This will forever be referred to by me as the ‘No Excuse’ movie. This movie, especially with Joss as the director, proves that not only can you do serialized television, you can do serialized movies. This movie is a prime example of what non-lazy writing is supposed to look like. End of.
The basic premise of the movie is a continuation of the events of Thor’s movie. Loki is motivated by discovering his true parentage, and being cast out of Asgard. He wants to exact revenge on Thor by destroying the world his brother loves. Loki also basically decides to establish his own kingdom and godhood. Because he knows that his stepfather and brother will never acknowledge him the way he wants them to. Just seamless. The Tesseract and the research team are all there, and it all makes sense. The opening sequence was incredible. Joss knows what a cool weapon (Loki’s scepter) is supposed to look and sound like. Fury’s contingency plans, Hawkeye being turned to the dark side, all masterfully done. It brilliantly sets up the conflict, a conflict large enough to actually require the assembling of the world’s mightiest heroes. Bravo.
This is what intelligent audiences need to buy into fantasy movies…the why. And not only does each member arrive in their own unique style, but they all have a stake in the game.
Captain America literally has no life at this point outside of service, so he trains and waits for an assignment. He recognizes right off the bat the magnitude of what they’re dealing with, having seen it before. Tony Stark is reluctantly recruited, but because of his expertise Coulson recognizes that they’d be fools to keep Stark out. Natasha is a part of the program from the beginning. She doesn’t want to come in until she’s told that Hawkeye’s been compromised. Their bond is enough to motivate her. And, Dr. Banner…he’s supposedly brought in because of his expertise on Gamma radiation. It becomes obvious that Fury was indeed willing to put everyone at risk in case they needed to release The Hulk. He’s like their version of The Kraken, against whatever Loki might be bringing to the table. And Fury was right, they wouldn’t have won without Hulk. Thor arrives, riding his trademark lightning, to arrest his brother and retrieve The Tesseract. Hemsworth also wonderfully conveys Thor’s hurt at Loki’s actions.
Of course we have to have hero on hero fights, and it happened that way (over many years mind you) in the comics. Iron Man vs. Thor, Thor vs. Cap, Hulk vs. Thor, Widow vs. Hawkeye, it’s all here boys n’ girls! Loved them all, really wanted to see more. Unfortunately, herein lies one of the movies few flaws, revealed in these battles, one I’ll address more fully in the Problems section.
Loki’s plan is revealed in the process of its unfolding, one of divide and conquer through trickery. I actually wanted to scream at Fury for bringing Loki on board. It was so freaking obvious that he was playing them, but whatever. (There’s a clear explanation of where Jane Foster is, excellently done.) Loki slowly ramps up their personal insecurities as well as their resentments. He feeds their true opinions about the other team members, and we get some of the best dialogue in the entire movie. Cap feeling like a soldier out of time, Iron Man’s ego both in and out of the suit flaring up. Thor’s godly arrogance resurfacing, and Banner’s basic distrust of everything and everyone was all on full tilt. And, in full Whedon style, they actually all tell the truth; that’s what made it all so powerful. Banner essentially said the same thing that The Hulk always does, “you won’t leave me alone.” I loved that part. Natasha realizes that she’s lost her soul, but just like Elektra, what exactly does she have to go back to if she stopped being a spy? She doesn’t even have the Soviet Union any more. It was all so brilliantly written and executed. And of course, The Hulk wakes up. This was another huge plot hole in the movie, more on that later.
Banner wakes up and is confronted by Harry Dean Stanton (asking, natch, if he’s an alien, HUGE WINK), and seems to have a change of heart about being a part of the team. Natasha & Clint’s moments come when they both realize that they’re out of their league. They have a debt to pay and/or a score to settle, because they don’t like being used as pawns. Fury, Cap, and Stark have their moment after Loki kills Coulson. Which was a complete shock to me; I mean, it’s Joss, we know that somebody had to die, but I still didn’t see that coming. Fury manipulates that moment with a bloody set of trading cards that wasn’t actually in Coulson’s pocket, but it was necessary, and Fury knew it.
The middle of the movie demonstrates exactly why this movie works. It’s because none of the characters’ integrity as characters had to be sacrificed. They were a motley crew that had no business calling themselves a team. They knew that, and in the end, they never did have a common motivation. They were all each driven by the exact same things that had driven them from the beginning. But with the fate of the world at stake, they were willing to do what needed to be done. And that’s what made them heroes. That’s something that the audience can resonate with even without the fantasy backdrop and super powers.
This is why The Avengers works. It’s The Breakfast Club for super heroes.