness of a woman.

The most sobering thought of the whole movie is when in the midst of the Avengers team clashing their egos, Dr. Banner is forced to admit that his Hulk personality cannot be killed – even after attempting suicide. My circle of friends really debated on weather Dr. Banner’s third actor to play the role was actually going to be good enough. I think he was all that and more. Mark Ruffalo didn’t have very many movie roles where his character has a scientific background. He’s more of a bumbling around kind of guy. But in this film, Ruffalo’s mild-mannered portrayal of Dr. Banner was spot on perfect in my opinion. Even his expressions during his transformations to the Hulk are worth noting. The Hulk was a raging monster, but Bruce Banner still held on to the humanity.

Loki was successful in turning out the Hulk on the SHIELD aircraft carrier. What results is a massive action sequence where Thor and Hulk tear the remains of the ship apart. It’s a clash of two massive titans and the only winner there can be is the fanboys and girls who have been waiting so very long to see a live action fight of this magnitude. It’s got to be my second favorite scene in the whole movie.

The losers in the clash are ultimately the Avengers. They realize that despite their efforts to prepare against a foe like Loki, they’ve lost another fan favorite character and the wounds run as deep as the SHIELD carrier’s battle scars.

LOOK OUT!! HERE COMES THE BIGGEST SPOILER OF THE MOVIE.

Avengers_Mike_nn--2Agent Phill Coulson of SHIELD, another unassuming agent of no spectacular capabilities, again proves another heroic moment more than what any super powered being accomplishes. He stands up to Loki secure in his own hope that the good will see through his seductive lies. One might argue though, the one “super power” that he did possess was the legion of fans that loved the character and his supporting role amongst the team. Even in defeat, Coulson delivers some stronger prophetic words to Loki before he dies. Coulson insists that Loki will lose because he lacks conviction.

Personally, it’s amusing to me that he shows up the fork-tongued demigod with the very specific wording of “conviction.” It’s been a long standing motto of my own radio show’s broadcast that “courage of conviction” was sorely needed in today’s pop culture. Just like the elderly German who was brave to stand up to Loki, Coulson achieves a similar moment in the movie.

It’s a similar passion that got Agent Coulson re-instated after his death scene in the Avengers movie. I remember the outpouring of disappointment that the beloved character was written out. Conviction brought back Agent Coulson to life – straight to his own spin-off TV show.

The next scene, Ruffalo’s Dr. Banner gathers himself together after falling from the sky. He’s invulnerable in every sense of the word, but in his first lines in the scene he winds up defining what a true hero is. Dr. Banner asks if he hurt anyone.

This movie really does a great job of portraying the heroes as real people. Black Widow and Hawkeye mend their fences as people with feelings. The dialogue is written not as if they are two dimensional cartoons, but as if they are people with real ideals and process their mission with human understandings. That’s another critical point to underline in this film. This is Earthlings defending their planet from a demigod more powerful than them. Even as the threat of total destruction is all around them, they still never lose their own humanity.

The next scene before the grand finale is the showcases Tony Stark and Loki, the two suave characters interacting with one another. Once Tony lands on Stark Tower, he doesn’t approach the villainous Loki ready for combat. Instead, he calmly welcomes Loki into his home and offers a beverage. It’s just too much coolness in one scene. Or even, dare I say, a Joie de vivre overload. The one thing that I didn’t like in this film is that they didn’t explain how the reactor core in Tony Stark’s chest was able to counterbalance the magic in Loki’s scepter.

Then the movie takes one final conflict into the climactic invasion battle. What was once a story of teamwork and how individuals grow together for a common good, suddenly turns into a Michael Bay-esque disaster movie complete with explosions and civilians running for cover in every direction. The Avengers are more than up for the task – against an enemy that they’ve never encountered before nor have they even known existed. The entire fight is a feast for the eyes and well worth the wait. It shares the spotlight equally as each hero in the Avengers team is allowed to have their moment of victory.

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But then I turn back to my initial criticism of the movie in which Sam Jackson can’t help to be anything else but Sam Jackson in every movie. Look no further than his trying moment where he is confronted with a security council’s decision to obliterate NYC for the sake of destroying the alien invaders. He delivers one of the funniest lines of the film, but he’s still Sam Jackson. “I recognize the council has made a decision. But given it’s a stupid ass decision, I’ve elected to ignore it.” I wonder how David Hasselhoff would approach the role? Most likely Hasselhoff would’ve been on the floor with a giant burger during the whole fight.

The final noteworthy scenes in the climactic battle are the ones where the Hulk’s rage is able to turn Loki’s enormous hubris against him to let shine his true wicked nature. What results is Hulk flinging Loki around by the ankles like a rag doll smashing him into everything. It’s a cathartic moment for the audience who still chooses to loathe Loki’s seductive popularity among the fans. “Puny god.”

This is why I love super hero movies. It’s a public service announcement wrapped up in a cautionary tale served up in a big container of hope. The whole dynamic of championing a cause bigger than yourself and continuing fighting. The Avengers never gave up. And thus in our own livelihoods we shouldn’t either.

When I saw this film in theaters, I was satisfied with credit roll teaser that concluded the film, but what I didn’t know was that there was an additional teaser at the very last part of the credit roll. I didn’t get to see it until the blu-ray was available for sale. It was the Avengers team sitting down eating Shawarma perpetuating the very thing that makes the movie successful. They’re just people eating a meal together.

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Marvel’s The Avengers is a fantastic accomplishment that delivers on every single one of it’s promises. I would rate this film a 10 out of 10.

-Mike

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