Illustration by Leif Seifert
by Connor Huchton and Brian Schroeder
The Avengers has been in theaters for weeks, but it’s still attracting audiences in droves and our website has only just begun to live. Thus, we’ll talk about it now and ignore the passage of the Internet cycle.
Huchton: So, let’s talk about The Avengers.
Schroeder: It was good. Everything a movie like that should aspire to be.
Huchton: Let’s make this clear before we get too into it: This conversation is going to have spoilers. If you want to read something without spoilers, I’d check out William Leitch’s review.
I’ll begin with something that isn’t really a good beginning, but it’s the first thing that comes to mind when I think about the movie. Mark Ruffalo is a terrific, pitch-perfect Bruce Banner. A big problem with the last Hulk movie, which was far more enjoyable than the first effort, was how much it felt like an Edward Norton movie. I didn’t see an out-of-place, uncomfortably aware Bruce Banner in that movie; I just felt like I was watching a seething, scene-chewing Ed Norton. Ruffalo doesn’t play it that way, and it’s a huge benefit to the film. The early conflict stems from the possibility of Banner losing his cool and Hulk-smashing everyone in sight, including the Avengers, and Ruffalo makes that chance seem very real and sadly unavoidable with his understated performance.
This movie is primarily a superhero action movie, but it’s also studies each character individually with varying depth, and Ruffalo’s work is an example of why that aspect of the movie works almost as well as the creatively shot action scenes.
Schroeder: In a similar vein, I really enjoyed where Robert Downey Jr’s version of Tony Stark went in this film. The first two Iron Man movies are primarily focused upon Tony Stark’s balance between success and just plain survival. Hell, a main plot point in the second one is his struggle to find a way to replace the reactor in his chest. To keep himself alive.
He even admits as much in a nice little conversation he has with Bruce Banner in that lab on the Helicarrier. I knew, as soon as Captain America accused him of not being the sort of guy who would sacrifice himself for his team, we would see some form of Tony ostensibly sacrificing himself in a climactic scene. We got two of them. The first when he willingly restarts the busted rotor, knowing that he could be killed while doing. Then the bit with the nuke at the end. What I didn’t see coming was the complete lack of any sort of “I knew you could do it” scene between him and Cap, which was nice.
Tony Stark is arguably the most human of the Avengers. He has no superpowers. He has no combat training. It really seemed, to me, that he was desperately trying to prove himself for the entire movie, which is certainly one of Iron Man’s defining character traits. The first film was him trying to prove himself to himself. The second was him trying to prove himself to his father (or at least the memory of his father). The third is him trying to prove himselfto the world. Basically, all I’m saying is that Joss Whedon somehow managed to fit the character development of an entire Iron Man film into this one. Impressive.
Huchton: Well said. I definitely enjoyed that Whedon took Iron Man in a different direction in this story, which was especially important given his status as the de facto, most widely known character for audiences. I think some of the strongest interactions in the movie were between he and Banner in the ship’s lab. It’s not a significant portion of the movie – just a few minutes – but their vaguely ordinary friendship gave a nice little reprieve to all of the angst between the other Avengers during the exposition. Sometimes, you just want to watch two scientist bros hang out and talk about things that sound scientist-y.
I liked that Iron Man tried to prove something to Captain America, but Whedon didn’t do the typical screenwriting thing and have Cap talk about how wrong he was in regards to Iron Man’s selfishness. Iron Man does something awesome, they move on with their business, and everybody is the better for it.
How did you feel about Hawkeye?
Schroeder: I thought it was a bit of a gamble to have Hawkeye, the one character audiences hadn’t seen yet, be a secondary antagonist throughout half the film. Was worried they wouldn’t like him when it came time for him to be a part of the team. I was wrong, though, for two reasons.
The first is that he doesn’t actually kill anyone important on the Helicarrier. The second is that Jeremy Renner is just so damned likable. As soon as he mentions putting an arrow in Loki’s eyesocket, I was like “oh, no shit? WELCOME ABOARD HAWK-BRO.”
All in all, I liked his portrayal. Wasn’t all that sure about him not having a costume. The rationale was to shoot for a more realistic version of the character. But then you have Captain America in full costume right next to him. I suppose he’ll have some form of that old purple Hawkeye costume in the inevitable sequel, considering now he’s a part of a superhero team as opposed to a military operative.
Huchton: Jeremy Renner’s facial expressions are kind of amazing. They’re compelling for no reason, and I don’t understand them. The way he stares forward thoughtfully makes me think he could have starred in CSI: Miami while simultaneously playing opposite of Daniel Day-Lewis.
What was something about the movie you didn’t like?
Schroeder: If there’s anything I can criticize, perhaps is the…broadness of some of the humor. I’d be lying if I said Christopher Nolan’s Batman films weren’t guilty of the same offense, though.
All in all, this is a hard movie to criticize. Joss Whedon is nothing if not a crowd pleaser. It’s not perfect, but it doesn’t try to be. Nearly everything it tried to do, it did. There’s something beautiful in that sort of efficiency.
Huchton: I still think the Green Lantern was funnier.