The Avengers is fucking awesome. You know it. I know it. A few million people know it.
Mainly because of stuff like this.
Image taken from here.
Image taken from here.
The script is amazing. The biggest reservation I had—after Captain America's terrible costume—was the amount of screen time, and thus development, each character would get. With six main characters, even when they were paired up for development, giving each one their fair share of 200 minutes was a challenge I wasn't sure Whedon was up to. I had some misgivings about Whedon as a whole actually, I like Serenity, but I never watched Firefly or much of anything else he's done. I had no doubt he could make a movie I liked and his interest in developing female characters was well established, but I wasn't sure if he was up to anything that had to be this big and this broad in its appeal.
And there came a day, unlike any other, where shit all over New York blew up for no damned reason.
And in the Marvel universe, that day was forever known as "Tuesday."
While I was expecting it to get dropped immediately, the "Hawkeye gets mind controlled by Loki" angle was one of the best ways to handle this. After getting a quick scene showing how sharp he is, his characterization is based solely on his portrayal as the villain's number two man and Black Widow's description of their past. The Avengers rolled the character development of one of its protagonists into the villain side of its story, saving a sixth of its screen time.
Of course, that makes the villain side of this equation the underdeveloped legs that are trying to holding up the muscular torso of the rest of the movie. That's not bad; it's just that Loki making an untenable deal with a third party to invade earth with an incredibly shitty army and sit as ruler just to piss off Thor is a straightforward plot that doesn't lend itself to many twists or turns.
Definition of Shitty:
1. clumsy, as in the manner of stoned cats
2. possessing the tactical acumen of stoned cats
3. being as or less bullet proof as cats (stoned or otherwise)
3a. Possessing little resistance or other defense against weapons generally less effective than bullets (arrows, warhammers, fists).
The Chitauri army, c. 2012
The only problem with the Chitauri's inability to win a ground war against Switzerland is that their overpowering force requires an overpowering force from the heroes, which The Avengers (and Marvel heroes in general), don't provide. We all know Hulk and Thor are packin', and Iron Man's nothing to sneeze at, but the other half of the team is based on having an exceptional skill set (or, single skill...Clint). There wasn't too much they did that thirty guys with automatic weapons and air support couldn't have done better, although it would've been done with remarkably less spectacle.
And less color. And can we talk about how fucking awful Captain America's outfit is? Can we talk about how garishly bright it is? I felt bad he had to duel with Loki(?!), but I felt worse because he had to get his ass kicked while there were f*cking wings on his cowl, a cowl whose insanity I thought had peaked just by existing. I'm not opposed to bright colors and I'm not opposed to suspension of disbelief. I'm opposed to dumbass attempts to explain things away as "something that people need right now," as if its bugs are somehow features. It makes sense with fanboy Coulson having designed it even while Steve Rogers cringes at it, and it's going to stick around in memory of his heroically martyred ass, but damn, it's not going to get any less cartoonishly ridiculous.
Don't get me wrong; cartoonishly ridiculous isn't always bad. Look at Nick Fury. He walks out of a helicopter like he's got protection from rotor blades. He fires a rocket at his own fighter, and then pulls out a pistol with the intent to shoot down another fighter with it. He uses a pistol not to shoot an enemy, but to mug that enemy and steal his gun so Nick Fury can have a bigger gun. He tries to shoot Loki with a pistol. Either the guy doesn't ever give up or ever back down or he's simply incapable of categorizing his own threat level below "One-Eyed Weapon of Mass Destruction." If movie Nick Fury were thrown into a Beanie Baby store, he'd try to kill Loki with Flash the Dolphin and look bad ass for every second of it.
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Provided he didn't talk. I often talk about how Jonathan Frakes spent seven years on Star Trek: The Next Generation polishing dialog turds and delivering them on a silver platter. It wasn't every episode, but he took some spectacularly bad lines and fucking committed to them in a way that few have. Because—and it's important I say this—he is awesome and one of the few Trek actors to become a serious Trek fan. I'm not saying Samuel L. Jackson isn't an Avengers fan, what I am saying is that a lot of his lines were beyond fucking redemption. I can almost hear a fatalistic sigh every time he says something that's supposed to be a dramatic, standalone declaration. I don't know if it's his, Whedon's, or mine, but it's there and it's sad and heavy.
Someone who makes good work with what they're given? Ruffalo. He plays Banner as a pissed off guy. A guy who's so angry he can't be angry anymore. He figured the worst that could happen is that he would die; he took a risk thinking he knew the cost and ended up saddled with a burden no one could have imagined. He's a freak and he dangerous and he's hunted and in some warped way it is his fault but simultaneously it's not and if he didn't laugh at it he'd probably smash half of where ever he is. Banner probably has the least screen time of all the heroes, and some of the most passive dialog, but Ruffalo does a fantastic job with it.