Two Nerds Admit All the Problems With ‘The Avengers’
Did you see this?
We’re huge fans of “Honest Trailers” and we were really happy to watch the recent Avengers edition the moment it came out. It is spot on, and we give serious credit to the writers for understanding what parts of the film deserved ribbing. We were a little taken aback by what is probably a very valid criticism: a lot of nerds simply refuse to accept there was anything wrong with this movie. As nerds, we find this a bit galling. Let’s be fair: poking holes in what we love is kinda what we do!
Now, we feel like this perception that The Avengers is untouchable is wildly a manufactured one. We think this is mostly from fans of Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy who, when presented with incontrovertible proof that the last movie had serious flaws, now must get the whole universe to admit that every movie has flaws… because then they can sleep at night. Watch out, Citizen Kane, because no film can be perfect if The Dark Knight Rises can’t be perfect.
But we, as ever, digress… There are some major issues with The Avengers and while they are largely bowled over by the movies’ momentous awesomeness (and thus a lot less glaring) they are there, and we noticed them the first time we saw it and walked out of the theater thinking about them. We noticed, and we’re about as big Avengers fans as can exist. If we noticed, more nerds noticed.
Here, we’ll spell them out for you:
1. Nobody’s Plan Makes Sense
This movie really takes place in the chaos between two plans, Loki’s and Nick Fury’s. We largely don’t get to see what either plan was meant to be before it collided with the other, but if you trace them both out as far as you can they very rapidly fall apart. Even less clear is the longer game being played by Thanos (more on him later) as he clearly didn’t send Loki out with a win in mind. Let’s look at all three plans…
Nick Fury’s “Avengers Initiative” seems to only have one step: get a bunch of superhuman folks in the same room. What does that mean? Well, he collects Captain America and Iron Man and Bruce Banner in the first act, but that’s really it. It’s never clear if Black Widow or Hawkeye were meant to be Avengers (after all, they were recruited in the 11th hour by Captain America), nor is it clear if Fury’s long game intended the Hulk to play a major role, or if he just needed Banner for his Gamma Radiation knowledge. Thor, too, was a wild card that Fury could not have predicted as he had no way of knowing if he was ever going to come back to Earth, let alone join The Avengers if he happened to meet them. So what then? The goal was the assemble them… which may not even have happened (unless it was a team of two). And then what? Profit? Shawarma?
Loki’s plan seems even less clear. He apparently wants to see the Avengers brought together, which is basically setting himself up to fail, but that’s not even the worst part of it. What is his end game for invading Earth? He makes half-hearted claim to wanting to be king of the planet (or something?) and this is somehow a step to his larger goals… but what are they, and why? The best theory is he “wanted to get caught.” If that’s the case, and seeing the overly devoted familiar nature of the Asgardians, couldn’t he have just shown up and said “boo” and they would have picked him up? Why produce an invasion that creates a major threat to you and your “boss?”
Thanos, arguably the most evil creature in the Marvel Universe, apparently, wants to take over Earth, or the Tesseract… or a kitten… or a Five Guys in Chicago? His motivations for empowering Loki and sending him back are nebulous at best. More in question is why he just sends Loki back? The portal that spits out Loki seems to be staying open, so why not send over a few Chitauri guards? Why not just dump the whole army out then? Did they know an infrequently visiting Nick Fury would be there to shut the whole thing down? What if the Tesseract was in that Hulk cage? Wouldn’t they be delivering Loki into captivity? Did it even matter? Meh!
2. The Chitauri Are Not a Credible Threat
A lot was made of the incoming Chitauri army throughout the film, but if you look at what actually goes down they aren’t very scary. Captain America and Black Widow (who have no super powers at all) do a fine job of killing them with what could be considered conventional weapons, and Iron Man may be advanced but a few attack helicopters would probably get the job done just as well. Had any actual military shown up, would the legion of sky-bobsleds and space dragons have stood much chance? They didn’t seem to have much in the way of tactics. “Zoom around and buzz buildings” is not a strategy covered in Sun Tzu’s “Art of War.”
Also, Loki at one point says “Send the rest!” which implies the whole army makes it through the portal, and it’s not exactly a buzzing hornet’s nest of aliens in the end there. Earth is a big planet, and regardless of the size of your space-whale-dragon things (which fly in atmosphere because… uh… magic) the combined armies of Earth seem to be a bit of a challenge. Missiles and rockets and snipers and oh my. Remember, a hand thrown shield took out some of these guys. Compared to the whole planet, downtown Manhattan is not that big. The whole battle takes place within maybe 10 blocks of Manhattan (coincidentally, the same block destroyed in the first X-Men movie during the fight at Grand Central Station).
This brings us to one of the most unfortunate F’-ups in the film…
3. The Slaughter of the Chitauri Army is Unnecessary and Largely Inexcusable
The previous issues we have with The Avengers are mostly understandable to me in the scheme of things. Strategies and larger goals have a way of getting overshadowed in movies, and we tend to give them a pass. After all, we tend to leave the house with some grand goal most days and end up ranting about something on Facebook or one of our shows and nothing gets done. One issue that really sticks with us though is the final death of all the aliens after their “mothership” is destroyed. This is just plain stupid. We know nothing about the Chitauri that suggests there is even a connection between them that might cause this, and even if there was, there shouldn’t have been. This seems cheap and poorly written, and it turns us off for a hot second before we did what most moviegoers did: we let it go.
Why did the extinction of the Chitauri army have to happen? Probably to make it clear there was smooth sailing for the team to have a shawarma moment and feel all team-powery. This could easily have been explained by the Helicarrier finally showing up (seriously, where the Hell was it all movie?) and fighter jets clearing out the remaining alien combatants. Hell, even if we were left feeling there may have been some stray Chitauri living in the sewers and building another portal out of Pabst Blue Ribbon cans, who cares? Having them all die as if a light switch turned off was stupid. We don’t care, we love the movie, but it’s stupid. You heard us: we’re nerdy fanboys and we openly disagree with Joss Whedon's choice here. There! We can be the jerks that disprove the rule. We’re not sheep. Up yours, media.
But… In the directors commentary for the film Whedon expresses what could be called considerable regret for this plot point, so I guess we can return to unconditionally loving him with the rest of our nerd brothers and sisters. Please make a “Dollhouse” movie. No we're not serious.
4. “I Think I Built in a Failsafe”
A single line change could have avoided a lot of problems for me in this film. When they finally discover that Loki’s staff can pass through the force field and turn off the portal, the good formerly mind-controlled doctor says two things (to summarize): A) I think I built in a failsafe, and B) The Tesseract can’t resist its own energy. In our mind, you don’t need A to believe that B would allow for the magic Loki’s staff MacGuffin to shut down the portal. It’s cartoon logic (ACME Tesseract, anyone?), but it is logic. The force shield can’t protect against its own energy. Fine. However, when you build in the idea that the fully mind controlled physicist somehow made this happen subconsciously, well, that seems a lot less plausible. Why overcomplicate it with a line that makes it seem way too convenient when you can just say, “The staff is also magic,” and leave it at that.
The bigger explanation has to be why Loki would ever let that thing go. That’s a problem. Even iPhones have wrist straps to keep you from losing them.
5. What Was the Helicarrier For?
Yes, this is our last problem. The movie makes a big deal of the Helicarrier, and how it can fly! It can fly people! It can also turn invisible. (yawn). The movie’s only use of either of these concepts is to threaten to drop the thing out of the air and kill all the characters. If the Helicarrier’s increased mobility and stealth are in no way useful ever, then why risk floating the damn thing up there where it’s mostly a liability? In the whole movie, once its airborne its just getting peppered with explosive arrows and Hulk punches and it barely manages to launch two fighters. Two fighters, by the way, that we don’t want to have launched.
Which reminds us… how easy is it to get a nuke on your jet in S.H.I.E.L.D? Seriously. Nick Fury refuses to launch the nuke, so what? The shadow council just calls a pilot on his cell phone and has him go toss a nuke on his jet and launch? It appears to us that this is what safeguards are there for. Tim can’t get his Swiss army knife on a Southwest flight, but we’re supposed to believe Agent Redshirt can pick up a nuke like it’s a 2-Liter of Dr. Pepper? Maybe they were too busy making the ship unnecessarily invisible to work on any protocols. Bureaucracy is hard… invisibility plating is a snap!
Ok… before you say it, the Helicarrier was clearly "fanservice" and we fully understand that. We however consider ourselves a little bit above rolling over for including something from comics ungracefully. We don't just want a Helicarrier, we want a Helicarrier that works. In other words, we are horrible American consumers.
So those are my issues with The Avengers that we noticed with our own nerd eyes while we watched the film on opening night. We noticed them again when we saw it the 3rd and 4th time. We will re-notice them when we watch it on DVD. Why are we mentioning all the times we watched and will watch this movie? Because we won’t see The Dark Knight Rises again unless it’s at gunpoint. By The Penguin.
But… Let’s look at some of the complaints about the movie that we don’t think are really problems:
1. The Hulk Can Suddenly Control Himself? What’s Up With That?
We love this “problem” because it shows both a lack of understanding of the character of Hulk and a complete disregard for the previous movies. In every on-screen rendition of the Hulk we’ve seen him choose his targets and focus his rage at a larger (and often more evil) threat. In the last film he fought The Abomination one-on-one and didn’t go off randomly tossing around police cars. That he chooses to fight the giant alien attack force and not the other Avengers isn’t even close to out of character for Hulk. It may be a little convenient that he’s not choosing to toss busses full of school children at the flying space dragons, but it doesn’t mean he’s not still a big green rage monster.
Plus… we haven’t been with Bruce Banner for months between movies. Perhaps he’s grown (pun not intended). It’s okay for characters to develop in the background. After all, nobody has a problem with Captain America not standing dazed at any flat screen TVs he sees in a shop window. (Plus, when was the last time you saw a bunch of TV’s in a shop window, anyway?) We know he progressed from the end of his movie to this one, so why is it so hard to believe The Hulk has, too?
And he punches Thor.
It’s not a betrayal of character.
2. Hawkeye Was Not Well-Characterized
Sadly, he was.
Hawkeye in comics really has three aspects: he’s a very good archer, he’s a bit of a dick, and he has a good heart. We got enough of all of that. He’s not the focus here, and that’s okay, and we have a bunch more movies to understand his subtlety. We consider it lucky that a guy with a bow and arrow ended up seeming bad-ass in a film that contained a Thunder God, a radioactive rage monster and Iron Man. So we think this is a win, not a loss. Your move, WB’s “Arrow.”
3. Some Odd Nitpicky Thing About Earpieces
We encourage you to leave your complete technical specs for how everything works in every movie here. We don’t feel like we need to explain everything. It was subdermal-plot-whatsits… It’s a fracking movie. The fact that the mother loving Avengers seemed to be able to talk to each other without holding a CB radio like Smokey and the Bandit doesn’t phase us. Pym particles… That’s it… Yeah… Sure.
So there you have it, it’s not a perfect film, but then again what is? (Yes, Dark Knight fans, we admitted it.) But it’s a fantastic thrill ride and we count it among our favorite films. Little quibbles like the fact that Thor was clearly using deadly force against Captain America in their first fight and yet they never talk about that is something we can comfortably look past, because the “Shakespeare in the Park” fight is easily our favorite hero-on-hero fight in history.
You can poke huge holes in anything… and the truth is that we do. If nerds on the internet want to fight over what’s better and speak hyperbolically, well fine, but that doesn’t mean that we’re not consuming movies critically. Do we think some people dig in their heels and refuse to accept any flaws in the movies they love? Sure. We also think we hear that more from Nolan fans than anyone else (but that may be wishful thinking). The fact is The Avengers is a good film… no, a great film, and it’s exactly what we want in a comic book movie. It felt like a non-stop thrill ride (yes even the first 25 minutes, you haters), it felt like a comic book made real, and regardless of any number of flaws, we walked out of the theater feeling the high of seeing our heroes on screen.
So in closing… we are nerds, we see the flaws, we still love this movie. Stop pretending we don’t see the flaws and painting nerds as cultish. You’re making us angry… and you wouldn’t like us when we’re angry. But if we did get angry and seemed to be able to control ourselves it would be perfectly in keeping with the plot.
P.S. The “Honest Trailer” suggests many nerds didn’t know who Thanos was in the end credits of the movie. Not to throw down an infinity gauntlet here, but if any comic book nerd didn’t know Thanos we’re taking their membership card back. Thanos has been a major force in comics for decades, and you can’t read Marvel and not know. You could watch the movies and not know… not that we’re implying anything. Ahem.