Tā mā de.
In the best of ways.
As with Cabin in the Woods (which I maybe watched again this afternoon, yes) I will not actually spoil this one. Not at all. But I will give some basically spoilerfree highlights.
- Dear Joss Whedon, I know you don’t like being “that guy who kills everyone” in the way that some people seem to say it. I know other people kill lots of people, too. But I applaud the way that you have been willing to kill people in your work in the past not because nobody else kills people (though fictional murder could stand to happen more, in my opinion) but because it makes things, as I have said before, high stakes. It makes my heart beat a little faster when characters are in risky situations. It makes me care a little more, because you make people care about people, then you dangle them in these scenes where they could die. The point is not that people sometimes do die, the point is just that they could, and that makes it more interesting and better. It gets my adrenaline up. So thank you, dear sir.
- Now this is the snarky Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) that I dig on. Iron Man 2 Tony Stark was a little… off, somehow. I don’t have a familiarity with… well, any Marvel comics. I know. I’m awful that way. But this Tony Stark was, while a little bit of a d-bag, helpful and arrogant but not too arrogant and he grew into his intentions and he was sarcastic but amazingly so. You always need someone to quip while being useful, and he provided that part of the team in a perfect fashion.
- And this is the Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) that I find interesting. I, like everyone else, really didn’t like the Eric Bana Hulk. (This could be because I saw it at a drive-in and could only halfway hear it out the car window, but I somehow doubt it.) I could take or leave the Edward Norton Incredible Hulk. Mark Ruffalo’s was just a guy who knew sciency stuff really damn well and, whoops, rage monster. He had a dry sense of humor that didn’t come through a lot but was very necessary when it did. He was a man on a journey, a man who was trying despite the rage monster within to do the right thing. His struggle was hard. But he worked with it.
- I am all right with Steve Rogers (Chris Evans). I think that Captain America is a stand-up guy, and now that he’s taken out of time and removed from optimism a bit, I like him even more. I like that he wound up the one who tried to serve as the glue for the bunch. He tried to be a leader, to take care of the team in whatever way he could. And watching every other character fanboy over him was the most adorable thing I have possibly ever seen. Except for maybe watching him get all giddy about recognizing Tony’s Wizard of Oz reference. He was so excited, he finally picked up on something, he finally belonged a little bit, or he was trying. He was trying so hard to make sense of this life, no matter how improbably and crappy it often was. And he was doing this because it was what he thought was right. Not because someone else told him to. Because he knew it inside.
- Yes, and I am good with Thor (Chris Hemsworth). I think I’m going to go ahead and put him on my “I want you to read audio books or bedtime stories to me” list, but that’s neither here nor there. He truly tries to have good intentions, to make sense of people. Even if he doesn’t always understand them, he cares about them. Not because he has to, but because he wants to. It’s not his world, but he’ll look after it. No questions or qualms.
- And I am kind of more than good with Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson). I didn’t really have Black Widow feelings a la Iron Man 2, though I didn’t not have feelings. (Somewhat because I have always sort of had a Scarlett Johansson thing a little, but.) I definitely have Black Widow feelings now. No questions about it. That first scene, the one that was pre-released somewhat, the interrogation… oh yes, all right. She is just. She is a badass, and she is not by nature an emotional person, or one who thinks of things the way that others do, regarding sense of humor or turns of phrase or attitudes about things, but she’s not cold. She’s often detached, yes, but by the end, she is loyal to these people, she will do what she can and must for them and for the world. What is said to her at one point in the film doesn’t have the effect on her that she lets them momentarily believe that it does (and lord I loved that little “thank you” headtilt thing) but it does have an effect on her. It helps her come to the conclusion about what is right to do, not for everyone, but for her as a person.
- And I am pretty good with Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner). Hawkeye was the least-seen of the Avengers in previous films, so it was easy to not have a sense of him in particular. And you don’t get a sense of him for a while, for reasons; then it works, there’s some him+Natasha friend time (more on this in a minute) and some OH DEAR kind of feelsy dialogue, and I recognize that he is just a good kind of dude. He is a solid, solid man. Reliable, badass, and he and Natasha do these things not because they have powers or enhancements, but because they are just really good at what they do. They are trained, they are skilled, and it is what they think is right.
- And okay, Loki (Tom Hiddleston). He is so talented at being the kind of bad guy that he was written as. The particular traits. The smug, the supercilious, the desperate-for-something. Yeah, solid.
- And Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg), Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders). Doin’ your S.H.I.E.L.D. thing like badasses. Super points for Coulson’s previously alluded to fanboy moment and Hill’s… I don’t know, existence. Just because I sometimes irrationally latch onto ladies who are making operations operate properly and shooting guns and being badasses quietly.
- And not-surprise bonus Enver Gjokaj and Ashley Johnson! Hi you.
- Dear Joss Whedon, I know that this is a hypocritical statement somewhat, because many of your works include many of my big important “ships.” You can craft romantic relationships that tug at my heartstrings so damn hard. But you also craft absolutely rutting beautiful platonic relationships. And this is a movie that is, in part, about platonic relationships. The Avengers are not friends at the beginning, save Clint and Natasha. The Avengers might not even really qualify as friends in the simplest sense by the end. But this is a movie about the dynamic between people that includes absolutely no romance at all (unless you count the bitty Tony and Pepper [Gwyneth Paltrow], which was pre-established anyway and hardly present, yet still managed to have a moment of poignancy and a lot of banter) and that is awesome. They are teammates. They are able to relate to each other without there being weird, unnecessary sexual tension gŏ se. This is particularly relevant with Natasha, because the tendency with women in action movies is to make there be some romantic plot regarding them, and… nope. That is not what Natasha does, that is not what anyone does with Natasha, there is not so much as an approving sideeye as she walks past. She gets her business done efficiently and awesomely and actually save those interrogatees at the beginning, no one makes a deal of her being a lady whatsoever. And Clint and Natasha are allowed to be friends, friends who care about each other, friends who are teammates. And that is it. Also, Tony and Bruce seeming to bro down at the end a bit. And anyway, Joss Whedon, I thank you for making a movie about platonic relationships that is so wonderful.
- Dear Joss Whedon, I think one of your greatest gifts is one for making the supernatural, otherworldly, or otherwise beyond the realm of possibility seem so absolutely brilliantly human. All of these characters were in one way or another dealing with situations that are never going to be dealt with by regular human beings. But it always seemed like something that could be related to. Just like, for example, Buffy uses demons in high school as metaphor, this is using a struggle with supervillains and the existence and limitation of superpowers as metaphor: this is a bunch of people struggling to do the right thing, struggling because of a variety of reasons (arrogance, rage, a fear of the self, a detachment from the world, a rough past), but they go on actual understandable journeys to learn and fight through it. They fight otherworldly monsters, yes, but it doesn’t seem like it’s too detached. Also, it doesn’t seem too heavy-handed a metaphor. And that is something that you do so well, Joss Whedon. You make superpeople seem human. You make super-situations seem like ones that we can understand. You make us give a damn about characters no matter what.
- Also. The second after-credits scene. After it ended, one of the people who had stayed behind who was behind us exclaimed “well, that was stupid.” To which I say no. That, dear Joss Whedon, was you leaving no stone unturned. And it was such a perfect moment. It was sort of like, well, most of the comics that work off your series’: it wasn’t necessary to be able to understand the canon at large, no, you could have walked out of the movie completely satisfied without it, but it just added a very special, neat little something. It added a little more shading to the picture. It just made so much sense. It was just so, again, human.
- Basically, dear Joss Whedon, thank you.
–your fangirl heroine.