Hello True Believers! Welcome back to the Marvel Cinematic Rewatch!
This time we continue with the second part of our two-part look at The Avengers. Because a movie that big deserves two parts for this column.
Last time, we talked about character appeal and how different types of heroism was represented in the group. Now this week, we aren’t going to be looking at our heroes.
Well kind of, but not really.
This week, we’ll start off by taking a look at our villain of the piece: Loki.
Yes. I know you all have been waiting very patiently for me to get to him.
The Superhero Genre’s Villain Problem And Loki
Let’s be real here folks – Superhero villains have an issue making good villains. Most of the villains that are produced in MCU films are either forgettable or just okay. It’s arguable that the franchise has produced a grand total of (in my opinion) THREE really interesting/good villains to date (October 2015).
So outside of Loki, who are the other two villains I think are really interesting/good?
Alexander Pierce from Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Wilson Fisk from Daredevil. Now I’ll get to Pierce when I do my two-parter on Captain America: The Winter Soldier. I hope to do something on Daredevil/Marvel’s Netflix collabs one day.
(“But what about Thanos?” you cry. Dude has to do something before I can judge. He looks terrifying, but he’s like a non-entity at the moment.)
The villain problem with Marvel is that most of their villains feel kind of deceptively one-dimensional while the heroes grow. It makes sense because the heroes have multiple movies to develop while the villains are just there for the one.
The villains just exist to be suitably intimidating and threatening for the hero, but then they get killed off in the film’s climax.
What are we left with?
Not much. Maybe a memorable hammy performance if they just kind of go crazy with the role.
Loki is the first villain to be in the MCU for multiple films. Audiences see him grow as well, and that makes a difference.
In Thor, his motivation was set up. He was lied to his whole life, essentially told he was a monster, and pushed in the shadow of his parents’ “true” son. Let’s be real. Before Thor took a ride on the humble train to Earth, he was kind of an asshole who was pretty keen on killing the Frost Giants.
Loki seemed to care about his brother and his family. Then the lies began to unravel, Odin took his glow-y power-nap, and Loki just had a psychotic breakdown. He went all genocidal on the Frost Giants, sent the Destroyer to Earth, and it was a mess. Then he met up with Thanos and the Chitauri with shit, apparently, going down to make him a bit more psychotic.
In The Avengers, he almost succeeds in taking over Earth just by being clever enough to turn the team’s issues against each other in the first half of the film. He just needs them fighting each other long enough for him to work in the shadows.
It almost worked.
He has that Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds vibe – he wants to destroy the world and rule, but only because deep down he’s hurting so much. It gives pathos, which is good to see in a superhero villain.
A villain becomes just really interesting when the audience has a chance to understand the psychology and the motives behind his/her actions along with giving a chance for people to empathize with them.
Does it justify his actions in The Avengers? Not really.
It does, however, leave us with an understanding and greater empathy to his motives. In turn, it makes the audience want to see Loki redeemed in the future and make up with his brother.
Compare this to villains like Iron Monger or Yellowjacket, do we care if they died? No. Not really because we don’t feel a reason to care. They’re straight up bad dudes and we don’t want to see them redeemed.
Not to say it applies to all villains: Pierce and Fisk have no one calling for their redemption either.
It’s just a small part of what makes Loki appeal to fans.
Now let’s move.
The Avengers had one of my favorite battles of any superhero movie that I have ever seen in my life. It’s definitely top three after the Winter Soldier v Captain America one in The Winter Soldier and the Guardians of the Galaxy universe saving Dance-Off.
The reason I loved the battle is numerous and varying.
I loved the combos. I loved the banter. I loved how they kept on fighting even when it felt like they weren’t making a dent. I loved the practicality that was displayed, like Natasha taking control of the flyer and Clint using his bow as a bludgeoning tool.
It was fast. It was gripping. It was well shot. You had a sense of where everyone was in the battle at any given time. The emotional and physical exhaustion that went on for them.
Most importantly, I liked how they addressed taking care of the civilians.
Just because there’s a fight going on doesn’t mean that the city has cleared out. Yes, they have attempted to address it in other movies (Transformers 2007 sticks out for some reasons, the first Iron Man), but for the most part it’s like they are afraid we won’t suspend our disbelief for these bits.
One of my favorite scenes in the whole battle is the following.
Clint and Natasha help clear out the bus. Steve realizes that if the aliens get farther out then there will be people in the streets. He goes to coordinate with the cops for help, who are also fighting back against the Chitauri.
It makes it feel more grounded, and that the stakes feel high. You have people to protect: innocent civilians who didn’t ask for a god to try to rule the city. They just wanna get home to their lives.
The damage in The Avengers while great ends up feeling less severe due to scenes like these in the film.
That’s what I thought was the most interesting part of the battle. It attempted to address the civilians caught up in the middle of it and showed efforts to minimize the damage.
Like there was still so much damage, but it felt like it could have been worse.
And? It looked effective, which made it better.
Now let’s wrap this up.
Why Was The Avengers A Success?
I know it sounds hard to believe but the success of The Avengers truly put Marvel Studios on the map. Like the films beforehand did respectably and were generally given favorable reviews, but everyone lost their freaking minds for The Avengers.
A lot of it had to do with the thinking behind “event comics” but in movie form.
What is an “event comic”? It’s a crossover between like ALL OF THE HEROES AND VILLAINS in a set universe. DC and Marvel usually do a separate one around once a year. Personally, I’m not a huuuuge fan of them because it is hard to get a complete picture.
You need to buy all the comics in the event (all over multiple titles and not just the main one) in order to see the complete story. At least that is the idea behind it.
Essentially, The Avengers has the same thinking in movie form to huge success. You have a bunch of solo titled movies coming together for one huge event to save the day. If people come into the event, then they can go back to those other movies and get the background.
Like it shouldn’t have worked as well as it did. Now everyone and their mother is trying to make the formula work for them.
Only time will tell if it succeeds, but until then we’ll always have The Avengers.
Come back next time for when I talk about Iron Man 3.
We’ll be discussing how to end a trilogy, the child sidekick, and the evolution of Tony Stark.
Until then, True Believers, see ya!