Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Sort of Like a Team: Avengers, Character & Continuity

Tony StarkThe Avengers. It's what we call ourselves. Sort of like a team. "Earth's Mighiest Heroes" type thing. 
The Avengers would (obviously) not be the Avengers without the characters that make up the team. And what's great about the film is the depth of the characters.

The team doesn't really get along. As I mentioned in this post, The Avengers is a prime example of every character having their own agenda. Each character is pulled from their own story and stuck into this one, and not all of them like it. There's arguing and fighting and insulting. Almost every character can be pitted against another and you can easily point out all the inconsistencies between their characters and the reasons they fight with each other. There's lots of good tension there.

Joss Whedon handled the screen time of each character very well, so that it felt like everyone got their turn in the spotlight. And everyone had their own little bit of character development as well. Every character changed a little during the course of the story, although some did more dramatically than others.

Going character by character, I'm going to attempt to pinpoint the development made in each case.

Obligatory warning: 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...

Steve Rogers/ Captain America: some have pointed to Cap's character development being the most pronounced. I tend to disagree. Though there is development, I believe it's not as drastic as some of the other characters in the movie. Cap starts out as a serious soldierly nice guy, and at the end he's - well, still a serious soldierly nice guy.

But let's look at what does change. At the beginning Cap is doubtful about his place in the world. He doesn't sleep, ("I slept for seventy years") he spends his time in the gym beating up poor innocent punching bags and he's reluctant to immerse himself in this time's unfamiliar culture.

Until.... the Inciting Incident (aka Nick Fury) walks in.

"Trying to get me back into the world?" asks Cap.

"Trying to save it," replies Nick Fury.

Save the world? Now that's something Cap knows how to do. But to achieve that he's going to have to adjust to the current time and have his mind blown ("I have ten dollars says you're wrong.").

The reason I believe Cap's change is not as dramatic, besides the fact that he basically doesn't learn anything, is that he seems to adjust fairly well. Sure, he misses a few references here and there, but overall I think he does pretty good.

Man in a technological suit of armor with a computer that talks to him? Meh, Cap's not surprised.

Those transparent computer screens that you can carry around?*Yawn* Cap takes it all in stride.

True, he is amazed by the helicarrier, but so are we all, right?

That's not to say he has an easy time adjusting. Tony, of course, teases him and pokes fun at him, making him feel even more unwelcome than he already did. And he lashes back at Tony, holding him up to his standards. Oh, the drama.

But when Cap finally does accept that the world he's in now is the one he has to deal with - and one that still  needs saving - he's ready to step into his role as team leader and help save the day.

Continuity: flashbacks to Captain America; references Howard Stark; references being frozen in the ocean.

Thor: the god of thunder is back and trying to redeem his evil brother. Thor probably has the smallest character arc in the movie. He does come to realize, however, that his brother may not be redeemed, and when he takes him away at the end of the movie (with Loki having that weird muzzle thing over his mouth so he doesn't talk his way out of it) it's to "try him for war crimes" rather than take him back to a happy reunion.

Thor was very cleverly not made the main focus of this movie. If he had been, it would almost have seemed more like a sequel to Thor, but it was avoided by keeping him more in the background.

Continuity: worried about Jane Foster; references a lot of the happenings in Thor.

Loki: since the end of Thor he's gotten wickeder and even a little cooler. This Loki enjoys being evil, wants revenge, and still doesn't get it (more on that in part 4).

A villain's "character arc" usually consists of learning that he's not as invincible as he thought, and Loki most definitely learns this ("puny god!"). Hopefully he learned a little humility as well, but we'll have to wait for Thor 2 to find out.

Continuity: references falling into a wormhole; references his kingship and childhood.

Bruce Banner/ The Incredible Hulk: lots of people have praised Mark Ruffalo's performance as Bruce Banner. He brings something to the character - resignation, humility, shyness, even a little self-deprecating humor. He definitely makes the Hulk a more sympathetic character than he's ever been.

Bruce Banner goes through one of the more drastic character arcs. Through his friendship with Tony Stark he comes to realize that perhaps his curse can be used for good.

As explained in this post, Tony Stark and Bruce Banner are actually a lot alike. They both had freak accidents that gave them their powers, they both have pasts that they don't like to remember. Tony believes that Bruce can control his power, and he tries to get that across to him. He believes in Bruce.

That's why, during the final battle, Tony is confident that he'll be back.

"Where's Bruce?" he asks.

Cap and Natasha are confused. They thought Bruce was lost, was gone, and they couldn't count on him. But Tony always counted on his coming back. He even included him in the headcount he gave to Loki.

Loki: I have an army.

Tony: we have a Hulk.

Tony's belief in Bruce's abilities, and Bruce's own realization that maybe the Hulk isn't as bad as he thought, is what brings him back at the final battle. After he lands in the empty warehouse he begins to understand that the Hulk perhaps is trying to do good, in his own way.

So when the big caterpillar monster type thing comes toward him and he transforms into the Hulk, he doesn't fight it. He willingly becomes the Hulk, and the Hulk helps them win the battle.

I loved that his secret was "I'm always angry." That's always what I suspected about the Hulk character. The reason he became the Hulk was because he always had this pent up anger inside him. By being "always angry" he's better able to control the Hulk. He doesn't have periods of calm and periods of anger. He's constantly angry, meaning he has constant control.

Continuity: references "breaking Harlem";

Tony Stark/ Iron Man: ah, Tony. You've gotta love him. Sure, he's an arrogant jerk, but he's also incredibly charming. He basically owned every scene he was in.

Tony has the most dramatic character arc of the story. His thinking is changed during the course of the film. You see, for him, there's always been a "way out."

When given the choice between building the Jericho missile or being killed, he instead builds a suit and blasts his way out of captivity.

When he realizes he's going to die because the arc reactor is killing him, he just goes ahead and creates a new element.

So it distresses him the most when Phil Coulson dies, because Tony still sees the other way out. But Cap reminds him - "sometimes there isn't any other way."

And by the end of the film Tony realizes this. Sometimes there isn't always a way out. Sometimes you have to "make the sacrifice play." The world can't be saved by warriors; it can only be saved by martyrs, by those willing to die to save it. So Tony becomes the martyr.

Ironically enough, his sacrifice play is still the third option. Get defeated by Loki's army or get blown up by the nuclear missile? Tony takes the third option, using the missile to defeat Loki's army. Still a genius. Very much a hero.

Continuity: references his origin story; references the end of Iron Man 2 when Nick Fury rejects him from the Avengers Initiative; still doesn't like to be handed things; loads of other references, including a situational one to the first Iron Man movie - "Tony Stark doesn't have a heart."

Natasha Romanov/ Black Widow: all my doubts about Natasha were erased during the course of this film. Her character was really enriched by her interactions in this film.

I really appreciated her interactions with Bruce Banner and the Hulk. Her character is confident because "the Widow always wins." If a guy is annoying her then she can either carefully extract information, convince him to do something else, or, if all else fails, dropkick him.

But with the Hulk, there's no reasoning, there's no convincing, and there certainly is no dropkicking. Basically, he's the Black Widow's worst fear, so the scene where she's being chased through the helicarrier is the culminating point of her story. It's the part where she lives through her own personal nightmare.

In most action movies, it's customary for the action girl to be pretty much invincible. But Natasha isn't your cliche action girl. She's a real person, with real vulnerabilites and weaknesses. And a really cute relationship with Hawkeye.

Continuity: references meeting Tony Stark before.

Clint Barton/ Hawkeye: Robin Hood, Legolas, and Bourne, all wrapped into one! No, but Clint Barton was an interesting character. Very cool.

It was interesting how being mind-controlled by Loki made him a little more like Natasha. Now they both have "red in their ledger."

Continuity: well, since he only had a 3-second appearance in Thor he doesn't have much backstory, but some things were referenced that I'm sure we'll see in another film.

Maria Hill & Nick Fury: I actually quite liked the bold, matter-of-fact Maria Hill. I despised her comic version, so I was pleasantly surprised by the movie.

And Nick Fury, well, he remains Nick Fury. Not much to be said about him.

If there's one thing that he learns during the course of the film, it's that hiding things from Tony Stark is a bad idea.

Continuity: references the Destroyer in Thor.

Phil Coulson & Pepper Potts: Phil Coulson was stalwart as ever. ("Phil? His first name is Agent.")

His being a fanboy of Cap was a really good touch. It adds another dimension to his character that we haven't seen. As actor Clark Gregg said, one of the reasons that Coulson became a secret agent for SHIELD was because he grew up loving Captain America and wanted to interact with superheroes. So finally he gets to meet him, and we just love Coulson even more.

And then he goes and dies.

What can I say about his death? It was necessary (see Plot & Structure) but it was sad. However, he did get in one of the most important lines in the film - but more on that in part 4.

As for Pepper, her little cameo was very thoughtful and hilarious. It's nice to see how comfortable she's become around Tony - proof that Tony has mellowed out considerably.

Continuity: references to Pepper's and Coulson's meetings in previous films Reference by Phil to Jane Foster and the events surrounding Thor.

You'd think there wouldn't be much room for character development in a story surrounding no less than six heroes, but there actually is quite a lot. The Avengers is really a character-strong story, which is what makes it work as a good movie, not just a good action movie.

If you haven't seen it yet, here's the How the Avengers Should Have Ended clip. It points out a few inconsistencies in the movie. My favorite part is at the end when Hawkeye asks Natasha about his head.

What did you think about the character development? Did you understand the Hulk's changing in the middle of the film? Were you saddened by Coulson's death? 
And, most importantly, who is your favorite Avenger? 

Missed the first part of this review? Read it here.

Check back next Wednesday for part 3 - I Understood That Reference: Avengers, Humor & Nerdiness

All images in this post from Fandango unless otherwise noted.


  1. Haha, welllll - my favourite is Loki, for sure, but I guess he doesn't count as an Avenger. Oh my goodness, though, I totally love his character. TO BITS. I first met him in the Avengers, but I went back and watched Thor - well, half of Thor. In my opinion, so far in Thor he's made the movie... but I don't really care for muscle men so what do I know? xD

    "I knewwwwww it."
    Lol, so great.

    I have to admit that I didn't understand the Hulk's change. His being able to control himself suddenly threw me a bit. But I did love that his secret was that he was always angry, that was awesome, and quite clever.

    Ah! Coulson! Frankly, from what I've seen of him in Thor, I don't like him. But in the Avengers? His fanboying was so endearing! His death was sad, for sure.

    1. He counts as a character in The Avengers, I guess. And now you are a fangirl... lol :D

      I love how subtle his performance was, and how much he looked like he was enjoying being bad. It was hilarious sometimes. :)

      Isn't the HISHE great? "We can't hear you over the sound of all this money!"

      It was very clever the way that we didn't learn his secret until that one climactic moment. And then he goes and does that awesome punchout of the caterpillar/chitauri and you gain new respect for the Hulk. Pretty cool.

      You'll like Coulson better if you watch Iron Man 1 & 2, I promise!

  2. I loved Avengers. Before this film Thor was my favorite, but now it's a close call between Thor and Captain America.

    1. I liked Thor alot, although Iron Man (the first one) is still my favorite Marvel film.

  3. Have I mentioned how much I love this movie?

    1. Oh, you know, maybe once or twice. ;)

  4. Very nice! I liked it! Well done! (Oh, and I aout cried when Colson died but I harbour a secret hope Fury was lying and we will see him again. If we don't, then I will cry.)

    Aw, Faramir. Yes, he is worthy of a crush 8-D

    I am reading North and South now, though I've not got to him yet, which is sad. (Sweeter in the book?! I didn't think it possible! Now I am very excited to get to him!)

    1. I know there is a fan site called something like "Coulson lives! Fury lies!"

      Hopefully we'll see him in the Nick Fury prequel-ish movie. Or maybe in a Hawkeye/Black Widow prequel-ish movie?

      I loved the North and South movie, but loved the book even more. Let me know what you think when you finish it!

    2. I looked up that site 8-D I'm so happy that there are so many others insisting he is still alive. I didn't think anyone liked him or even noticed him. Maybe the next writers will see it and admit that Fury did lie about his death 8-D

      (I heard rumors they might make a Nick Fury movie about when he was a spy, before starting SHELD. I want a Hawkeye movie more though.)

      Oh yes! I shall let you know when I finish North and South! I like it so far, but I want to get to Thornton.

  5. that was really long! but informative and interesting enough that i read the whole thing! loved it! and avengers is so much more than action scenes! looking forward to parts 3&4

    1. I know, it is long. That's why I decided to break up the whole review because I had so much to say about it.

      I'm glad you found it interesting! Avengers is a lot more than the action scenes, which is part of what I'll cover in 3 & 4. :)

  6. HILARIOUS. I loved the Avengers. I wished Thor would have been a little more dimensional, but he's still my fave. I don't believe Coulson is really dead. Just sayin'. BTW - I tweeted your post on The Blotter.

    1. Yeah, I think Thor was a little in the background (like I said) so that the movie wouldn't just be a Thor sequel. :)

      It would be nice if Coulson were still alive. He's such a great character...

      Thanks for tweeting my post! I'm not on Twitter, come to think of it... I've been thinking maybe I should get an account.

  7. Wow! Guess I'm gonna have to see this movie!

  8. Ah! This is awesome!!!! I loved every inch of this analysis, I think the character arcs and how they interesected was what made this movie so successful, and I think it's usually the difference between a action movie success and a failure. "Robin Hood, Legolas, and Bourne, all wrapped into one" - PERFECT!!!



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