Hello True Believers, and welcome back to the Marvel Cinematic Rewatch!
This time, we close out Phase One of Marvel Cinematic Universe with The Avengers.
What can be said about The Avengers that hasn’t been said? It had one of the biggest box office openings in like the history of ever. It was praised critically to the highest order.
The cast went from stars to superstars overnight. The MCU, which was doing pretty fair in terms of movies, had immediately turned into a whole new monster.
With the success of The Avengers, everyone is trying to duplicate the sheer draw and numbers of the MCU. DC Comics is establishing their own film-verse, while there are rumors of one based on the Universal monsters and possibly an extended Ghostbusters one as well. Sony tried and failed to do it with Spider-Man.
Or so the rumors go. Still it looks like something everyone is trying to do lately.
This is why we’re looking at the film in two parts.
If we look at the MCU as something similar to comics, then we can see The Avengers as a film version of a crossover event. A crossover event is when all the different titles in a comic book universe kind of collide (sometimes literally).
For the movie version, it has all of Marvel’s solo titles meeting and interacting in their own film.
To great success.
So let’s get started, shall we?
It’s time for Part One of our rewatch of The Avengers.
Character appeal is basically a term for character likeability. If you want butts in seats, then there has to be some reason for those butts to be in those seats. For the most part, it has to do with character appeal.
Whether we love them or love to hate them, we need characters that in some way we like.
All of the Avengers, at least to the fans, seem to have captured that likeability factor. EVERYONE has a favorite character in this franchise. Everyone. Do not argue with me, we all have one.
Love it, embrace it, and accept it.
In our last installment, I admitted that my favorite MCU superhero was Captain America. One of my friend’s favorite superhero is Tony Stark. Another one is a huge Black Widow fan.
So what makes a character appealing? Well it can be a number of factors.
1) Backstory: A character with an interesting backstory can appeal to a viewer. Let’s be real, part of the reason superheroes are interesting is because of their backstory. What makes a person want to put on tights and a mask and fight crime? Sometimes the answers are in the character’s past. In the films leading up to The Avengers, we learn the backstory of the characters: a genius billionaire industrialist, a doctor trying to help the military, a warrior who craved for a war without understanding the consequences, and a good man who strove to do good before the muscles. Natasha’s story comes in bits and pieces, but really comes to fruition in The Winter Soldier. Clint’s is still kind of up in the air, at least where the MCU is concerned. Yet who they were before they became heroes is important to audience members for that appeal factor.
2) Personality: Tony Stark is brilliant and sarcastic. Bruce Banner is nervous and tentative due to his issues stemming from the Hulk. Thor is all boisterous bruiser mixed with nobility. Steve Rogers is all American mixed with sass. Natasha Romanoff is always in control, even when you don’t think she is. Clint Barton is practical and gruff in a nice way. Do I need to go on? Personality means a lot to a viewer. The characters that they like often have qualities that either the viewer possesses or that they want to possess. You want a hero who is perfectly imperfect because that means they’re not boring. Flawed characters come from personality traits and by giving a character an established one that means you have more to root for from them.
3) Need: This is probably the most important part of character appeal. A character need is something that the character had to obtain by the end of the story. Now I must stress that this is different then a character want. For example, Thor wants a fight, a war, a chance to make his own heroic glory. Thor needs to not be a bloodthirsty bully and see the true nobility of kindness. A character need is what drives the character toward becoming (or not becoming depending on the story) a fully realized individual. The need is what gives them an arc throughout their stories. In their journey to fulfill that need, the hero (or heroes) must undergo some type of change. For instance, in The Avengers the characters want to defeat Loki, but need to learn to work together in order to do so. The need of the character is the crux of their story arc, and with it, what the audience will be rooting for from them. Without a need, a character is… nothing. Even the most static of characters has a need that they will try to fulfill whether known or not to them.
Different Types Of Heroism
Here’s the thing about heroes: they don’t have the same philosophy toward heroism.
Sure. We all know the classic line: “With great power comes great responsibility.”
I’m all for using your power responsibly. For the most part, I always saw superpowers like I saw alcohol. It’s fun in moderation, but go overboard and it won’t end well for anyone involved.
Much like anything in life, superheroes seem to have different philosophies on how to use their powers. Partly because like people, which in media superheroes are, their experiences form their worldview, which in turn makes them decide just how they want to protect the world and make it a better place.
Characters become superheroes for different reasons. Some do it for selfish reasons. Some do it for selfless reasons. Others do it to benefit the group, while some do it to benefit themselves. There is tragedy that could push a person over the edge, or looking for joy. It could be a choice or predestined.
Any of these things informs the hero and who they are.
Let’s look at one: the selfish approach.
For example, Natasha Romanoff is another character whose heroism is selfish. She has red in her ledger and she wants to wipe it clean. She feels guilty for all of those she has harmed. In order to assuage the guilt, she must atone for it the only way she knows how. Of course, we don’t know how much of this reasoning is real and how much was a ploy against Loki.
I’m looking at it that Natasha was being as honest as she could be. She was an assassin. She is doing this to clean her hands and maybe, just maybe, sleep without guilt for what she was done.
Is doing something for selfish reasons the noblest heroism? Eh. It depends on your own worldview. I don’t see any flaws with it myself.
Tony Stark wants to atone for what he has done in a past life. He sees blood on his hands and wants to remake himself into a better person. He wants to change, and sees the way for his atonement is to become Iron Man. From that experience, he does become a better person. He’s still horribly flawed, but noticeably changed for his experiences.
Now there is nothing wrong with wanting to atone for his past actions. It is the level of which Stark does it that is worrying to me. We’ll have a nice long chat about that when Age of Ultron is up to bat for this series.
I could personally go on a tangent about it. Honestly though? You should probably check out this video by Kyle Kallgren, which goes into the different philosophies of the Avengers possibly better then I could ever hope. His video was actually the inspiration for me to do this column because I wanted to analyze the MCU as articulately and as well as he did. (So go watch his stuff! Dude’s awesome.)
Alright, let’s end part one there.
Come back next time for The Avengers Part Two!
We’ll be talking about battles (Man of Steel v. The Avengers), Loki, and why this movie succeeded so epically.
Until then, True Believers, see ya!