Wednesday, June 13, 2012

I Understood That Reference: Avengers, Humor & Nerdiness

Nick Fury: ...his own personal flying monkeys.

Thor: Monkeys? I do not understand

Captain America: I understand! (looks around, grinning) I understood that reference.

One aspect of The Avengers that made it really stand out was the humor. Of course, with Joss Whedon directing it, how could it not be funny?

It was a movie that didn't take itself seriously. Unlike the dark, gritty Nolan Batman films, most Marvel films are bright and funny, sort of lighthearted and colorful, like comic books. Not that either is better, just that it's one of the differences between the Marvel and DC movie universes.

Another great thing about the movie is that there weren't that many inside jokes - the kind of jokes that only comic book fans/nerds would get. There was only one obvious one that I can think of. This made it appealing to both fans and to moviegoers who aren't "comic-book-people."

Just a reminder, this is not, strictly speaking, a "review." It is riddled with spoilers, so don't read if you're trying to decide whether or not to watch it. My recommendation is: go ahead, watch it! You will most likely not be disappointed. And then you can come back and read this review.

You have been warned. On we go, after the jump...

Cap: Is everything a joke to you?

Tony: Funny things are.

As I said in the first part, I saw the movie three times. The theater was pretty full every time I went. In fact, the last time I went - three weeks after the movie came out - the theater was crowded.

By the third viewing I  could predict when the theater would erupt in laughter. There were seven or eight consistent gags or lines that brought laughter. By my count (and in my theater) the largest laughs were for:

  • Coulson on the phone listening to the Black Widow beat up the bad guys
  • Almost the whole scene in Stark Tower with Tony, Pepper, and Coulson
  • When Tony hit Thor at superspeed and pummeled him into the ground, and Loki's response was "I'm listening."
  • When Loki (in prison) proclaims that he is "real power" and Nick Fury replies "let me know if real power wants a magazine."
  • When Tony Stark walks into the room and does his whole distraction bit while he's trying to plant the bug; followed by even more laughter when the Shield agent returns to playing Galaga
  • The Black Widow's response "thank you for your cooperation" after Loki realizes she manipulated him
  • When Tony describes the Avengers: "sort of like a team. Earth's mightiest heroes type thing."
  • When Loki attempts to control Tony's mind and it doesn't work
  • Hawkeye's response to Black Widow's "this is like Budapest all over again."
  • When Hulk punches Thor after they take down the Chitauri caterpillar thing
  • Tony Stark's response after he's revived "yay. Good job guys. Let's just take a day. Let's not come in tomorrow."
  • The entire Shawarma restaurant bit after the credits
And, of course, the biggest laugh of the entire movie came from Hulk's response to Loki's "I am a god, and I will not be bullied!"

As for the "nerdiness," there are a few little bits of trivia that someone completely new to the genre or characters might miss:
  • Tony Stark wore a Black Sabbath shirt, which is the band that wrote the song "Iron Man" - a song which is not about Marvel's Iron Man, but which was used in the first Iron Man movie.
  • Tony Stark's line "earth's mightiest heroes, that sort of thing" refers to the tagline of the original comic books - "The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes."
  • The "Chitauri," the alien invaders, are actually the creatures known as the "Skrulls" in the Fantastic Four series. However, since Fox and not Marvel Studios owns the rights to the screen likenesses of the Skrulls,  Marvel Studios had to call them "the Chitauri," which is actually their name in an alternate universe retelling that was once produced by Marvel Comics.
  • After the credits, in space, when the Other is talking to the alien on the throne (Thanos) he says "the humans are unruly and cannot be ruled. To challenge them is to court death." In the comics, Thanos, to whom the Other is talking, is in love with Death, who is actually a character, and he often courts her to try to gain her favor.
The last one was the most obvious comic book reference that I saw. It was very cleverly done. I was pretty excited by that line when I heard it, since I got it (and it appeared that not many other movie-goers did.) I almost wanted to stand up and explain it to everyone.

"He courts Death! Thanos really does court Death! That's why he was smiling!"

But I didn't, so I'm saying it now. So now you know!

The Avengers would most likely not have worked as well, or been as popular, if it hadn't had such a light-hearted, humorous approach to it. By not taking itself so seriously it compelled us to overlook some of its faults. And the Joss Whedon touch just made it that much better.

What was your favorite line from the movie? Which did you think was the funniest? Did you catch all the references? Was there any of the humor that you didn't get? 

Missed the previous reviews?
Read the first part or the second part.

Check back next Wednesday for Part 4 - Can You Wipe Out That Much Red? Avengers, Themes.

All images in this post from Fandango unless otherwise noted.


  1. Thank you! I KNEW those flying monster things looked like somethign from the Fantastic Four! Now I understand.

    YEs, those parts were very funny, especially the Hulk beating up Loki. 8-D I love it though when Rodgers finally gets a reference and looks so pleased with himself.

    Part of the reason they said this movie was so funny too was the actors. One of them said if you will notice there aren't many scenes with them all together. He said whenever they were they acted like little kids, pulling pranks and laughing and picking on each other and the director would go, "Okay guys, we need to get to work...guys? Guys. GUYS!" (Personally I think Tony, Hawkeye, and Rodgers would have been the worst 8-D I wish I could have seen filming!)

    I like your posts! Lots of fun!

    1. I bet the actors were hilarious to work with. :D

      Glad you're enjoying the posts!

  2. I disagree. I think the movie does take itself seriously. A viewer cannot take a movie seriously if the movie itself is not serious or taking itself seriously. Avengers is a very serious movie. Just like Buffy and Angel were serious shows. That does not mean there isn't humor, because humor is a part of life, and we need to laugh. The injection of humor doesn't make it a "funny" movie even if there are funny parts. There is no part of me that would call Avengers a comedy. Or anything close to that. That is where Whedon really shines. He knows how to balance the humor so that it doesn't undermine the story.

    1. In the strictest sense, yes, it does take itself seriously as a movie. But I feel that the difference between it and, say, the Batman movies, is that the Batman movies are straight up, serious, no-nonsense dramas. But the Avengers is a bit more light-hearted. It's not afraid to poke fun at itself or at action movies in general.

      Joss Whedon described it as "insanity grounded in reality." It's not attempting to be overly realistic like the Batman movies, or even any other alien-invasion movies, which falls into my definition of a movie that isn't so serious. Hopefully that makes sense. :)

      I totally agree with you about Joss Whedon being able to balance humor well. He is really amazing at that.

  3. This movie was just awesome all-around but I loved the humor - A LOT. I think you are right that it doesn't take itself too seriously (good for it) but yet, we feel a pride in being American's and that is awesome. :-)

    1. Yes, the humor really made the movie. :)

  4. the avengers was a perfect blend of action, humor and brilliance! loved it! thanks for the recap & extra info!



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