It’s the Comic Book Movie Frequently Asked Questions. Covering this week’s major comic release, Marvel’s ‘The Avengers’.
Peter Parker: Hello Marvelites and Latino Reviewers, Peter Parker here, The Amazing Spider-Man, even though I’m really more into my costuming and working at Horizon Labs these days. I’m a current Avenger (don’t tell Sony!) and pretty much cross over with everyone and everything in the Marvel comics universe, but not in the film universe. Oh, and my webshooters are non-organic, for the record (thanks for that Raimi).
Carol Danvers: And my name is Carol Danvers, known the world over as Ms. Marvel- or Warbird, or Binary- though these days, you can call me Captain Marvel. While we all know Peter doesn’t need any help talking, as a long time Avenger I volunteered to lend my extensive experience with the team to this little discussion.
CD: And to supervise.
PP: What? No I wasn’t touching anything. I was paying attention. The whole time. Look, just because I’m upside down doesn’t mean I’m paying any less attention.
PP: In the interest of making sense: Carol and I have seen Joss Whedon’s The Avengers. And both of us know a few things about The Avengers (She knows SWORD, I know SHIELD, we both like movies). We thought we’d answer a few questions that we had (or have been asked). Ready to go, Carol? I promise not to mention our date in Ms. Marvel #47. Outside of this mention, right here. Because Carly doesn’t know I’m Spider-Man, so I can still mention it.
CD: Oh, for crying out-
Is The Avengers good?
PP: Yes. Pretty much unquestionably. I’d be surprised if anyone is unable to resist the entertainment the movie offers.
Should I see The Avengers in 3D?
PP: You know, I’ve been talking to people that say “meh,” but I think those people are just mistaking subtley for non-additive. It’s post-converted, so there isn’t tons of depth, but by the time you’ve been living in the world of the movie for awhile, I think the 3D in the final act really helps set scale. But I have a special relationship with the scale of New York, what with the webslinging.
CD: I will say that the first scene- which is off kilter for reasons more than this, but is really the only part of the movie that is- is the only time 3D has made me feel a little motion sick. The rest of it was fine, neither an experience maker nor breaker.
Which previous Marvel movies is it expecting I’m familiar with?
PP: The Avengers pulls heavily from Iron Man 2, Captain America: The First Avenger and Thor. It doesn’t seem too interested in The Incredible Hulk or in the main plots of those movies. BUT, don’t expect them to explain the Tesseract from Cap again or stop to tell you how Agent Coulson knows everyone. I kind of wish I had bought tickets to those marathons that showed them all, because they really play off each other in reverse chronological order. Like The Avengers could start right after Cap ends and gets the timelines all synced up.
Which previous Avengers comics come into play?
PP: Hahahahahaha! Almost none of them directly. The first Avengers story had them facing off against The Hulk as being controlled by Loki, but Cap wasn’t thawed yet and there was no SHIELD, Hawkeye, Black Widow or Stark Tower. You could do worse than read Mark Millar’s THE ULTIMATES trade paper backs volumes 1 and 2. THE ULTIMATES 2 has some good Loki dynamic, but the plot of The Avengers is most thematically similar to THE ULTIMATES except there’s no domestic violence subplot and Tony Stark argues with Bruce Banner in the movie because there’s no Pym to brain-out with.
Do we care that Nick Fury is black?
PP: Nope. I imagine we would care if THE ULTIMATES hadn’t used Sam Jackson as the character model for their new, black, Nick Fury. And as soon as they signed Jackson to a 9 picture deal, they started phasing White Nick Fury out of the public eye. Yet Spider-Man can’t be black? Wait. I mean: What the Thwip? Morales who?
Do we care that Agent Coulson wasn’t in the comics?
PP: I do now! I didn’t realize how he was the connecting tissue for this big team-up movie until he met Captain America, then I realized he was the audience analogue this whole time and I wouldn’t mind Coulson popping up. He’s also great as Principal Coulson on Ultimate Spider-Man…I mean, I wish my High School experience was like that. With the training and the super-teams and SHIELD running my school. Maybe Gwen would still be alive…I’m sorry, I’m tearing up a little.
CD: The answer is no, we don’t care, but he seems like a good agent and provides an invaluable addition to the cinematic experience of the team coming together.
PP: Have I ever told you I have a thing for blondes that can fly and therefore I can never snap their neck by not taking the time to understand simple elasticity physics?
Which character comes off the best?
PP: Unquestionably The Hulk. Close second is Tony Stark…which is weird, because I was expecting Captain America to do more heavy lifting character wise. I had this weird dream I took a bullet for Cap this one time and died then woke up black. Dreams are weird.
CD: I think the entire team comes through well. The team has always been full of big personalities, and there’s only so much movie to share. Tony’s charisma and sarcasm is an easy sell, and the Hulk is, to put it mildly, larger than life and surprisingly provides for some of the movies funniest moments, as well as the most physically awesome. However, to rank them that undercuts how well the others are shown and set up for their continuing adventures. What we didn’t get to see in The First Avenger, but we see in spades here, is that Steve is a true leader, capable of assessing both a situation and his team and bringing out the best in both. Widow carries a hefty amount of the action and we also get to see that she’s as much a master manipulator as Loki or Fury. The ensemble doesn’t just work, it excels, and it only does so because each hero feeds into the others’ development.
Which character comes off the worst?
PP: Sadly, Colbie Smulders is just in this to give a face to Maria Hill so when Fury disappears in 5 or so more movies, we have someone new to head up SHIELD. But if I’m going to look at a generic right-hand-man kind of character, I can stare at Colbie Smulders. Hey Colbie! Hey! I’m single and I look EXACTLY like Andrew Garfield these days.
CD: The only resemblance Ms. Smulders bears to Maria Hill is her ability to assassinate someone, though in this case it’s their character. She looks good in the role and I feel like if you handed her a gun in real life, she could handle herself, but Maria makes it a point never to look like she’s out of her league- usually because she isn’t- and that was not the case here.
I’m not a comic fan – what’s in this movie for me?
PP: This has all the trappings of a superhero movie with none of the stuff that’s now getting tired: There’s not an origin story like we’re used to (all previous), there’s not a single female romantic interest that is helpless (IM2, Thor, IH) , there’s not an anti-climactic battle sequence (IM, Thor) and – yeah – there’s a “big bad” that doesn’t make tons of sense, but the movie also knows when sense doesn’t matter because everyone is having fun.
CD: Loki is both unhinged and desperate, and the threat is immediate. The ‘big bad’ doesn’t need a lot of explaining to work for the movie.
I’m a huge Avengers fan – what’s in this movie for me?
PP: Moments. Or dynamics that you knew existed, but you finally get to see them play out in live action. I’ve read/seen Cap and Iron Man have countless arguments from the 1970s to the more recent Civil War, but that didn’t take away from the giddy pleasure of watching Stark and Rogers go at it on screen. Or when you see different pairings fight each other, or little comic-fan asides like the briefest moment where Hulk can’t lift Mjoilnir. Joss Whedon isn’t making this movie for you, but he knows you are watching it. Like the opposite of all the Ghost Rider movies.
CD: You also see the beginnings of the friendships that hold the group together, the dynamics that make the team excel.
What’s new in The Avengers compared to the previous Marvel Universe films?
PP: New? Nothing really. I mean, the Bifrost is broken from Thor, so there’s one line devoted to how Thor gets back to Earth. Outside of that, just remember that Pepper Potts and Tony are together at the end of Iron Man 2 and there’s that scene at the end of The Incredible Hulk where Banner opens his green eyes and smiles. That might mean something that has consequences. Hint.
The original Avengers (post-finding Captain America in ice) included The Wasp and Ant-Man/Giant-Man. Are Black Widow and Hawkeye 1:1 replacements?
CD: Not by a long shot. Hank and Janet are very different personalities than Clint and Natasha. Janet would have spent the movie getting everyone to play nice and rise up to their roles as heroes, not to mention get them some good publicity, as opposed to Natasha who balances handling her own agenda with doing her job for the team. Hank has really been replaced here by Banner. Clint doesn’t get a chance in the movie to be as much of a combative pain in the ass as he actually is, but he gets a few good shots in there.
PP: To a certain extent, beyond the core Avengers, there’s room for a male/female pairing. Wasp/Ant-Man, Scarlet Witch/Vision. Carol Danvers and Your Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man. But those relationship dynamics are always based around how those two characters are similar. In the movie’s case, Hawkeye and Black Widow are both super spies that have backstories and actions they regret. In that sense, they serve the couple’s purpose. BUT there’s no way Wasp/Ant-Man are directly served as Hawkeye/Widow here. For one, Hank Pym is an asshole.
CD: Hank’s got his issues. The one thing this team really has going for them at this point is a lack of Ultron in their future, I’ll say that much.
Three villains – Loki, Chitauri and the guy who has the voice over at the beginning and we see his face in the credits: How much do I care about the backstories of these people?
CD: While you’re watching this movie? Not much. Thanos is worth looking into, if you want foreshadowing of where the next film might go, but Loki’s history and motivations are pretty fully encapsulated by the movies and don’t require supplemental reading.
PP: The whole point of using the Chitauri (from THE ULTIMATES) instead of the Kree or the Skrull here is to side-step any of this continuity non-sense. The Chitauri are just “Evil Aliens” and Thanos bookends the movie, but there isn’t really a villain you need to know anything about. Avengers is about the heroes. That being said, you feel for Loki because he kind of gets played. But, if you know anything about Loki from the comics, this kind of happens to him a lot.
Without spoiling, the thing people are going to be talking about in 2 months is:
CD: The things Hulk does to the Asgardians.
PP: “Why isn’t Hulk in this Spider-Man movie by Marc Webb that is otherwise great?”
What plot elements in The Avengers suggest sequels/spinoffs and what are those movies likely to be?
PP: Time to hack into some Hollywood schedules over at Horizon Labs. Most newsworthy is that Mark Ruffalo is on board for six more Marvel movies, so another Hulk might pop up soon. Kevin Fiege says they have the next two Black Widow appearences planned, but also says a solo film for her is a few years off, so watch for Natasha to pop up between here and Avengers 2 (I’d guess IM3 and Cap 2). Don’t let Cap’s time displacement fool you, Sebastian Stan (Bucky) is signed on for more Marvel movies, so Winter Soldier looks likely (Cap 2). Also there’s a blonde at the end of the Avengers played by a recognizable TV face that has a few lines about loving Captain America. New love interest in Cap 2? Thor 2 looks to be setting itself up to be about consequences: Loki keeps getting caught, the Bifrost is down, Odin is borrowing dark powers and it’d be a safe bet that someone is coming for the Infinity Gauntlet between now and Avengers 2. If we’re going to see Hawkeye again, I’d put my money on either Cap 2 or Thor 2 (movie Hawkeye seems strangely drawn to the Thor worlds). We know Edgar Wright has an Ant-Man movie and if that movie utilizes Ultron, we could lead into Vision later down the line. Fiege has also said that Scarlet Witch and Pietro can be used (and somehow avoided getting sold to Fox), but that all seems secondary to Thanos who seems to be sending the message that like Thor’s main focus was to bring Magic to the Marvel universe, we’ll now be getting a series of movies about other alien races and magical stones that can alter all of reality. Me? I’m kind of hoping for Planet Hulk. No matter what anyone tells you, Civil War is a long way off.
CD: The waitress? She was cute. She was also a waitress. I think Steve’s going to be a little busy in the next few films to be dating anyone who isn’t able to keep up in his line of work. Although he did have a great relationship with Bernie Rosenthal, and she was a glass-blowing Jewish lawyer. They couldn’t make it work, though. So I wouldn’t really count on the waitress coming back in a big way. I wish what happened in Asgard stayed in Asgard, but it never, ever, ever does, and with rumors of a Dr. Strange movie on the way, the mysticism and dark powers we’re hearing about on that end may be creating an opportunity for him to step to the plate. Bringing Wanda and Pietro in would be interesting, but you’d need a reason to, and you wouldn’t be allowed to talk about mutants, which is sort of intrinsic. Having the Vision around without Wanda would nip the most interesting aspect of his development in the bud, so you don’t want to bring one in without the other. Luckily, the Avengers have a lengthy team roster of powerful, interesting heroes whose power sets feed directly into the idea of galactic conflict.
CD: Give me my movie.
CD: There aren’t enough heroes in the film universe to make Civil War. It would be a pretty short fight with almost nonexistent stakes.
Between here and Avengers 2, my dream plot-point or character to be inserted into the Marvel Unified Film Universe is:
PP: I’d love to see an Ant-Man movie by Edgar Wright blast out of the gate and take on Ant-Man, Giant Man, Ultron and The Wasp. I think tonally that could be what the Marvel Film Universe is missing right now. Basically, they’re missing my Spider-Wit and since they can’t get that back on film for awhile, they’re missing a certain directorial tone that I think Edgar Wright could nail. I mean, what I really want is a movie with me and Wolverine, but that’s not gonna happen.
CD: You’re whining about not getting the title crossover you deserve? How about, in a universe with some of the strongest women around, we haven’t even heard someone float an idea for a movie about one of them? The Wasp, Black Widow, Spider-Woman, She-Hulk. You don’t even need to do the origin leg of those stories anymore because the movies have already set up the major ways people find themselves with powers. You can integrate these characters in with relative ease. Marvel has a chance here to make a super-hero movie that speaks to women in a particular way, as well as appealing to a broader movie-going audience, and judging by the numbers that Katniss girl is drawing in, now might not be the worst time to really give that due consideration.
LAST WORDS: How well did The Avengers Assemble?
PP: This is what the future of superhero cinema should be, full stop. We don’t have to futz around with an Origin, we care for all the characters but because of their infighting, not because of the massive threat and nothing from the comics gets messed up beyond fixing. Joss Whedon 1, Jeff Loeb -25.
CD: What this movie does right above all else is character. The story is solid and interesting, not pat or overly predictable, the action sequences are huge and have some really clever things going on, but ultimately the characters, and the attention paid to their relationships and emotional journeys, are what keep you invested. Sounds pretty obvious, but it’s something a staggering number of superhero movies have completely disregarded over the years. Movies likes this require directors like Joss Whedon, who know how to create characters that you relate to, root for, and love. The Avengers have been around for a while, but they’re new, here, meeting a new audience and greeting old fans in a new form, so it was important they were handled this way. I just hope that’s something Marvel keeps in mind moving forward.
CD: Anyone can flip a car over and blow it up for film a chase scene on a bridge or get the CGI team to make a space battle. The other stuff is harder.
PP: So how about that date? I can dress for any occasion. I have, like, 47 costume variants at this point.
CD: I make it a point never to go out with men who have more pairs of booties than I do.