Friends, Avengers, Countrymen, lend me your ears. I have not come to praise Joss Whedon, but to bury him. Yes, I am going to critique Joss Whedon on his Avengers movie. I will not talk about anything I liked.
For example, I won’t tell you that Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk was moving. The actor did in seconds what others needed hours to do. He might have even out-emoted Colin Firth’s Mr. Darcy. If there is a heart in The Avengers, it lies within Mark Ruffalo’s sometimes green, monstrous chest. Or in Scarlett Johansson’s bosomy chest. The jaded, shattered spy is a trope, and yet she brings it to life with such pathos that I wanted to pay for her counseling. And her interaction with Hawkeye, where in seconds, backstory was spun out with such depth, such richness, I might have been eating a comic book mousse.
And that is the brilliance of Whedon. Quickly, magically, he can create characters we love. Snap your fingers, you are captured, and if you like the characters, everything else will follow because that is the magic of storytelling.
In Firefly, in the first twenty minutes of the pilot, I knew the characters, I loved them, and I didn’t want anything bad to happen to them.
But I’m not going to talk about how The Avengers is a completely satisfying comic book movie. Nope. I will not.
But I will say this. I have to, dammit. I have to. The Avengers has texture. The characters, the action sequences, the whole mother-lovin’ spectacle of it has texture. And it’s funny.
I howled laughter and clapped my hands with glee. A child again, witnessing the circus. Hee, bloody, hee.
I needed, though, two things. And I just wonder if Joss Whedon knew I needed them.
I am going to go into a spoiler. If you haven’t seen The Avengers, go see John Carter, then go see The Avengers. Please. For the love of God!
I was surprised that much of the tension was due to the Hulk. Here you have larger-than-life superheroes, even a few demigods, and yet, they are afraid of the Hulk. And the Hulk is a massive, ripping thing of unbridled carnage. The scene between him and Black Widow is frightful. And when he punches Thor out of the blue, I laughed. But the best scene is when Loki is going on and on about how stupid and pitiful humans are, the Hulk grabs him like a dog with a sock. Hilarious. But then, why does the Hulk turn hero in New York? He saves Iron Man. Why? I think I know, but I would have liked that spelled out more.
The Hulk would know how duplicitous Black Widow was, and not trust her. That makes sense. But Iron Man, well, the Hulk knew that Tony Stark was generally interested in him and really, wanted to see Bruce Banner overcome his own “breathtaking anger management issues” to become a single entity. I needed that spelled out a little more.
And the end battle. I needed a dark moment. Thor was supposed to keep the portal bottled up with lightning, and he does that at first, but then gets caught up in the fighting. I needed aliens to pour out of the portal, completely devastate our heroes, and all looks lost, until Tony Stark takes the nuke and flies back inside the portal, saving everyone.
And of course, that’s when Black Widow figures out how to close it. That whole end battle could have been handled better. More grit and angst.
But the dark moment on S.H.I.E.L.D.’s hover-carrier, well, that was certainly bleak. Bravo, Joss Whedon, bravo.
Shut it! No praises for him! At times, the story was murky, it wasn’t crystal clear why Loki let himself be captured, or why lording over humans would please him. I kind of got everything, but it wasn’t as clear as it needed to be.
But funny, and cool, and moving. I’m telling you, when Bruce Banner walked on stage, I got tears in my eyes just looking at him.
And the shawarma at the end. If you wait through the credits, you’ll see the shawarma. And it’s worth the wait.
And unburied. Arise, Joss Whedon, and bring us more stories. More characters. More! Since The Avengers has become a hulkish hit, maybe you can insist on a John Carter sequel!