Chris versus the Movies: The Avengers

Posted: May 4, 2012 in Braak, comic books, reviews
Tags: , , , , ,

Look, I’m not trying to give anybody a hard time here.  The  Avengers was a fun movie, and I was committed to liking it.  Hulk smashed, Thor knocked some stuff around with his hammer, Captain America threw his shield at guys.  You know, the stuff that happens in The Avengers.  Every moment of the movie was an exciting and dramatic moment — people were falling out of things or into pits or whatever, getting zapped by stuff, things were going wrong.  There were a lot of jokes, which were great.  All in all, A+ time, would watch again.

But.

(SPOILERS and et cetera shall follow.  Probably only read this if you’ve seen The Avengers, or if you don’t care to.)

I have a similar problem to this that I did with Star Trek (though different, because I thought Star Trek was boring, and I did not think The Avengers was boring) which is that while all of the moments were exciting and dramatic separately, taking them as a whole, I kind of feel like a lot of it just doesn’t make any sense, and it all just happens so fast that we’re expected not to notice.

“Loki is fucking with the Germans in a metaphor for Nazism!”  Okay, hang on — “No, too late, now Thor, Iron Man, and Captain America are fighting!”  Wait, wait, though, but — “NOW THEY’VE GOT LOKI AND NOW HAWKEYE IS BRAINWASHED AND ATTACKING THE HELICARRIER AUGGGGGH!”

HOLD UP A SECOND, GUYS.

What the Shit Was Loki’s Plan?

Loki: God of Dumb Hats, Confusing Plans

This is a serious question.  At a broad remove, of course, his plan was:  get some iridium, find a power source, open up a portal to the homeworld of the space-bugs, something something something, profit.

But he takes a lot of steps as far as the plan goes.  Like, why does he mess with those Germans?  He needs that dude’s eye, and Hawkeye tells Loki he needs a distraction, but obviously that’s not true — Hawkeye is a covert ops agent with a bunch of other covert ops agents, they break into the facility at night and in secret; it’s not like if Loki hadn’t been running around messing with those Germans then Captain America would have noticed Hawkeye secretly sneaking in to a secret facility.

So, okay, Loki’s plan was actually to get captured so that he could fuck with the Avengers except, importantly, when he gets captured, he doesn’t KNOW about the Avengers.  Everything he did know about it he must have learned from Hawkeye, which means he must know that the Avengers initiative was canceled.  He lets himself get captured before Thor shows up, so this plan can’t have anything to do with Thor, and he doesn’t find out Hulk is on the helicarrier until later, so his endgame can’t be (as Black Widow announces) to “unleash the Hulk.”

Also, that scene where Black Widow tricks him into revealing his plan, a call back to earlier in the movie where she was tricking someone else into revealing their plan by pretending to be vulnerable, is a fine enough scene but I’m not sure we necessarily needed a strategy to get to the bottom of “Hey, this Hulk guy is probably pretty dangerous.”

It’s not like Loki has a magic, Hulk-activating weapon, or anything.  Unless it’s that magic sceptre?  Remember how Banner starts to get mad, in that scene where everyone starts to get mad at each other for no apparent reason, and then he picks up the sceptre?  Scary!  But, also, what?  Does the sceptre have magic angry-making powers?  If that’s the case then 1) how come it only happens that one time?  And also 2)  What? Why would the sceptre have magic angry-making powers?

Not to mention the fact that the Hulk is actually unleashed when Banner is injured after Hawkeye attacks the helicarrier which…what the hell was THAT plan about?  First of all, you couldn’t have counted on Hulk getting injured in the attack (assuming your plan was something like, “Get the Hulk wound up so that he’ll smash the most precariosuly-situated aircraft since Johann Hindenberg attached a yacht to a giant hydrogen explosive”), but you didn’t need an inside man for that plan, anyway.  Second of all, the whole plan — invading the helicarrier, shooting arrows at guys, Hawkeye using his plug arrow on the SHIELD outlet that somehow turned off their circuit breakers or whatever — was about getting Loki off the helicarrier.

Except, THAT doesn’t make any sense.  In the first place, why would Loki care about getting off the helicarrier?  They didn’t need him to open the portal to the land of the space-bugs, he could have just waited there while everyone fought the war outside.  And in the second place, if he didn’t want to be on the helicarrier, he could have more easily achieved that goal by not letting himself get captured in the first place.

What it does do is let Iron Man figure out where Loki is going to set up his portal, but this is another thing that, in retrospect, is kind of meaningless.  It’s not like they got to the portal ahead of time and stopped it from opening, or they had time to evacuate Manhattan or something; the Avengers just showed up and started fighting the space-bugs.  All told, this same effect could have been achieved with the strategy of:  “Let’s just wait around and see where a gigantic portal to a space-bug dimension opens up.  That’s probably where Loki will be.”

Finally:  Loki’s strategy for beating his brother Thor is hilarious.  “I know; I’ll trick him by putting him in this glass cage, where if he tries to escape it will fall 80,000 feet where he might die?  I don’t know, actually, if that would kill him.”  Except, as it turns out:  1) Thor can fly.  2) No, it won’t.

Good plan, Loki.

Captain America: Tactical Genius

Captain America: Inventor of the Innovative “Hit It Really Hard” Strategy

Captain America is a bit of a sourpuss.  He is also a tactical genius, though.  Remember at the end, after the Motivating Event (I’ll get to this), and he assigns everybody a task in his genius strategy for fighting the space bugs?

Remember how that plan is basically:  “Hawkeye: shoot them with arrows.  Thor:  shoot them with lightning.  Iron Man: fly around and shoot them with your beams.  Hulk: smash them.  Black Widow and I will stay here and shoot them with guns and punch them, respectively.”  That is, technically, a strategy that uses the abilities of his teammates to best effect.  Fortunately, it’s a very effective strategy, because apparently the strategy of the aliens is something like, “Come through the portal!  Fly around in circles on our bikes!  Some of you guys, stick to the walls or something!  AHAHAHAHAHAHAH!”

The Avengers did not stint on the epic super-hero-smashing-space-bugs action, and I thought that was pretty great, but there were some pretty serious questions that these balls-out action sequences bring up.  Does the Army and Navy not have jets or something that they can send in in case of alien invasion?  Or, like, tanks, or something?  Are those space bugs bulletproof?  If not, why aren’t there SWAT teams shooting at them?  I mean, why aren’t there SWAT teams shooting at them anyway?

Is the world’s plan in case of space-bug invasion literally to have the UN Security Council just drop an atomic bomb on Manhattan?

You know what’s interesting, is that atomic bomb just detonated the hell out of the space-bug hive/mothership/asteroid whatever it was, and this somehow killed all the space-bugs at once.  Is it weird that the UN Security Council didn’t think, “Well, what if we shoot the atomic bomb through the portal FIRST, to see if that works, before we decide to nuke our own people?”  I don’t think that’s a hard idea to think of; “nuke the aliens” has got to be, like, not more than Step 5 in the Dealing with Aliens handbook that you know all governments have a copy of.

The Sad Death of Agent Coulson

Coulson: the best thing that people who aren’t special can do is die so that special people will finally be friends with each other.

This is less a plot issue for me that it was a thematic issue.  Of course there was a fan favorite character, an unassuming guy who was just there to do his job, and actually was a pretty good example of how regular people could stand up and protect themselves, and of course he got killed.  In The Avengers, Coulson is killed so that all of the Avengers will feel sad, and then they will fight to avenge him.

I want to be clear on that part.  Captain America, Iron Man…I guess just Iron Man?  Thor and Hulk are already gone by the time this part happens.  But these guys are willing to give up on the whole “Avengers” thing in the face of IMMINENT DESTRUCTION FROM ALIEN PERIL, but do an about-face after their buddy Phil gets stabbed up.

Coulson even actually says that.  “It never would have worked if they didn’t have…[*dies*]”.  Which, come on.  Motherfucker.  FIRST OF ALL, Banner and Captain America don’t even know Coulson.  Thor met him for, like, ten seconds.  Coulson is not the Avengers mascot or whatever, the best friend of everyone the team.  Captain America talked to him for a minute and didn’t even really seem to like him.  When Coulson says this line, he’s not talking about how each of these individual characters will be motivated by his death; oh no, he’s talking about how his death will be the clinching element in the STORY of the Avengers.

That is some bullshit, man.

Second of all, aren’t there like, a million other things that a person might be thinking about when they’re about to die?  “Tell my girlfriend in Portland that I always loved her.”  “Fuck you, Nick Fury, you manipulative bastard.”  “Don’t let Thor blame himself over this.”  “Kill the shit out of Loki for me, guys.”  Anything other than, “Don’t worry.  Now they’ll be a team, and we can move into the Third Act resolution.”

The Decline of the American Super-Power

The World’s New Superpower: One Guy with All the Weapons

This is just something I was kind of thinking about as the movie progressed, which is, man, does The Avengers not know how it feels about power and freedom, huh?  Loki wants to help the space-bugs to rule humans, because human beings prefer not to be free, anyway?  But they also keep waging war on each other because they’re constantly afraid someone will take their freedom from them?  Building space-bug lasers is a crime against humanity, but assembling a team of supermen whose job title is SPECIFICALLY to avenge the earth in case of space-bug invasion, that’s okay?  The UN Security Council is a bunch of bureaucrats who would nuke their own people so don’t let them be in charge, but it’s okay to leave control of a team of superhumans and an arsenal that’s literally big enough to rule the world in the hands of one guy?  One guy who, incidentally, is not elected.  Or apparently even appointed.  Seriously, how did Nick Fury even get this job?

The space-bugs want to conquer earth because that’s what space-bugs do, I guess.  Their evil asteroid homeworld is pretty shitty, maybe they just want to live somewhere that has grass or something.  And so, of course, like all the Enemies of America, they’re basically just a mindless horde hellbent on conquering for the sake of conquering.  And the bureaucrats don’t want to do anything about it, so it’s up to One Defiant Man to take his team of Five Other Defiant Superheroes to fight the space-bugs (and leave all the jets — seriously, the helicarrier had, like, a hundred jets on it, WHY DIDN’T HE SEND THE JETS AT THE ALIENS?) by themselves, five men against an army, whatever.

I think there are a lot of problems when dealing with superheroes and American imperialism, and I think there are a lot of ways to look at that issue, and, importantly, a lot of ways to look at them interestingly.  The Avengers doesn’t really bother with that.

(For example, why the hell do the space-bugs want earth anyway?  Maybe SHIELD had been doing experiments on the cube that had actually decimated the alien homeworld and they wanted revenge; maybe Loki had just TRICKED the aliens into thinking they could beat the humans, and his plan all along was to convince the Security Council to drop an atomic bomb on Manhattan [the death of millions of people being an outcome that he thought would be funny] and so he stayed on the helicarrier the whole time in order to make that happens; maybe the space-bugs used to have their own Cosmic Cube, but using it had devastated their world, and now they needed to take ours before theirs collapsed into a black hole.  Any of these things might have also led to a negotiated peace, which I would have liked better than, “Don’t worry!  This is a pretty big problem, but where Thor, Captain America, Iron Man, and the Hulk fail, a good old American nuclear phallus will succeed!”)

Other Concerns

  • How come Hulk, when he gets mad the first time, wants to smash Black Widow — but when he gets mad the second time, only wants to smash aliens?
  • Is it weird that the Hulk was ready to just backhand Black Widow when Thor rescues her?  I only bring this up because I saw The Incredible Hulk first, and started thinking of it as a metaphor for spousal abuse and if it was possible to (and should we) do it sympathetically, so I just thought it was kind of weird that the only person Hulk is about to backhand is the tiny chick cowering against the wall.
  • It was frustrating that EVERYONE constantly referred to what they thought Loki’s “play” was.  There are a lot of synonyms for “plan,” Joss Whedon.
  • I would have really liked it if the space-bugs were something that wasn’t a generic monster.  I mean, I’m kind of just assuming that they were bugs in the first place; they could have been robots, or anything.  I’d been holding out for the Badoon, actually.
  • I was distracted by the fact that sometimes Thor’s hair was smooth and shiny, but sometimes it was wavy like it had just been crimped.  Why was that happening?
  • Dang, that was Thanos in the after-credit sequence, huh?
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Comments
  1. Daniel says:

    Great post! That whole “plan only makes sense because it keeps going wrong” hindsight also bugs the hell out of me about Return of the Jedi. Seriously, what the hell was Luke’s plan to rescue Han?

  2. John Jackson says:

    “find a power source, open up a portal to the homeworld of the space-bugs, something something something, profit”

    Replace ‘profit’ with Godhood and you’re on the right track. His ‘father’ used to be the head God of earth. He wants to do one better, and prove Thor is a fool. He doesn’t even especially want to kill Thor, because then he can’t brag about it anymore. That’s why he has to make the Avengers self-destruct in public, because he wants to show the world that only he has the power and the strength of will to rule them and protect them. I guess that meglomanacial, but he’s also just a bit like a petty God, which he is.

    I like this post, and that film review you linked on facespace. Yes, it doesn’t play character arcs, it doesn’t really develop anyone, except maybe Tony Stark and Black Widow. Everyone else is already at the stage they need to be for the final showdown. I’m not sure I think those character turns were completely effective, as Tony Stark throws his dice in more because Loki is going to use Stark tower than because Coulson died. As for Widow’s arc, well, we know next to nothing about the character, but it is vaguely clear that she has a code that she lives by, and only Hawkeye seems to understand what it is, and Loki’s taunts force her to decide that her code calls for more selfless actions. No one else really changes character wise. Banner in India is already where he needs to be, but I still dislike that after the battle was ‘won’ Hulk just kinda calms down…yet still remains Hulk. It didn’t fit.

    “maybe the space-bugs used to have their own Cosmic Cube, but using it had devastated their world”

    I think it was this one. Loki’s contact says that only they know the full power of what the tesseract is capable of, I just don’t think it was a good idea to explore the motivation of the Shitari, as, well, Loki is the villain. It was pretty shitty to have them just shut down/die when the ship blew up though. That would’ve been a good time for the tanks and the jets to finally get there. Cause, you know, that’s why they had to find the location before it started, so they’d be there in the first half hour before the national guard could respond.

    “I was distracted by the fact that sometimes Thor’s hair was smooth and shiny, but sometimes it was wavy like it had just been crimped. Why was that happening?”

    Static electricity?

    “It was frustrating that EVERYONE constantly referred to what they thought Loki’s “play” was. There are a lot of synonyms for “plan,” Joss Whedon.”

    I thought only Widow used this term exclusively, or perhaps just Widow and Fury, as they have a stronger working relationship. The loose idea behind ‘play’ as opposed to other words is because Loki sees it as a game, like any petty and vengeful God might. If Banner and Stark and Thor used it? Well, damn, that’s just kinda poor.

    The biggest flaw is in the vagueness of Loki’s plan, but I don’t think it’s completely absent of sanity. He wants the tesseract for himself, because he wants power, and mostly to show up his dad and brother. As for ‘how would he know Banner is on the carrier’? Well, he wouldn’t; he could suspect, but he saw him in the glass and smiled like a devlish manipulative imp that he is. I don’t think the plan is as far out there as you do, I do think that Whedon never explored it in full, because, well, the film isn’t about big brilliant plans or devious Gods of deceit, it’s about the Avengers coming together and saving the world. The last flaw is all the aliens falling at the end, it just doesn’t make sense, but by then, as with the Hulk’s magical calmness, is far more about a runtime of two hours and forty minutes, and likely a thinning budget. No one wants to see the clean up scenes, but it would have been nice if they had used it to hint at a normal response to a crisis. As for the nuke? I thought it was more about keeping Aliens secret than that being their only plan. But that’s me interpolating, so it’s probably wrong. Also, it didn’t look like the UN Security Council: that has more than five old white people on it.

  3. braak says:

    Man, I don’t know, it just sounds like you’re making up a lot of stuff to cover up the fact that this plot doesn’t make any sense.

    1) Nothing about the Avengers or Thor suggests that Odin used to be the head god of Earth. All we get in Thor is Darcy’s theory that, after keeping Earth out of the hands of the Frost Giants, the vikings worshipped the Asgardians as gods. Odin-as-god-of-Earth was a mistake on the vikings’ part not a title that Odin claimed for himself.

    But also: how does proving that Thor is a fool one better than “godhood”? Which, presumably, is going to happen when he gets the tesseract, so why would he jeopardize that by engineering a face-to-face conflict with his brother (who, again, he doesn’t know is on Earth — and actually believes he can’t GET to Earth — when he devises the “I’ll let myself get captured” plan)?

    How does he even plan to make the Avenges (a secret team which, as far as he knows, consists of only two people) self-destruct in public? It’s not like they act like a bunch of idiots on camera. The helicarrier is INVISIBLE when he initiates his plan.

    2) I don’t think we couldn’t have known more about what the deal with the Chitauri was, especially considering the whole middle third of the movie is a vague, “where’s-all-this-going” plot that never actually pans out. They had the room, and they did do *some* Chitauri stuff, like all that nonsense in the prologue. Why didn’t they cut that nonsense, and put a more apprehensible explanation for the Chitauri’s motivation in the middle, so that the Avengers were finding it out at the same time that we are?

    Also, an F-22 Raptor, deployed from McGuire Air Force Base in Fort Dix and traveling at Mach 2, could reach Manhattan in around seven minutes. Is there some reason we should think that, once the Avengers realized where Loki was going to open that doom portal, they didn’t alert the national guard and the Navy and the Army and everything?

    3) Are you asking me about Thor’s hair, or telling me? I am pretty sure that “static electricity” doesn’t do that, but I don’t know a lot about hair, which is why I brought it up.

    4) Captain America and Iron Man both use “play” at least once, I think, which is why it bothered me. Captain America using it bothered me most of all, because it just doesn’t seem like the kind of word he would use. I can buy Captain America as a huge baseball fan, but for some reason, him talking about military tactics using sports metaphors is over the line.

    5) How could the nuke have kept the aliens a secret? They were on the news. Pepper Potts is watching the news with Avengers fighting aliens all over it while Iron Man is wrestling the nuke into space. And why would the World Council (not actually the UN Security Council, I know [though I should point out that one of the five members is not necessarily white, not even counting the ten non-permanent members]) care about keeping the aliens secret in the face of imminent alien invasion? That makes even less sense than not even trying to nuke the aliens in the first place.

    Or at least making Nick Fury deploy all those fucking jets on the helicarrier at them.

  4. John Jackson says:

    He does seem pretty pleased when he sees Thor, so I don’t know if you can argue he wasn’t expecting him. Also, at the end of Captain America we saw Loki/ghost/thing look at the tesseract in the SHIELD base, so it’s conceivable he knows a lot more about the Avengers and SHIELD than just what Hawkeye and the scientists told him.

    Also ‘play’ isn’t really a sports metaphor when using it that way. It’s more like conartist/film espionage dialogue. Captain America saying it only makes sense if he’s using it awkwardly as he’s trying to fit into the conversation.

    As for the other notes, yeah, the US military should have had a response, and the Helicarrier did kinda just sit on its arse, even when they got back their communication. Though, the military doesn’t get involved with superheroes in the comics, right? Maybe SHIELD called them off to establish this? I don’t know. Nick Fury doesn’t tell you everything.

    “Static electricity” was a joke.

    The nuke thing was a plot point that everyone knew would be going through the portal… Stargate did it 18 years ago! Its main purpose was to show Nick Fury being a badass, cause apparently, none of SHIELD’s troops went into Manhattan, and for Iron Man to be the hero and do the thing with no escape plan- but oh, nevermind, there’s still an escape.

    The Manhattan set-piece was definitely more showmanship than logic, but I don’t think Loki’s plan would necessarily seem stupid to him.

  5. braak says:

    Even if he knew more about SHIELD than what Hawkeye told him — Fury doesn’t restart the Avengers Initiative until after Loki steals the Cosmic Cube; he’d still think that the Avengers Initiative was cancelled, because it was.

    Loki also smiled when he saw the Hulk; he might think that unexpected hitches were interesting (something that someone might have mentioned!), but he still had every reason to believe that it was pretty unlikely for Thor to show up.

    Also, the military a lot of times does get involved with superhero stuff, but usually what happens is Doctor Doom or whoever just blows up a bunch of tanks first, and then they call the Avengers to take care of it.

  6. braak says:

    Interestingly, I wonder if the basic problem with this movie is that it adhered to the three act, rather than five act, structure.

    http://filmcrithulk.wordpress.com/2011/07/07/hulk-presents-the-myth-of-3-act-structure/

    That would account for the muddiness of the middle of the movie.

  7. Moff says:

    Yeah, that was Thanos. That was so fucking great.

    We just got back from it, and I know you are just sort of raising these questions because that is what you do, but I am having trouble having truck with that because, dude, I just saw Hulk interrupt Loki mid-declamation and smack him into the floor about a dozen times, which might be the single most satisfying scene I’ve seen in an action movie in about a decade, maybe in my whole life. Also, the fucking shwarama. I just — the whole movie was too (I’m just going to reuse the word) satisfying to worry about the plot.

    Now, I don’t mean that dismissively; here is my point:

    There were a lot of things this movie had to do just to work. I mean, it is kind of a mechanical masterpiece, inasmuch as it introduces and gathers all six Avengers reasonably organically, gives them each a substantial role (this was genuinely a team story, which even the Justice League cartoons, as good as they were, rarely managed), provides an intelligible thread of action, and delivers consistent surprises. Also — and very importantly — it gives us a bunch of different superpeople having superfights in excellent combinations. (And there’s an expected dose of fanservice, like the Flying Fortress, although that was kept to a happy minimum, I thought.)

    Given all this, I’m not sure there was actually room to make the plot much more logically tight.

    I’m not quite sure how to put it, but it seems to me that logical coherence in a plot requires a certain arrangement of factors that isn’t literally physical but might as well be. I mean, we talk about structure, and that’s no coincidence; story really is architecture.

    But there are a shitload of ways to do architecture, and you can design a building that doesn’t work logically but that is still great. That is, maybe it’s a pain in the ass to get to the bathroom from some parts, but it’s so worth it because of the secret passages, even though they meant there wasn’t room for plumbing in those spots.

    And sure, maybe there’s someone out there who could have made both the bathrooms and the secret passages work. But then you still have to move the sex jungle, because the feasible scale of human housing simply prohibits all these different pieces coming together perfectly. So you just make the building, because fuck it, you’d rather have an imperfect but awesome building than a perfect but nonexistent one.

    I am sorry for being long, like I always am. But what I’m saying is: We (we as a culture, at least in theory; plus we as bookish writers, more specifically) tend to privilege plot and its logical coherence. And there are good reasons for that, but it’s not a given. Is plot logic maybe just one particular aspect of story that ought to be demoted in cases where other aspects are more important? Like, say, making sure each Avenger gets plenty of screen time, and that Iron Man and Thor get to fight, and Hulk and Thor get to fight, and Black Widow and Hawkeye get to fight?

    I’ll go even further: Isn’t it possible that plot logic should hold less water in exactly this type of story? Because comic books qua comic books have never been especially concerned with making sense or steering clear of giant holes that have to be patched over.

  8. braak says:

    No. After several days of consideration, I believe that I could have made the plot more logically coherent, without sacrificing any of the things about this movie that were great. Furthermore, I believe I could have done this without incurring significant cost overruns.

  9. braak says:

    Also, motherfucker, I know that was Thanos. As soon as that Chitauri had “to challenge them is to court d–” out of his mouth I was spoiling everyone else’s time by saying, very loudly, “Whaaaaaaaaaaaat?”

    I drew the syllable out, so that it finished just as he turned around.

  10. Moff says:

    Yeah, I was pretty sure you knew it was Thanos.

    I am also almost convinced you could have made the plot more logically coherent without screwing everything else up, but a lot of that is just because of your swagger.

  11. braak says:

    I do have a pretty good amount of swagger.

  12. braak says:

    I think it is interesting, because I saw a bunch of reviews, tweets, facebook posts, &c about the movie, but no one just stepped up and said the name.

    THANOS.

  13. John Jackson says:

    “Interestingly, I wonder if the basic problem with this movie is that it adhered to the three act, rather than five act, structure.”

    Hmmm… I would like to hear more about this, though I’ve never read a Hulk post in entirety. I’ll give this one a try. Capslock hurts.

  14. Jesse says:

    @Daniel Wasn’t his plan to get arrested and then surreptitiously break out himself and the other two from the inside? I always assumed that was the plan and then it wound up getting more explodey due to the rules of space opera.

  15. Daniel says:

    But why give Jabba Chewie? Or the droids? Or disguise Lando as a guard. None of it makes sense. I’ve ranted about this before: http://www.danielgray.com/journal/how-not-to-rescue-a-nerf-herder.html

  16. Jesse says:

    @Moff Au contraire, mon frer! There’s no reason why telling a coherent, logical story in which the characters behave rationally according to their interests needs to take up more screen time. It’s not like Story and Action have a certain length and width and therefore can’t exist in the same 2 hours. That’s also dangerously close to the whole “It’s not supposed to be Shakespeare, just enjoy it!” Rotten Tomatoes commenter argument. I don’t watch Beverly Hills Cop and think, “Ahh, just like King Lear. Perfect.” but I do think, “Awesome movie! Satisfying because everything made sense, which made me believe in it and care more about what was happening and therefore like it more.”

    I think your house-with-secret-passages analogy applies to crazy experiments like absurdist or surrealist stories. Like, Andy Warhol movies aren’t trying to have Story, but something else entirely, so of course we can’t criticize Empire for not having a consistent plot thread. But Avengers? I mean, Marvel’s The Avengers? That’s traditional suspenseful “hero has a problem” narrative arc storytelling that (for what it’s worth) Joss Whedon normally excels at. It actually REQUIRES narrative coherence in order to do the job it set out to do, which is entertain most people. You know what I’m saying? Story isn’t some professorial intrusion in an action movie; it IS the action movie.

  17. Jesse says:

    @Daniel Nice, I’ll check that out — you’ve definitely thought it through more than I have! Probably because I memorized it as a kid and that somehow stopped my analysis brain when I rewatch it now.

  18. braak says:

    @Daniel: Oh you know, I just read that, and I’ve got to admit that I kind of always assumed that was two different plans, for some reason. Like, plan 1) was “Jedi mind control Jabba into giving Han Solo back”, and for that they smuggled the lightsaber in in R2D2 (so he could get the weapon in without having it taken away by the guards) in case things went south. And the back-up plan (2) was getting a guy on staff, unfreezing Han and running off in the night.

    Or something like that, I don’t actually remember the order that things happen in. But my feeling had always been that we were really looking at two or three contingency plans that fell apart and sort of came back together at the end.

    Though I am sure they would not hold up under even moderate examination.

  19. Moff says:

    @Jesse: Of course there’s length and width, or size, anyway. You have about two and a half, three hours max in which to tell the story in a present-day summer blockbuster, and a story line is constructed of events that each take up some of that time. There are things you can do to squeeze more in — like, you can have more than one thing going on in a scene, literally (in the foreground and background), or your dialogue can have more than one layer of meaning — but the space is still finite. Events like “Thor and Iron Man fight” take up 10 minutes of The Avengers and certainly aren’t necessary to advance the plot logically, but if I had to choose between seeing that and having a rock-solid understanding of why the hell Loki wanted to be imprisoned on the Flying Fortress, I would absolutely go with the former.

    The house-with-secret-passages analogy applies to any kind of movie or story. Superhero movies and experimental art films aren’t two totally distinct things; they’re on a spectrum. Or really, not even a spectrum — it’s sort of like the controls on a sound mixing board: You can add more characterization here, and bring down the level of humor there, and adjust the cinematography over there, all in the service of creating a final work that creates the appropriate effect with the audience. But you’re not just trying to max everything out. It’s like why the Amazon reviews bashing Star Wars for lack of in-depth characterization are so lame — the story works so well because it’s dealing with archetypes, and it wouldn’t be nearly as enjoyable (or at least, it would have to be totally different) if it spent a lot of time telling us who Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa and Han Solo are, and gave them foibles and richly detailed pasts. Cozy-mystery readers don’t want intricate examinations of the killer’s psyche; they’re coming to the book for the puzzle and the workout. Art-house moviegoers would be royally annoyed if they showed up and got a straightforward archplot where Kristen Bell and Ashton Kutcher belong together but keep getting pushed apart by outrageously slapstick circumstance.

    The Avengers does require narrative coherence. As I said above, it needs (and delivers) an intelligible thread of action. At no point while watching it, are you jarred by how the story got from the previous scene to the next one. But that is different from a story line with no plot holes. I just think an airtight plot might require a higher granularity — a closer focus on each event in the story, so that every plausible question can be answered and checked off — and that that might take up more time than there’s room for, given the amount of Hulk-smashing and Tony Stark quips that need, or at least ought, to be there.

    (Thank you, though, for warning me away from the “Just enjoy it!” argument.)

  20. Moff says:

    (The other finite aspect we’re dealing with is production time. It’s entirely possible that at some point, a much more logical iteration of the plot came into existence, but it had to be revised to accommodate actors’ schedules and the shooting schedule, or it got edited out in postproduction. Certainly there are spots — like where Thor explains about the Chitauri, and we have no idea how he knows about them — that sure seem to stem from something previously written or filmed that got cut out.)

  21. braak says:

    Man, I didn’t mind the one-liners as characterization, or the short-shrift on the exposition for these guys (frankly, I thought there was TOO MUCH rehashing of backstories in this, even though it only took about two minutes’ worth of screentime; I’d just seen all the other five movies, though, so I felt that two minutes could have been better spent with punching).

    I wasn’t even bothered by Thor knowing about the Chitauri; I actually felt like he was a good person to know about those guys, since he is an ancient space-god who fought other space monsters back in old time days.

    But the four big things here? Loki’s plan “coming to fruition” in a way that suggests he never had a plan in the first place? Captain America’s and the space-bugs strategy? Coulson’s death? Nick Fury’s political ramifications?

    I found all of those jarring. I enjoyed the movie, and I don’t have a problem simultaneously enjoying a movie and also being bothered by parts of it. And I don’t actually believe that those parts that I was bothered by couldn’t have been solved in a pretty straightforward fashion.

  22. braak says:

    I would have been happier, though, if SHIELD had an on-staff Chitauri expert who was actually David Icke.

  23. Moff says:

    No, I know. I’m mostly just playing devil’s advocate. I think it’s interesting that a movie can work as well as this one does (at least at first blush; maybe it won’t hold up well) despite its lack of logical consistency. At the same time, it makes me irate that Lost did almost exactly the same thing and that anyone on earth is okay with that.

  24. Jesse says:

    @Moff — But plot, as you said, is an endoskeleton; every traditional narrative movie has one, so you don’t require more time to have a plot, or more or less time to have different ones. If you decide to explain a plot point in an expositional extra scene, yeah, that would be terrible action movie-ing. Loki should have had a logical reason for being where he was and doing what he did, but we don’t need to see him sitting down and writing about it in his diary. Maybe answering the logic questions in the story would have made different things happen but they wouldn’t necessarily have been longer things or a greater amount of things. Heck, maybe a more straightforward, logical plot would have allowed for MORE fight scenes.

    I think you’re setting up a kind of “talky character” thing vs. “punchy explodey thing,” and that’s not really it (although I don’t think those two approaches are mutually exclusive, that’s a different argument but: The Professional). Braak isn’t saying he wanted to get to understand Loki’s feeling more, he’s just saying that he should have done different things. There’s a big difference between, “Criminal wants money, robs bank, tries to escape, shoots cop” and “Criminal eats breakfast, blows up police station, laughs maniacally, kidnaps cop on hot air balloon, lands on bank, shimmies down drain pipe, shoots squirrel.” Same genre, same excitement, maybe even the same screen time, but only one is a good story.

    It’s basic narrative teaching to abandon your pre-imagined set pieces if the characters don’t get to it sensibly. I’ve had a lot of hard talks while working with writers on their manuscripts on this point:

    “Why does Sally not look under the bed tonight when she has been dutifully doing so every night before?”

    “Because then I can’t have my super cool monster under the bed attack scene I’ve been waiting to write!”

    “Well, maybe tonight’s the night she decided to muster up her big girl courage and conquer her fears and she was tragically wrong!”

    Asking these kinds of questions really does make the story stronger, even though it seems like a killjoy.

  25. […] Threat Quality Press The truth is, you can electrify pretty much anything. « Chris versus the Movies: The Avengers […]

  26. Jesse says:

    Also, I really don’t think a writer of Whedon’s caliber sat down at the editing suite and said, “Man, I have to cut all this story clarity to get in more fighting.” I mean, he’s juggled multiple plot points across entire seasons of TV and a baseball team’s worth of writers and has had no problem keeping everything logical and exciting.

  27. braak says:

    For your delectation, guys, I submit a proof that my problems could be solved without 1) incurring significant cost over-runs, 2) overly increasing the run time, 3) jeopardizing the basic action structure of the movie.

    https://threatquality.com/2012/05/05/dramaturgery-the-avengers/

  28. braak says:

    @Jesse: I have a suspicion that it’s actually a lot easier to juggle multiple plot points when they’re spread out over three seasons, and you’ve actually got a team of writers to work with.

  29. Moff says:

    @Jesse: No, I never said plot was an endoskeleton, because it isn’t. It frequently serves as one, but that’s different. You can have subplots that do take up space in the story (and away from the main plot) but don’t much support the main plot. And you can have multiple subplots that are actually just as important as the main plot.

    I suspect The Avengers is actually kind of new territory for movies, from a story perspective. I mean, has there ever been any film quite like it, in that it’s an ensemble piece where you have to give almost equal play to each member, plus you have to meet a whole bunch of assumptions that much of the audience is bringing into the theater with them? Whedon knew ahead of time — would have known even before he was hired — there were events he had to build into the story (like Thor and Hulk fighting). And there were clearly other vital pieces, too, that he couldn’t have known about but that were handed to him when he took the job, since other people have been working on setting up this story for years now.

    Before he could even come up with a main plot, he had a pretty big set of blocks to fit in to it. Which is a terribly inorganic way to have to develop a story. I don’t know that anyone else has ever had to do that with a movie. And I definitely agree with Braak that doing it on Buffy or Firefly was way easier. There’s just more room to move on TV, for so many reasons.

    But again: I’m more interested in floating this way of thinking about it than arguing that Avengers‘ main plot couldn’t have made more sense. (And I was pretty sure Braak would come up with a way for it to make more sense, but I didn’t want to challenge him to do it, because, I dunno, he might be really busy right now or something. And besides, now that he’s gone and done it — probably; I haven’t read the new post yet — it’s just more fodder for the rest of us to bitch at him that he should make a serious effort to GO MAKE A SHITLOAD OF MONEY WORKING ON STORIES. Or at least make a decent living doing it.)

  30. Jesse says:

    You’re right, you said plot was architecture and I shouldn’t have turned that into a synonym for endoskeleton. So what exactly do you mean by architecture? The blueprints, the design, the plan? The point remains, when your characters need something and concoct a plan to achieve that thing, that’s the plot, and it can make sense (which makes us like it) or it can not make sense (which makes us point at it and laugh) or it can be so sneaky about not making sense that we barely notice it (like Star Trek — Braak is right about it all but I didn’t notice it while watching) so it still counts as “enjoyable” but can’t really count as “a good movie” which is kind of a pyrrhic victory.

    Totally granted that some plot changes require more time; it’s not an absolute. I mean, if Whedon decided that Loki’s plan was to travel back in time and fight a dinosaur in order to catapault him into the future and onto the Hellicarrier, that would be a really terrible idea. But it’s just not true that the only other alternative is, “Ahh, screw it — just put him there to fight, they’ll never stop and care about it.” It’s just lazy writing. It’s amateur — amateurs say, “I’m not fixing this plot hole because I just don’t feel like taking the time to explain it better in the same amount of time.”

    And Whedon’s not an amateur — that’s really my point about his TV background. It’s not more difficult to structure a TV series with a writer’s room (I agree that it’s actually easier with more help and time), but it’s just to prove that the man actually KNOWS what a plot hole is. At some point in one of his four television series and half dozen feature films, I think at some point, someone said, “Hey Joss — Mr. X can’t be there because he has no reason to. It’s easier if Mr. X just teleports.” That’s why I think he most likely didn’t intentionally leave the movie unclear.

    And if we didn’t all need this kind of consistent narrative in our movies (you seem to be saying it’s kind of optional, or they get a pass if they have a lot of bits of business to take care of for fans), then we wouldn’t need to actually write a script for Marvel’s The Avengers. And no need to hire big expensive talented actors to make us believe in the characters. We could just watch two more hours of that fan-pic CGI Superman vs. Hulk in the desert movie.

  31. Jesse says:

    Oh, right — Braak wrote another post negating this whole argument. Off to read.

  32. Moff says:

    @Jesse: My main point is that we are wedded to an idea of narrative logical consistency as a benchmark of quality. And although I see why and generally agree with that thinking, I believe it’s worth questioning, rather than accepting at face value. What is most important to deliver in a movie like The Avengers? One airtight main plot? Or a bunch of smaller events worked into a main plot loose enough to fit them all in? Of course it’s not an either-or question in theory. But in practice, there’s a quite limited amount of time to make it work. I suspect what we see in Avengers is not laziness or sloppiness, and definitely not amateurishness, but rather very proficient professionals juggling a nightmare of scheduling and financial concerns mostly beyond their control.

    And ultimately, it totally works inasmuch as it delivers the sensations you want to experience while watching a superhero blockbuster. (Now, I’m not sure it works so well beyond the first viewing — I saw it again yesterday, and the lack of surprise definitely detracted from my delight — and that’s where I suspect greater narrative logic would make a huge difference.) I’m not saying narrative logic is optional; I’m saying that maybe it’s not the end all, be all of story so much as it is an ingredient that can be added in the amounts necessary.

    My other point is that we’re wedded to this idea of narrative logic, but the source material for Avengers clearly is not. Comics are just a mess of plot holes and retconning at this point. And I wonder, if the trend continues and we keep getting movies that draw more and more deeply from that well, if that’s going to affect things. Of course, I might be full of shit too! I’m cool with working out whether I’m full of shit in the comment section of a blog. That’s what they’re for.

  33. braak says:

    @Moff: I don’t necessarily disagree with you in principle, but the practical problem that I have is that, realizing that the movie is a consequence of having to have to juggle shooting schedules, corporate edicts, character backstory &c., &c., rather than making me more tolerant of a movie’s shortcomings, only seems to make me feel a little disgusted with the whole enterprise.

    It makes me feel less like I’m here to see a story about characters, and more that I’m participating in an immersive marketing event.

  34. Moff says:

    @braak: Yeah, I get that. We might be approaching this from two different perspectives: You imagine the ideal superhero movie and are justifiably annoyed about all the bullshit obstacles standing in the way of us getting it. I look at the superhero movies we’ve gotten and am pretty amazed the latest ones are as good as they are. (In general, anyway, I think it’s safe to say my threshold for satisfaction is lower — cf Daredevil.) I’m probably less interested in figuring out how to fix a movie like this than I am in understanding why the sausage got made the way it did and why it works in practice even in the face of all the problems you point out.

  35. Moff says:

    (Another way to put it is: We assume we go to the movies to “see a story about characters,” but we are inclined to assume that, because we are writerly people and other writerly people like Robert McKee push that line; we have a vested interest in the assumption. But maybe the empirical evidence suggests that most people don’t go to The Avengers to see a story about characters, but for some other reason [possibly even to feel like they’re participating in an immersive marketing event]? Not that that’s a mark against stories about characters, or should signal their end, but maybe it would be a good thing to know? I don’t know.)

  36. braak says:

    Is it possible that the answer is “because those people are dumb”? A lot of people when to see Transformers 3, if I recall.

  37. Moff says:

    It is, but I kinda hate that answer, probably for sort of the same reason you hate the idea that evil is a real thing. It’s just like: First of all, how do talk about art as a valuable part of the human experience if we reflexively disregard the experience a huge swath of the population demonstrably has with it? Can’t you just as easily say that we’re giant nerdos who care way too much about certain aspects of it because those aspects match our own interests and proclivities?

    I mean, what if a race of alien psychologists showed up and were like, “We’ve been observing you secretly for a while now, and here are the reasons we’ve determined you people go to the movies”? And, like, “following a logically consistent narrative from beginning to end” were way less important than a bunch of other stuff movies do for us?

  38. braak says:

    Can’t you just as easily say that we’re giant nerdos who care way too much about certain aspects of it because those aspects match our own interests and proclivities?

    I could, but I don’t, because the thing is, I also enjoyed the Avengers. I don’t think a person is dumb for enjoying something that is dumb; I think a person is dumb for pretending that it isn’t dumb.

    Obviously there’s a lot that the movie does for us, and provide a coherent narrative or a semantically-rich engagement with our world and culture isn’t necessarily one of them and, in fact, when a blockbuster movie DOES do that, it’s almost always completely by accident.

    I guess this goes back to my “realism” argument, which is that it’s not that only dumb people want to watch movies that are dumb; it’s that dumb movies are the only things that dumb people want to watch.

    So don’t worry, I am not saying that YOU ARE A DUMMY, MOFF (for this reason). Like I said, I also liked the movie! The part where Hulk smashed a thing, and where Iron Man said something funny, I liked those parts! They were fun! I don’t think that I am a dummy, though, and that is because I am not going to go out of my way to defend as intelligent something that I don’t think is particularly intelligent.

  39. Moff says:

    STOP TRYING TO OPPRESS ME WITH YOUR STRICT IDEAS ABOUT NARRATIVE COHERENCE. I AM BEING VICTIMIZED HERE! HELP! HELP! CAPTAIN AMERICA!

  40. vincentient says:

    Yeah, the plot has its load of inconsistancies if you start thinking. Which the fast pace of action/funny quotes tries to avoid (and somewhat succeeds, I enjoyed the movie greatly, only thought about the plot a few hours later when I got home). That said, some of your points are also wrong.

    Like the motivations for the space bugs: there’s a whole dialogue between Loki and the head space bug where head space bug makes it clear he doesn’t give a damn about Earth and its weakling Earthlings. Loki convinces him to get to the Earth-conquering by promising him he’ll give him the fancy glowy cube.

    Or Loki’s motivations: you have to watch the Thor movie, which makes it obvious that Loki wants to ruin Earth because Thor cares about Earth. And he wants revenge against Thor. Of course, he could have gone straight for the Earth girl Thor fancies, you’d argue. But I guess they didn’t have room in their casting budget anymore for Natalie Portman.

  41. braak says:

    Now, wait, I don’t have a problem with Loki’s motivations. I wouldn’t, frankly, have a problem with them even if I hadn’t seen Thor, since they’re basically the traditional mythic Loki-Thor motivations just mapped right onto the movie. The problem that I have isn’t with his motivation, it’s with the actual steps of his plan.

    As for the bugs’ motivations, I guess I misread that scene. I thought Loki was saying that he would help them conquer Earth, and then they would give HIM the tesseract — like that was his reward for giving them some new planet to wreck.

    That said, my problem with that isn’t that it doesn’t make sense, just that I don’t think it’s very interesting.

  42. braak says:

    Also, it is pretty hilarious how they didn’t have money in the budget for Natalie Portman, but did have enough to get her headshot.

  43. jerry ku says:

    The helicarrier events didn’t make much sense to me either. Some people on forums are saying that Loki has all sorts of mind manipulation powers, so he was remotely influencing the Hulk’s mind.. but IMO those powers are never demonstrated clearly in any of the movies. So it was kinda confusing to me.

    I get the impression the whole helicarrier sequence was just meant to show off the helicarrier itself. Loki’s motivations and everything else was fitted around that.

    I wish the helicarrier had instead simply been directly involved in the final battle in New York City. That would’ve rocked 🙂

  44. braak says:

    Apparently, they had the idea that some jets at least would be involved in that big fight at the end (possibly with the helicarrier behind it), but the US Army pulled its cooperation due to chain-of-command disputes about SHIELD, and so Whedon couldn’t use any jets.

  45. ngc1300 says:

    i agree that the plot wasn’t very logical…
    but what shocked me the most was that when they weigh the chunk of iridium the scales sais 400g (I m not sure of it, it went fast) but such a cylinder would weigh over 30 pounds (even if half hollowed out) if made of iridium
    and iridium isnt That rare, can’t find it in a supermarket true, but you can by some on the Internet or in for that quantity: about any steel mill aroun the world… dont need to go on a killing spree and make a speech on how Loki wants to be a new hitler to a bunch of old Germans!

    the argument “Loki couldnt know about the avengers” doesn’t seem right to me, he s not supposed to be a dumass, he knows shield is his enemy and they had an avenger initiative that had been cancelled, he can logically assume it will be reinstated in case of emergency

    for letting himself be captured, ok it’s weird, but he is a psycho who likes to fuck with peoples mind, and overly confident, so why not get captured to be taken to your only opponent’s base of operation and destroy everything or convert most of them

    if think the worst thing about the movie is how hulk loses control the first time, but the second time he s in absolute control (except for punching Thor once) and the thing with the nuke

    for the chitori all dying at once, that was unnecessary

  46. “I mean, has there ever been any film quite like it, in that it’s an ensemble piece where you have to give almost equal play to each member, plus you have to meet a whole bunch of assumptions that much of the audience is bringing into the theater with them?”

    X-Men: First Class fits the bill. It introduces characters, builds a team, develops characters and team, and works with specific events/expectations (especially regarding Magneto and Xavier). Not only that, it is far bolder with those expectations–at the end of the movie, Xavier is still kind of wrong. Magneto is kind of right. And the movie leaves room for its characters to continue to believably develop in any sequels. One of the movie’s most ingenuous bits was redefining Mystique, too. In the old X-Men movies, she was a walking plot device–she’d just shapeshift to get the bad guys’ plans done. In the new one that idea of the equivocality of her appearance is symbolic of everything about the X-Men’s struggle for acceptance instead of being forced to hide. It’s brilliant.

    Avengers offers heavy-handed scenes comparing to Loki to Hitler (and taking place rather randomly in Germany), whereas First Class works the Holocaust into the story much more believably–because it matters to the character of Magneto. So we get satisfying, darkly ironic scenes like Magneto ripping the fillings out of the old banker’s mouth. I know I’m getting somewhat off track, but the movies cover such similar themes, and in every case (from a narrative standpoint) X-Men comes out on top. Avengers has better action scenes, and more humor, but it’s narrative is incoherent and it’s characters unrelatable.

    Side note: Why are we told via Captain America that Tony Stark is not a team player? As an audience we expect Stark to not be a team player, but he basically is throughout the whole movie. He never once puts anyone in danger through his irresponsibility, so how is his sacrifice play at the end meaningful (seeing as the audience never believes he’s in danger, either). It’s the old show vs tell thing. Iron Man should have gone lone wolf during the helicarrier attack and put someone in danger; the confrontation with Cap should have come after that scene–before Fury cools their emotions. Then Stark would have an actual narrative arc in the movie.

  47. ngc 1300 says:

    @faceplantmosse
    the x men movie had a stupid story line, stupid scenes with teenagers bragging, crappy special effects, and most of the mutants use their powers stupidly
    and when the nazi kills magneto’s mother, why does magneto kill everyone except the murderer, while yelling in an absolutly pathetic way (as did wolverine in the previous origin movie)?

  48. Oh please. The whole POINT of that Magneto scene was to establish that he did not yet have conscious control of his powers. He affects everything metal in the room indiscriminately and doesn’t intentionally kill anyone–it’s a side effect of his unfocused explosion. Do I really need to explain that?

    Other than that, your comments are so broad as to be meaningless and thus not require a response.

    I will comment on special effects though, as I never found them distracting in X-Men, while I did in Avengers. Iron Man looked like a last gen videogame cutscene half of the time. The scene where he was in the turbine was particularly bad. In addition, I thought the physics of the movie were bizarre. I was never clear on power levels from one character to another, and the violence sometimes lacked weight when one superhuman was smashing another with impunity. I thought it was weird when Hulk grabs the unconscious Iron Man at high velocity at a severe angle while falling from the portal. I mean, that’s the exact thing that killed Gwen Stacy in the Spiderman comics–I thought it was really weird for another Marvel movie to use that same imagery without consequence.

    The physics issues, however, are part and parcel of the superhero movie. i can live with those. It was the complete lack of logic in the characters motivations or plans in Avengers that ultimately bothers me. It’s easy to nitpick little things in any movie, but story logic should make it to the screen.

    Not only does Loki’s “plan” requiring him to be captured make little sense, but if he was counting on rescue by Hawkeye….well, that makes little sense. How did Hawkeye even find the Helicarrier? We saw it cloak. And once he found it, how come SHIELD didn’t change their docking procedures? They KNEW they had compromised agents. Wouldn’t they have a password system or something before letting anybody that close?

    And why does Loki’s plan hinge entirely on the idea that the only response Earth would muster to his invasion is a ragtag group of superheroes? I agree with Chris–where ARE the jets? And the military, etc. Iron Man is pretty good buddies with Rhodes, and the military showed up pretty quick to (try to) stop The Incredible Hulk. Are they all on lunch break for that last half hour of the Avengers? What was Loki planning to do once the military did nuke the aliens in response, too? I mean, at the least that was going to kill most of the troops already on the ground, plus destabilize the portal (I’m pretty sure even if the Cosmic Cube was undamaged, the fall from Stark Tower would mess up the alignment, wouldn’t it? Plus kill the scientist who knew how to run the thing. I’m not figuring Loki for the technical genius, here.)

  49. Lynn says:

    The one thing that bothered me in the Avengers is that they never establish just how tough Asgardians are. Were we supposed to think that Hawkeye had a chance to seriously harm Loki with an arrow, even an explosive one? Could Hulk have killed him if he beat him long enough? Should we have been worried when Loki stabbed Thor? Or when was trapped in the falling cell?
    Speaking of the last one I don’t think Loki expected it to kill Thor. Thor had his hammer and had already started to damage the wall and Loki wasn’t surprised to see him alive later. It was just the easiest way to get him out of his hair for the time being.

    I assumed that Loki knew so much about the Hulk, the Avengers and SCHIELD thanks to the comic cube. Selvig knew that irridium was needed to open the portal and Hawkeye knew where to find it thanks to the cube, apparently it can show you about everything you want know.

    Loki’s plan to conquer the Earth was :
    step1 destroy stuff and kill people to frighten humanity into submission
    step 2 kill the few who refuse to submit
    step 3 be the uncontested ruler
    That’s exactly what he did in Stuttgart, and it worked. He killed a few people, surrounded the crowd with his harmless holograms, ordered them to kneel, and they all did. All but one man that he was about to kill when captain America stopped him. He expected his world invasion to play out the same way only on a larger scale: destroy Manhattan, demand that the world submits to him, use the remaining of his army to destroy those who stand up to him.
    Of course it had no chance to work, even without the Avengers. But he was to certain of the inferiority of humankind to realize it.

  50. braak says:

    Yeah, but the problem is 1) that’s not a very interesting plan, and 2) it definitely didn’t require him to get capture and taken to the helicarrier. Maybe the Cosmic Cube gave Loki cosmic awareness, but I think that’s something that could have been explicitly mentioned at some point, since that other stuff can all be explained without it — Selig knew iridium was needed to open the portal because he was a brilliant physicist who’d been studying the Cube for the last three years; Hawkeye knew where to get the iridium because he was a black ops agent who still managed to access to his secret spy information, &c.

  51. ngc 1300 says:

    no need for a “cosmic cube” to know where to find iridium…
    http://elementsales.com/pl_element.htm#f

  52. Lynn says:

    @faceplantmoses : concerning how Hawkeye finds the helicarrier, you can see on his jet’s control panel that he was tracking the scepter. It’s blink-and-you-miss-it moment.

    @braak
    of course they could have known it another way, but they state that they know it thanks to the Cube.
    it goes more or less that way:

    Hawkeye: That’s what you need?

    Selvig: Yeah, iridium […] the thing is, it’s hard to come by.

    Hawkeye: Especially if SCHIELD knows we need it.

    Selvig: I didn’t know it myself!The Tesseract revealed me so many things. (to Loki ) It’s more than knowledge, it’s Truth.

    Loki: I know. What did it reveal you agent Barton?

    Hawkeye: My next target.

    Since we didn’t really need to know how they got these information, the point of this scene is to show that the Cube reveals you anything you want to know. They didn’t have the time to dwell more on such a minor plot point
    Now if we admit that Loki knew about the Avengers, it makes sense that he would try to destroy their group, and that’s what he needed to get captured for.

    I hope that Loki will shine as the scheming genius he is supposed to be in Thor 2, but in the Avengers a more complicated plan would only have caused more easily missed details and more wrongful accusation of plot holes.

  53. Rossana says:

    You seem like the kind of guy I like to discuss movies with. Thank you for not being a dead-brain spectator.

    Also, read this, love:
    http://maskofreason.wordpress.com/2012/05/23/very-good-writing-why-loki-won-in-the-avengers/

    I’m sure you’ll find it interesting.

  54. braak says:

    I have to say, this is an interesting argument, but I ALSO have to say that Joss Whedon does not, in fact, have a long history of establishing intricate, air-tight plotting. I mean, even when you’re looking at the peak of his writing, when he’s in an optimal situation to do exactly what he wants (I would say this is Buffy S3), when has he ever done anything as complex and subtle as that with plot?

  55. Chris-man says:

    Too many damn comments here and i just stumbled on this page, but unless it hasn’t been said before, I think you’re looking too deep into it. Not in the “its not shakespeare. shut up and enjoy” kinda way, but rather I think youre getting caught on the wrong level of the dialogue.

    Loki is an idiot. His plans weren’t great. He was just a jealous kid trying to find some glory. I don’t think he intended to get caught. He got caught because he got cocky when taking on Captain America. He could likely feel Thor coming when they were escorting him back. He saw banner on his way in and probably knew enough about Banner from any of the folks who were working on the Tesserect, since it’s Gamma related.

    The whole part where Widow tried to dig out the truth from Loki was actually, IMO, a mistake. No one between the Avengers and S.H.I.E.L.D. trusted each other so they read deeper into things than they should have. Everyone thought Loki must have greater motivations, so when Loki tried to mock the his opponents by pointing out how disjointed they were by bringing the rage machine, Widow jumped on those words. Remember, no one trusted that the Hulk could be controlled. At that moment when Widow said Loki’s play was the Hulk, even Loki was like “WTF?”

    So in the finale, why was there no military support? Simple, no one knew what the hell Loki was planning until the last minute. At that point the airship sustained heavy damage and number of planes were damaged during that event. Besides that, those big wigs over SHIELD did not want to authorize a heavy military action that left the possibility of losing control of the situation. The idea of alien attacks of that nature was still fairly recent and their weapos to fight it were still in development. Their fear led them to use the biggest gun they could think of, a nuke. Why not shoot a nuke at the worm hole? How the hell do you guide a missle into a blank hole in the sky?

    In closing, I think the problem is people assume the characters are smarter than they were written to be. The none essential characters were cluless, the main villian was recklessly incompetent, and the heros were so full of ego and mistrust that they didnt have their eyes on the true objective..hence why the death of the agent was the thing that got them to shut up and realize that live would be lost if they couldnt get their shit together…..

    but thats just my two and a half cents..

  56. braak says:

    Weirdly, of the two theories I’ve seen here, I actually prefer, “It’s because everyone is actually just kind of stupid,” to “the badguys have a plot device that is a literal Plot Device, in that it tells them what the next part of the plot they are supposed to do is.”

  57. braak says:

    Yeah, look, someone has actually already posted that, in the first place.

    In the second, I am going to answer it again, BUT FOR THE LAST TIME.

    FIRST OFF, I will admit that I do not have a raging boner of Joss Whedon, but even the people who DO have raging boners for Joss Whedon and his writing, when you ask them what they like about it, “Intricate, rock-solid plotting” is not at the top of the list. He’s not David Simon, Serenity is not Ocean’s Eleven, et cetera and so forth.

    All of which is to say, I’ll believe that when I fucking see it.

    SECOND, even if this is true — EVEN IF — and I will concede simply for the sake of this one particular argument that it is, even it it’s true, it’s actually still no excuse for Loki’s pointlessly stupid plan. I have ALREADY DEMONSTRATED how the large structure of the Avengers could be preserved while giving Loki adequate motivation and an actual, interesting scheme, and the fact that it was only a feint is no excuse for it to be stupid.

    That is the thing that makes Loki a great character, which is that even his fake scheme, which he doesn’t expect to win, still SEEMS like it’s a brilliantly executed all-out master-plan. That’s what it’s supposed to be like when you fight Loki, like you can never tell if you’ve got ahead of him, or if the fact that you’ve stopped his insanely complicated plan is actually just a facet of an even more insanely complicated plan.

    The only time that Loki should have a plan as boneheaded as this would be if he wanted you to think it was a fake plan, so that you’d try to jump ahead and guess what his real plan was, only he correctly anticipated what your guess about his “real” plan would be, and that his ACTUAL real plan included you thinking that his bonehead plan was fake and then trying to second guess him.

  58. John Jackson says:

    I like the idea of everyone being a bit stupid. And Loki’s stupidity is more racial superiority. It doesn’t make that much sense, but I really like earth’s two best scientists are complete idiots. Much better than relying on the all knowing magical Plot Device. But Whedon really likes those devices.

  59. […] Yes, ANYTHING can happen, so why did THIS thing happen, and not [literally] ANY OTHER THING.  Iron Man has to stop the atomic bomb from landing on New York, why does he grab it and throw it at the […]

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