Sometimes, you have to know what you’re doing. Where you’re going. What your purpose is.
I never quite understood this until recently.
A matter of days ago, while writing the next chapter of Sibling Rivalry, I came to a startling realization: Knowing what I know now, I could have structured the story a lot better by rewriting everything after chapter three, delaying the actual romance between Spike and Sweetie Belle, and have his affection for her form a bit more gradually as a consequence of their budding friendship, as he teaches her magic. It would allow the story to focus on the romance, rather than the bullshit deception.
So I’m an idiot. I think I might go back and rewrite the whole story with that in mind. Or I could just say ‘fuck it’ and move on at this stage.
I don’t know.
I think the problem is, I didn’t think the story through well enough. I didn’t think it through deeply enough. I should’ve seen the plot holes before they came. But it really goes to show just how important preparation is. How important it is to plan a story out well in advance. As a writer, you might find it frustrating, not getting to the good bits. But overall, it’ll mean the story you write will be better, and much more coherent.
Which might be the reason Marvel made it work. They thought it through, and planned it all out from day one. They didn’t just make one film left open for sequels. They designed the whole thing to fit together as one giant franchise.
I am of course referring to the epic and sublime Avengers film franchise. Five films: Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor, and Captain America: the First Avenger. All tying together and referencing each other, with the purpose of reaching the ultimate crescendo, with film six, The Avengers.
By the way, in case you couldn’t tell, I love this film.
It doesn’t feel right to love this film. I want to hate it, if only so I know I’m not just some corporate tool. But I can’t!
It also doesn’t help that it’s a ‘superhero’ film. But much like it’s predecessors, The Avengers doesn’t rigidly fit into the genre of ‘superhero.’ It feels more like an epic space opera, than anything else.
Let’s focus on the plot. We start at a S.H.I.E.L.D. research base, and yes, that is awkward to type out.
Turns out a supporting character from Thor was hired by cheesy backronym to conduct research on the big bad’s big weapon from Captain America.
It’s called the Tesseract, and it’s malfunctioning.
Shaft arrives on scene to examine the situation, while his number two acts like a depressive nihilist, saying there’s no point to evacuating the base, and how meaningless life is.
I don’t like Maria Hill.
Hawkeye is also on the scene, and for the first time, he actually does something. The man explains that whatever caused the thing to start acting weird, it didn’t happen at this end.
He explains to his boss that the Tesseract is a doorway to the other end of space, so something must be happening on the other side. Then it shoots out a beam of energy, and opens a portal on the other side of the room.
Out steps Loki, the big bad from Thor, as I’m sure you’ll remember.
He starts shooting everyone he sees, and using his magic wand to brainwash both Hawkeye and the scientist.
They grab the cube, and make their escape.
A chase ensues, but the bad guys get away, and the research facility is destroyed by… spacial fluctuations, I’m guessing.
Princess Celestia- I mean, Nick Fury, finds himself in a desperate situation, and decides to bring S.H.I.E.L.D. to maximum alert level, and call in all necessary operatives… blah, blah, blah.
Thus, the story begins, and rather quickly I might add. But it doesn’t feel rushed. It just feels like the story’s starting exactly where it needs to start, no earlier.
I kinda like that. Too many times, I read stories that flow by too quickly, and events flow past before I get the chance to absorb myself in them. This is likely because the authors want to get the story finished, and don’t want to be bogged down by atmosphere and pacing.
Avengers manages to get to the main story quickly, while still feeling appropriately paced. It’s likely because it starts in medias res.
Now time for introductions. We meet Black Widow, for the second time, played by Scarlett Johansson.
This is the first time we get to see her at her best. In Iron Man 2, all we saw was her kicking ass, but here, she shows her expert spy skills.
Seems she has an interesting interrogation technique. She places her opponent in a false position of dominance, getting him to reveal all the intel she needs. But she has to cut this particular session short when S.H.I.E.L.D. calls her in to deal with Hawkeye. So, she beats up three men while tied to a chair.
I love that.
Widow leaves the scene, and goes off to meet Bruce Banner, the Hulk, played by not-Edward Norton.
I already said how much this shit irritates me, so I’m not gonna pile on. All I’ll say is that Mark Ruffalo does a fantastic job in the role, and I’m not sure Edward Norton could have done better. So much like the recasting of Rhodes in Iron Man 2, it’s probably for the best.
It seems that despite the ending we saw in The Incredible Hulk, Banner constantly tries to suppress the green, and he’s not trying to control it. It’s almost as if he’s still afraid of it. Which threw me because I thought this was supposed to be a sequel, following on from the events of the previous films.
Which is probably a good thing, since Widow isn’t interested in the brawn, but the brain.
Seems his research into gamma radiation could help them find the Tesseract, since it emits low levels of the stuff.
Meanwhile, Fury meets Steve Rogers, in a retread of the post-credits scene from the last film, where he quickly briefs the soldier on the situation.
Also meanwhile, in New York City, Pepper and Stark are working on a major project at Stark Tower. Now the entire building is being powered with its own arc reactor. Which isn’t as impressive as it sounds. Power the island of Manhattan with an arc reactor, you have my attention.
As they celebrate, series mainstay, Agent Coulson of S.H.I.E.L.D., stages a B&E, and tries to recruit Stark, as Stark tries to get rid of him, so he can get some.
But Pepper notices how important everything is, and leaves for Washington, despite Stark’s protests.
We won’t see Pepper for most of the film, by the way, and thank fuck for that.
So that’s our crew… or most of our crew, and I like the introductions. Stark doesn’t seem like the kinda guy to jump in at a moment’s notice to save the world. Same with Banner. So the fact that their recruitment takes so much longer than the duty-bound Captain America makes sense.
So it’s time for the team to meet. Banner and Rogers arrive on an aircraft carrier in the middle of the ocean, and quickly learn that it’s actually a flying fortress when four turbines raise out from the water and begin to raise the ship high in the sky.
My only complaint with this scene, besides the implausibility of the whole thing, is the fact that the wind flying around Banner and Rogers, is flying the wrong way.
But the dialogue during this scene really adds to the character of Doctor Banner. As he expresses mild disbelief when Rogers suggests it’s actually a submarine, since having the Hulk in such a structure would be a recipe for disaster. Then, when the turbines reveal themselves, he states in genuine amusement, “Oh, no, this is much worse.”
It’s a small moment, but it adds so much. Just like the ten-dollar bet between Fury and Rogers.
It’s also revealed that the Helicarrier (as it’s known) is equipped with a partial cloaking device. So no one can spot it from the ground.
Banner gets straight to work, using their network of spectrometers to triangulate the location of the Tesseract.
Suddenly, Loki makes a reappearance in Germany, attacking a formal gala, and creating one hell of a scene. He grabs a specific person and takes out a device that drills into their eye.
But this is all a diversion, as the brainwashed Hawkeye breaks into a lab to steal iridium, and he needs that specific scientists eye to do that.
Apparently drilling into someone’s eye is required to create a hologram of the eye on the other side of town. I don’t know how that makes sense, or how a hologram would allow you to fool a retinal scanner, since the hologram has an obvious blue tint to it.
But regardless, as Loki stages the diversion, he milks it. Having a crowd of people kneel before him before giving a speech that says, “fuck free will, you don’t really want it.”
Then one man stands up to the nut, and I would have really liked it if others backed him up. But they didn’t, so Loki fires on him.
Then, Rogers serendipitously arrives, blocking the shot with his shield.
Cue epic fight scene which could have done without that single one-liner in the middle.
Stark arrives in epic style, and quickly finishes the fight.
Loki surrenders, they take him in, but en route to the Helicarrier, Thor arrives.
About fucking time dude!
Seems that once Odin heard of Loki’s appearance on Earth, he accumulated a crap-ton of dark energy to create a one-way portal, and Thor went through. But Thor doesn’t tell Stark or Rogers any of this. He just absconds with his brother.
The two of them have a moment of sibling bonding, and it’s obvious there is much pain, and much love between them.
Then Iron Man flies in, right in the middle of the conversation, tackling Thor to the ground.
Then we have one of the film’s best fight scenes, between Thor and Stark. I love it because it shows just how evenly matched they are. That they manage to hold their own against each other, and they are equals. Which will play well later.
Also, it’s just fucking awesome! Much like the fight between Stark and Rhodes in Iron Man 2.
Then Rogers arrives to break them up, and we learn that Cap’s Shield can stop Thor’s Hammer. That thing’s fucking awesome!
So Loki’s in prison, and our heroes have finally assembled. We have Hulk, Iron Man, Captain America and Thor, all in the same room.
They discuss the situation, and Thor begins to share his intelligence.
He explains that Loki has an army of alien warriors at his disposal, and plans to open another portal to release them. The scientist has been working to do just that. But he still needs a power source.
It’s during this film we see Stark at his most natural. In the first film, he was recovering from a traumatic near-death experience. In the second, he was at death’s door. Here, we see him at his default. Turns out Stark is a joker. He’s laid back and aloof, and not really worried about much. Kinda reminds me of Pinkie Pie from My Little Pony. Which is one of the reasons I made the Princess Celestia reference earlier.
On that note, I’d like to reiterate that. Nick Fury is Princess Celestia. Not only in function, they both exist to bring our heroes together; but in personality, they’re both stoic and determined. They both keep plenty of secrets, and are notoriously manipulative. Give Celestia an eyepatch!
Actually, I think she already has one.
Holy crap, it was intentional!
Then we have Captain America, whose stern sense of duty and nobility reminds me a lot of Applejack. They’re both entirely selfless, and have an insane level of integrity.
Which comes to a head when Stark points out a giant fish on board the Helicarrier. Both him and Banner notice a major hole in Fury’s story. He claimed the Tesseract was being used to create a new energy source, something Stark is a bit of an expert in, thanks to the arc reactor. So why wasn’t he asked to help?
Which is why Stark decided to try to break into S.H.I.E.L.D.’s secure database.
Cap doesn’t approve, but decides to look into it himself.
He breaks into one of the many storage rooms on board, and finds some interesting artifacts.
Meanwhile, Stark and Banner begin to bond. Stark trying to convince the man to let the beast out on occasion, and not be so scared of it.
So what about Banner? He’s calm, yet nervous, and obviously ashamed of his hidden talent. He occasionally jokes around, just like Stark, but it’s quite clear he just does it to hide everything else. A bit messed up psychologically, one can assume if he stopped trying to repress the beast, and learned to control it, his life would be a lot simpler.
Makes me think of Fluttershy, and not just because of the season one finale.
We then scroll to the bridge of the Helicarrier, where Thor and Coulson bond. Thor expressing shame at his former behaviour, and the behaviour of his people.
The thing about Thor, is that we’ve seen him undergo a lot of growth. Particularly in his last film. Back then, he was merely a child, before he learned how to actually be a responsible leader. But his overall demeanor never really changed. He still enjoys the heat of battle, as we saw when he fought Stark, but he knows he probably shouldn’t.
And that’s kinda the reason he makes me think of Rainbow Dash. A fierce warrior we can respect. Gotta love that.
Meanwhile, in the bowels of the Helicarrier, Black Widow decides to try her old make-them-think-they’re-in-charge method of interrogation on Loki, while giving a bit of back story.
It’s revealed she was recruited into S.H.I.E.L.D. by Hawkeye, after spending years as a hard-core criminal. She did a lot of bad things, and has been making up for it ever since. And now that Hawkeye’s been compromised, she feels she owes him for giving her the chance to redeem herself.
It’s an interesting story, but not important right now since we got a plot to cover.
Like I said, during this time, she was just manipulating Loki into giving up information. Which reminds me of Rarity, because it just sounds like something she’d do (which I don’t mean in a bad way). They’re both clever, and manipulative. Actually, this sorta reminds me of Rarity’s encounter with the diamond dogs. They also have incredible fighting prowess.
So, Widow discovers that whatever Loki’s planning, the Hulk fits into it.
She asks Thor to meet her in the lab, just as Fury arrives there, since he just discovered signs of Stark’s break in.
It’s at this moment where the nature of a project called ‘Phase 2′ is revealed, through Rogers’ investigations, and Stark’s espionage. The plan was to use the Tesseract, not as an energy source, but to create weapons.
No one thinks this is a good idea, and a row begins. Which is to be expected, with such disparate personalities. But then, something interrupts it, a giant-ass explosion, as Hawkeye and the rest of Loki’s minions begin staging an assault on the Helicarrier.
As the crisis grows, they put aside their squabbles, and for the first time, start to work together. Well, everyone but Banner, who despite Black Widow’s best efforts, ended up turning into the Hulk, who begins a rampage throughout the carrier, eventually being engaged by Thor, who tries to calm him down… futilely.
Which is a thread I really don’t get. I mean, I understand Hulk is just a mindless rage monster, for the most part, but shouldn’t he be able to tell friend from foe? He’s able to do so later in the film, so why can’t he do that here?
Regardless, it’s a decent fight scene, which I kinda like.
Meanwhile, Stark and Rogers work to repair the damaged turbine, before another fails, and the ship falls out of the sky.
Unfortunately, it’s at this point the two of them are attacked by mercenaries. Nonetheless, they manage to get the turbine running, with Stark’s suit getting pretty badly banged up in the process.
I don’t know why, but I find that hilarious.
Thor and Hulk fall off the Helicarrier, Loki escapes, Widow beats up Hawkeye, and to top it all off, Coulson gets stabbed.
I didn’t really get a chance to talk about Coulson, did I?
Well, he made a few appearances prior to this in Iron Man, Iron Man 2, and Thor; befriending the relevent heroes. A mostly stoic personality, he showed most of his colours in this film, as he started fan-gushing around Captain America. For a good chunk of the franchise, he acted as the face of S.H.I.E.L.D., and as such, he’s also one of the series’ most recognisable characters.
And here he dies, which annoys the hell out of me.
It’s not just that he died. Sometimes characters die, and that’s fine. It’s all in how he died. Stabbed in the back by Loki. A cheap shot by a cheap prick, if ever there was one.
But it actually get’s worse! As Coulson dies, he explains that it’s okay, since it’ll give the team the push they need.
Oh, sure, those several dozen people who died, they mean nothing. Coulson dies, holy shit, now we need to take this bastard down! He crossed a line! You can kill every other human on earth, but don’t fucking mess with Coulson!
I hate this, I genuinely do. And I get it, no one want’s to die a pointless death. No one wants to die for no reason, or a stupid reason, or a pointless reason. Coulson’s death motivated our heroes, so it did accomplish something.
But they shouldn’t have needed it! They should be pissed off enough! And let’s be honest, they barely knew him! Okay, they all talked to him, bonded with him, but it wasn’t like he was their best friend. He was more like their mascot.
He was Spike!
And I find that sad.
Though, thankfully, given the way it’s edited, I’m willing to bet Coulson didn’t die, and Fury lied for the purposes mentioned above.
Personally, I think that’d be better than the man manipulatively exploiting Coulson’s death. Which he does for a solid minute-and-a-half. And it get’s worse as we learn later that he outright lied.
Nonetheless, his speech works, and it spurs Stark’s brain to begin psychoanalysing our villain.
He reasons that Loki’s a ‘full-tilt diva,’ and he wants to make it personal for our heroes. And he suddenly realizes that the best place to do that would be Stark Tower. I kinda get his reasoning, but that’s Stark’s name emblazoned on the building, not Loki’s.
Regardless, Rogers and Stark take off, joined by Black Widow, and a recovered Hawkeye who’s suddenly hungry for Asgardian blood.
Wait… how would a cranial injury revert brainwashing!?
Whatever, they Bogart a jet, and head straight for New York.
Stark arrives first, since he just flew, and learns that the portal device is guarded by an impenetrable shield. So he decides to talk Loki down by delivering the best line in the film.
There’s no throne. There is no version of this, where you come out on top. Now, maybe your army comes and maybe it’s too much for us, but it’s all on you.
Because if we can’t protect the Earth, you can be damn well sure we’ll avenge it.
But Loki’s ego appears to be impenetrable. Which doesn’t surprise me.
Actually, I’ve put it off long enough, time to talk about this nut.
Loki doesn’t get much characterization in this film, but what he does get, I like. It has that JJ-Abrams-in-a-good-way feel. Slight amount of mystery and curiosity.
When we last saw our villain, he fell into the milky abyss of the star scape, to some far off corner of the universe. Since then, something happened to him. His outlook changed. He met someone we never see, who helps him with his attack on earth.
He expresses disgust at expressions of sentimentality, and enjoys playing mind games.
But it really begs the question: What exactly did he see that changed him so much? True, he was one hell of a jackass in Thor, but his motivations were based on a disire to make his father happy, and overshadow his brother. But in this film, he’s a lot more focused, extremely vengeful, and has a much darker outlook. He’s not the same Loki we saw before.
Which makes me question his motivations. I can’t help but think he actually does realize he won’t ever rule earth, he just wants to tear it down.
It’s also possible he’s just afraid failure or surrender would get him killed.
So the ego throws Stark out a window, and while falling Stark dons a brand new suit, since he busted the old one.
I never get sick of that.
The portal opens, and the Chitauri fly out, attacking New York.
Cue one of the greatest action scenes in film. Aliens fly around, attacking cars, and people. Building material crashes to the ground in huge chunks. Dozens of explosions, and civilians running for their lives. Cops fire at the aliens, futilely, and we get some epic hard-to-hand combat.
Only one word can describe this sequence: Awesome!
It’s actually more akin to something you’d see in an epic disaster film. Which is a genre I’ve always loved. Just something about the collapse of every man-made structure on-screen simply amazes me.
Must be why I loved 2012 so much, soft science aside.
But yeah, the film. Thor arrives, fights Loki, and gets stabbed by Loki, before Loki gets away.
He’s not very good at this.
We then get a big, giant, flying serpent. And no, I don’t know how it flies, but I really don’t care, since it’s awesome!
Rogers starts barking out orders to the Keystone Cops, which sorta bugs me. Wouldn’t the cops have a general idea of what to do? Wouldn’t they have an inkling on how to keep the people safe? Wouldn’t they know to try to keep the people off the streets, and out of the battleground? They need Captain America to tell them!?
Perhaps they weren’t sure what was the best move, or how to organize it in the best way, since they weren’t exactly sure what they were up against. But when he said it, why did the cops look at him with disbelief?
Well, yeah, that sounds logical, but who the fuck are you?
Then Banner arrives, and transforms just in time to punch a giant flying serpent in the fucking face.
Remember that I expressed confusion when the Hulk was fighting Thor, since he couldn’t tell friend from foe. Well, during this scene, he only attacks aliens, and doesn’t try to kill Captain America.
Why didn’t that happen last time?
Okay, he does punch Thor in the face here, but only once, and it is hilarious.
Regardless, it’s happened! The Avengers are finally together. Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, The Hulk, Black Widow, and Hawkeye.
Our heroes organize themselves, before splitting up to kick ass.
We see Iron Man engaging the aliens head-first, getting into pseudo-dog fights, out-flying and out-gunning them. We have Hawkeye using his keen observational skills as he snipes enemies from above; and at some point, I assume he was just showing off.
Thor takes out as many as he can, en masse, with fucking lightning. Rogers and Widow engage them on the streets. And finally, Hulk just tears shit up while jumping from building to building… and it’s awesome!!!
Eventually, the plot starts happening again, which kinda upsets me. I want more mindless fighting! But thankfully the plot is just as good. Black Widow quickly hijacks an alien craft, piloting it up to Stark Tower, with the intention of shutting down the portal. The scientist, suddenly back to normal, says he knows how. By using Loki’s staff, which was left behind after Loki’s fight with Thor.
Meanwhile, Powers Boothe, Fury’s boss, orders the man to fire a nuke on New York City. Naturally, Fury refuses, and quite fervently. So, Boothe orders one of the underlings directly, because he’s a prick.
So, with a nuclear weapon on its way to blow up New York, Stark acts fast. He intercepts the missile, and forcibly redirects it straight through the portal, to the alien mothership, blowing it up.
Then, bizarrely, all the aliens collapse, simultaneously. I assume destroying the mothership killed them, but I don’t see how. Seems like a pretty substantial weakness for a warrior race to have. One single button-press kills everyone.
But in the process, Tony passes out. Though again, I’m not sure why. Perhaps he ended up in space, and the suit isn’t designed to handle space, so the lack of oxygen knocked him out.
That’s probably it, actually.
He falls back to earth, is saved by the Hulk (seriously, what the hell?), the portal closes, and they all head out for Shawarma.
Loki’s taken back to Asgard, I assume to stand trial, while dressed like Hannibal Lecter for some baffling reason
And the Avengers go their separate ways, back to the lives they lead. But, Fury’s confident they’ll come together again, if they’re needed.
Yeah, we’ll get another one. And I’m looking forward to it.
But what about this film?
I’ll repeat what I said at the very beginning: A story starring a team is much better than a story starring one guy. A team can face internal conflicts, as well as external threats. A team can bounce ideas around more effectively. A team can have a larger variety of skills. A team can have fewer weaknesses. A team can be more. A team can do more. And as role models, a team can explain exactly why you shouldn’t be a self-centered prick.
The Avengers manages to hit all the notes, without getting stupid. True, there are a few plot holes, and bullshit. I don’t think anyone can like Fury after this film. But overall, you can’t really complain.
The characters are more than what we see on the tin. They’re interesting, they have depth. They have their moments of glory, and moments of failure. We see them get introspective, get confrontational, and even get clever. They all contribute, and no hero’s left behind.
Of course, there’s one exception to this: Hawkeye. He gets so little screen time, it’s actually pathetic.
We have plenty of scenes with him brainwashed. We see his skills in action during the final battle. But there’s virtually no characterization, and not even a hint of back story. All we know is that he’s extremely clever, and sympathetic, and slightly snarky. He also wanted to kick Loki’s ass, but was the only one who didn’t.
Yep, all the other characters managed to kick Loki’s ass, however briefly. Black Widow’s ass-kicking was psychological, but that’s beside the point.
Even if you look at the overall series, he gets absolutely no screen time. While Black Widow was a decent supporting character in Iron Man 2, all Hawkeye had a short cameo in Thor where he didn’t even shoot anything!
And it really upsets me, because looking at what we’ve seen, I have plenty of reason to like this character. I want to see more of him!
He needs his own film.
By the way, he’s Twilight. They’re both clever, and all the others are taken. Don’t need another reason.
I think I can officially consider myself a fan. I love the Avengers. I can’t wait to see it continue. And I think it’s great that Marvel managed to do it! Let’s face it, neither Iron Man, nor Thor, were ever popular characters in mainstream entertainment. Perhaps they were in comic book circles, but not so much in the wider world. So starting this kinda franchise was a huge gamble. But they took the risk, and pulled it off.
It was a huge risk, and I’m glad they took it. More companies need to do this kinda thing. Take risks, roll the dice, it could pay off in spades, and more than anything, the world would be better off. We’d have interesting films, and really, isn’t that the whole point of the entertainment industry? To give us something interesting?
“I’d rather be confused for ten minutes than bored for five seconds.”
A great man once said that, and dammit he’s right! It’s why I placed that quote as the tagline on one of my websites. And haven’t seen anything interesting out of Hollywood for a while. They need to turn that around. Come on execs! Give me something interesting, something new, something I’ve never seen before!!!
… eh… close enough.