Sunday, July 22, 2012

My (Random) Thoughts on The Avengers

While waiting for the crowds to die down before going to see The Dark Knight Rises, I thought this would be a good time to discuss this summer's first superhero blockbuster: Joss Whedon's The Avengers.

While I am a fan of Firefly, I am not a fan of Joss Whedon due to what I see as his tendency to try a little bit too hard to make the dialogue he writes witty and amusing. So, despite all the positive press that it has received, it was with some trepidation that I went to see The Avengers.

The Avengers, assembled

I'm glad to say that I was proven wrong; the dialogue in The Avengers was witty and amusing but it didn't come off as being forced. The Avengers had just the right mix of action and humor and every one of the ensemble cast got a chance to shine, even the two relatively normal members of The Avengers, Black Widow and Hawkeye. And in a bit of film-making legerdemain, Joss Whedon managed to use all the resources at his disposal, namely the above mentioned action and humor blended with some good pacing, to distract the audience (or at least this viewer) from the film's 143 minute length and a major plot-hole. At the movie's end, I walked out of the theater surprised at how long it had been and I wasn't even aware of the plot-hole until someone else pointed it out to me.

Hawkeye and Black Widow, normal people with freakish skill sets

The plot-hole in question is the unexplained transition of the Hulk from out-of-control rage monster to in-control rage monster. This is a pretty big plot-hole since out-of-control Hulk ends up being as much a danger to the other Avengers as the film's villain, Loki, and wreaks considerable havoc on board S.H.I.E.L.D.'s flying aircraft carrier halfway through the film while in-control Hulk plays an important role in foiling Loki's attempt at conquering the world. One gets the feeling that a pivotal scene ended up on the cutting room floor, perhaps to prevent the film from being overlong.

Out-of-control Hulk smashes expensive government property

In-control Hulk smashes extraterrestrial invader

The absence of any explanation of this change in the Hulk's character is all the more suprising considering an embarrassingly clumsy and completely unnecessary bit of exposition which occurs early in the film when Loki appears at a S.H.I.E.L.D. facility. Dr. Selvig, the mentor of Thor's love interest in the filmbearing his name, upon seeing Loki, blurts out, "Loki – brother of Thor!", presumably for the benefit of anyone who hasn't seen Kenneth Branagh's contribution to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. What's particularly puzzling is that throughout the film, Thor, through his words and actions, repeatedly explains his relationship to Loki, rendering this clunky bit of dialogue moot. It's so bad that I suspect it may have been thrown in there as some kind of joke, especially considering that Joss Whedon is very adept at exposition, the one exception that comes to mind being the first few minutes of Firefly's The Train Job.

Loki, brother of Thor

Plotholes and clumsy exposition aside, my only real quibble about The Avengers is the question it raises of what will the Avengers do next? The villain for the next film to feature this superpowered team was revealed after the credits, so we know who the Avengers will be battling next. However, what villainy will the individual heroes attempt to foil in their own films? After all, Iron Man 3 is currently in production and sequels to Captain America and Thor are reported to be in the works. After having stopped an attempted invasion of Earth by extraterrestrials, battling more "mundane" threats such as Russian arms dealers or other miscreants seeking monetary gain would seem a bit beneath them.

Black Widow, moments away from taking down some Russian arms dealers – it's difficult to imagine her going back to her day job after having helped thwart an extraterrestrial invasion

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