I saw The Avengers! … a week after the rest of the internet. But that’s okay. I managed to remain mostly unspoiled.
Things I Liked In No Particular Order
– Female heros fighting in practical clothing and flat boots. No, I don’t care that the clothing is tight and provides for gratuitous ass shots. Actors are pretty and have gorgeous bodies for a reason, and as long as the ogling is equal opportunity, I’m down. And in The Avengers, it is. Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Cobie Smulders’ Agent Hill aren’t dressed stupidly or positioned at funny angles, they are simply attractive women in practical clothes that fit. Furthermore, at least since Firefly, Joss Whedon has made a point of including eye candy for all sexual preferences (c.f. Nathan Fillion in Serenity, Sean Maher in “Objects in Space”), and in a movie starring guys that look like this, I think it’s safe to say he’s kept the streak alive.
But really, I’m just glad no one fought in high heels. I wear high heels. I love high heels. I walk in high heels without trouble. And if I had to run and jump in the kinds of shoes female action heroes so often do, I’d be in the hospital after ten minutes. (Most recent pet peeve: Amanda Seyfried in the underrated In Time. Girlie, you’re not running half a block in those, let alone miles and miles.) It honestly is one of the quickest ways to puncture my disbelief, and I was happy to see Avengers avoid that mistake.
– The Black Widow/Hawkeye friendship. They’re bffls! They get each other! I really don’t think there was implied UST there, I think they’re just best friends, and when it comes to men and women being friends in movies, all I can say is MORE NOW PLEASE. Which brings me to my next point…
– No pointless romance. I loved the shit out of Thor for many reasons, but the chemistry-less romance between Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster and Thor was not one of them. Avengers, on the other hand, doesn’t even set up romantic tension for the next movie! The only allusion to romance is the extant relationship between Tony Stark and Pepper Potts, which was actually one of the loveliest bits of the film. Tony and Pepper are comfortable together and like each other, like real people in love! (Also, Gwyneth Paltrow – not always a waste of space. Who knew? Not me!)
– Ruffalo Ruffalo Ruffalo!! I’ve never been a huge Mark Ruffalo fan, but his Hulk is a thing of beauty. Banner is fucking tortured, guys, sometimes he turns green and kills everyone, and that’s a lot to go to sleep with every night. Ruffalo makes us believe in Banner’s self-doubt, his torment, and his eventual victory. I loved it.
– Tom Hiddleston’s face:
– Loki’s hat:
– Really, anything Asgardian. I am a firm believer that Thor worked – well, first, I’m a firm believer that it worked, which in and of itself puts me out there with frighteningly few companions. But more importantly, I believe it worked because it is completely fucking ridiculous, everyone knew it, and they were so excited about that. I mean, seriously, scroll up. Do you see that hat? The minute anyone in Thor is seen in anything other than finished footage, they become the most absurd, laughable thing imaginable. The trick is to embrace that and chew the scenery like pros. Both Hiddleston as Loki and Hemsworth as Thor do so admirably, to the point where I’m laughing every time Thor opens his mouth. That’s largely due to Hemsworth, whose comic timing is spectacular and whose commitment to the role is truly impressive. He takes Thor incredibly seriously and thereby allows the audience to take him seriously. Hiddleston, on the other hand, has clearly never had more fun in his life than he does playing the brooding, bitchy Loki. He’s a classically trained actor (proof), which you can tell from time to time (especially in Loki’s final spoken scene), but mostly his approach seems to be, “Do you see this hat? I WILL INHABIT THIS HAT AND ALL AROUND ME WILL KNEEL BEFORE THE REINDEER HORNS OF DOOM.” He’s spoken extensively about the fact that Mark Ruffalo’s son, who was on set a lot, provided his inspiration through filming, and you can totally tell. It’s awesome.
– FLYING AIRCRAFT CARRIER. That is all.
I’ve seen a lot of the big superhero movies since they became A Thing about …. 8 years ago? 10? And what I love about this one, as opposed to many of the others, is how character-driven it is. It occurred to me about halfway through that for a summer tentpole, it’s actually pretty low-concept. The MacGuffin is never very clear, and the Shocking! Betrayal! at the end of what can roughly be understood as Act 2 doesn’t really feel that shocking or betrayal-tastic. That highlights both a strength and a weakness of the film: so much time is devoted to character development that the plot doesn’t quite hang together. So while you don’t get the emotional punch of Plot Point Happening, you get it in interactions between characters: Hawkeye and Black Widow in the infirmary, Banner and Stark bonding over the joys of science, Coulson trying to keep his fanboy in check when meeting Captain America. Everyone, even ScarJo whom I normally can’t stand, turns in high-quality, believable performances that let you feel as though you’re getting to know people, not watching a clunky explode-y plot chug forward. Even the battle scenes (of which there are many, and they are glorious) contain good dialogue and character-building. Whedon is good at his job, what can I tell you? Also, not for nothing, but it’s really fucking funny. Tony Stark can always be counted on to bring the funny, but everyone gets a good line or two. And Thor is present a good deal of the time, which, as I said, is basically all I need for giggles to set in.
It’s rare for me to come away from a movie caring so much about everyone in it, especially a big ensemble movie full of explosions. Are there areas of The Avengers that are uneven? Sure (see above re: Act 2). But with characters this good, I am hard-pressed to care.
Also, Tom Hiddleston’s face.