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.
(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?
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 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
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
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!”)
- 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?