I don’t often go to the movies. I think the last film that Kevin and I went to was V for Vendetta, which was in 2005. These days we can’t go to the movies together unless we both buy the DVD and chat about it over Skype. It’s not the same. I saw Watchmen on my own in the London IMAX, but the town where I live now doesn’t even have a movie theatre. However, many of the people I follow on Twitter had been enthusing about how good Avengers was. Then my friend Marjorie mentioned that she was thinking of going to see it (and she’s someone who always prefers live theatre over movies). So we concocted a plan.
Last night we ended up in a delightful old cinema in Frome which looks pretty much unchanged since the days of Bogart and Bacall. It even has a little kiosk next to the screen at which the girl from the ticket desk sells ice creams during the intermission. It is the cutest movie theatre I have been to since Kevin and I saw an old John Ford flick at the Silent Film Museum in Niles.
I’d been interested in what Marvel was doing with their movies for some time. The Iron Man films seemed to have gone down well, and I had bought the Thor DVD because lots of my female friends had enthused about what great eye candy Chris Hemsworth was. They were right, but the film itself was dreadful. Even Anthony Hopkins was dreadful. The only thing that saved it was the presence of Nick Fury and Hawkeye, and the suggestion that this was just a part of a much larger story.
I’ve not seen Iron Man 1 or 2, or Captain America, but now I want to see them because I’m assuming that they also do set-up for Avengers. (The various Hulk movies are not part of the same storyline, and have someone else playing Bruce Banner.) Doing connected storytelling like that over a series of movies (as opposed to a genuine trilogy like Lord of the Rings) is interesting, and possibly innovative.
None of this would have mattered, however, if the script for Avengers were as bad as that for Thor. Thankfully it wasn’t, it was spot on. It made sense, and just as importantly it felt exactly like an Avengers comic story. Whedon even managed to make use of the classic page transition trick that Alan Moore used to such great effect in Watchmen, where a character comment at the end of one page prefigures what’s going to happen elsewhere in the story on the next page. That works in movie scene transitions too.
The characters have to be right, of course. Bear in mind here that I discovered the Marvel UK comics when they first started, and read The Avengers through most of my teens. These are not just comic book characters we are talking about, they are old friends. I didn’t relate as closely to them as I did to the X-Men, but I knew them well. How did they come over in the film?
I’m not sure whether the Tony Stark portrayed by Robert Downey Jr. is the Tony Stark I remember, but honestly it doesn’t matter. He’s made the role his own. Downey is such a perfect Stark that the comics would probably seem wrong if they did him differently. I also love the relationship between Tony and Pepper, which certainly isn’t how I remember it but works really well.
Chris Hemsworth looks exactly like I expect Thor to look. He was very awkward in the solo movie, but Whedon’s script manages to have him speak in the rather pompous style for which the character is famous, without ever tripping over into the ridiculous faux mediaeval that Paul Cornell loves to parody. I also suspect the tech team does something to his voice to make it more godly.
Loki’s story arc was badly handled in Thor, but we know where his head got to and that now works. Also Whedon uses Loki’s powers brilliantly. Not the zapping and stuff, but the trickster god thing.
The idea of Steve Rogers being a man out of time didn’t work so well in the 1960s because he was basically just a bit like your dad. Fifty years later he really is a man out of time, and there are a couple of brief scenes in the movie that make good use of this. Hopefully the solo movie does it too. Whedon also manages to make him a credible leader, not just someone who has to be the leader because he’s Captain America. The costume is dreadful, but somehow appropriately dorky.
Using Hulk in the Avengers is a bit of a risk. It never worked well in the comics because it is so hard to reconcile the supposed blind fury of Hulk as a character with the need for him to work as part of a team. I thought Whedon did reasonably well, and Hulk did provide a few moments of pure comedy gold that made the whole thing worthwhile.
Scarlett Johansson does a decent job as Black Widow, and I’m delighted that she’s portrayed as exceptionally competent in many ways, not as a damsel in distress. (Agent Hill is a good female character too.) However, she’s very clearly not Russian, and therefore not really Natasha. I wish they could have found someone who could at least try.
I note also that Johansson doesn’t have the enormous boobs that are mandatory for all comic superheroines. I was surprised to find that this makes her look wrong. I’m still processing that.
And that leaves us with Clint Barton. Hawkeye has always been a bit of an enigma in Marvel. His only super power is that he’s a great archer. That’s not very impressive compared to, say, Iron Man. These days I guess the trick arrows come from the SHIELD labs, which is a good move. (I remember the days when Clint was a villain, so I’m very new to this whole agent of SHIELD persona.)
The movie version of Hawkeye has him as a strong, silent type: very cool, very efficient, mostly un-showy. He and Natasha are modern security industry professionals, which makes an interesting contrast to the old-time soldier, Rogers, and the rich playboys, Thor and Stark. Jeremy Renner looks quite nice too. So I ended up as #TeamHawkeye, especially after the arrow he shot at Loki.
So much for that movie. Even if they hadn’t planned sequels (which they clearly had), the number of box office records that it has broken would ensure one. What do we get next? I have seen rumors that Wanda and Pietro (Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver) might feature in a later film. That would be cool, and opens up the possibility of an X-Men cross-over. (Are they still supposed to be Magneto’s children or not? I have lost track.) There is, however, one character that Avengers was sorely missing.
The original Wasp character was a bit useless, partly because she was created at a time when superheroines were supposed to be invisible like Sue Storm, and partly because she came with the baggage of the hapless Hank Pym. Janet van Dyne, however, is the perfect superheroine for modern movies.
Let’s dispose of the Hank issue first. He’d actually be good comedy material. Unlike the others, he’d only be truly happy when in his lab talking to his insect friends. I’d ignore the Giant Man persona because we already have Hulk, and while Ant Man might stretch the CGI guys a little, I’m sure they are up to it. There’s a role for him.
Janet, on the other hand, would be awesome. She’s smart and sexy, filthy rich, and oozes glamour. She’d have a different, stunning outfit for every scene in civvies, and a different costume for every movie. Possibly several different costumes per movie. I’d also write her as very media savvy. Wikipedia tells me that Janet actually invented the name “Avengers”, which I had forgotten. And someone who is in the fashion business ought to be media savvy.
I desperately want to write the scene in which Janet briefs the team for their first press conference. That, of course, would finish with Tony whining, “what about me”, and Janet telling him with a smile, “oh, just be yourself”.
I also want to write the scene in which Janet and Pepper discuss issues with the team’s finances, and decide that most of the boys can’t be trusted with a credit card, let alone running a business. (Clint can doubtless be trusted to file expenses claims accurately, but Steve’s out of his depth with modern finance, Hulk can’t count, and Thor and Tony prefer to be too rich to have to worry about such things.)
So please, Mr. Whedon, given Janet a try. I know you like strong female characters, and this one would go down well with your masters in Hollywood. Let’s do this.