Genius in the Small Moments of Marvel’s The Avengers
About a week ago a something happened during the course of my daily life that reminded me of a line from the Joss Whedon cinematic spectacle The Avengers (2012); it was a fairly mundane line so don’t assume that my life is quite that exciting. Whether you are a Marvel fan or a DC fan, or Image or Dark Horse for that matter, any fan of comic books has to admit that that movie really turned a corner, set a bar, *insert colloquialism for a new standard here*, in comic book movies. There had been other team movies before but nothing like classic Golden Age characters coming together on the massive scale that was seen in The Avengers. Seeing The Comedian and Dr. Manhattan on the silver screen was cool but seeing Captain America, Iron Man, Hawkeye, Black Widow, and Hulk all back-to-back in a circle was something amazing. Following the reminder of the movie, I decided to get it out and watch it, again, last night and I noticed some stuff that I think really set this movie apart.
There are a few small moments in the movie that are just brilliant. What I mean by that is while you watch the movie, hidden in the back or happening to the side of the main action are little moments, little inclusions, little bits that are beyond brilliant as to be straight up genius. Take for example the scene where Thor has just pulled Loki from the Quinjet and slammed him onto the ground. Loki grunts in pain and then begins talking, mentioning Odin the Allfather and how much “dark energy” he must have had to conjure to send Thor back to Midgard after the events of the first Thor movie. What happens to fly by and caw in that moment but two Ravens. There is something so amazing about that scene, the genius in including the two bird that are such an important part of the Norse mythology of Odin. If Odin himself saw fit to conjure the vast amounts of so-called “dark energy” as suggested by Loki then of course Huginn and Muninn would be nearby to report back to their master what was happening as a result of the effort.
Another example of these small moments is when Black Widow and Bruce Banner fall through the floor of the research space following the attack by the mind-controlled Hawkeye, trapping Romanoff’s foot under debris and causing Banner’s careful controlled emotions to break releasing the Hulk onto the Helicarrier. At one moment when he still looks like Bruce the Hulk’s rage comes through and he yells at Romanoff and then a second later when he looks more like the Hulk Bruce peaks through giving Natasha a look of true anguish that says “I’m sorry for what is about to happen”. Having Hulk show through while still looking like Banner and then Banner showing through when looking like Hulk was a powerful moment and a master stroke of character development; especially in a movie that could have easily lost all viewer connection with individual characters because of the full roster.
In Iron Man 2, and other scenes in the MCU movies, we have seen that Natasha Romanoff is a cold and calculated individual with total control of her composure, for example in the scene where she cons Loki into revealing his plan for the Hulk by pretending to be emotional about her past actions. But in another perfect moment in character development, Joss is able to direct Scarlett Johansson into the most genuine moment that character has ever had. With Bruce tricked into coming to the edge of the city of Calcutta, Romanoff reveals herself to Bruce and using her training confronts him in the most non-aggressive manner possible. During their discussion, Bruce decides to push back by threatening her with a burst of aggression and for the first time we see Natasha’s facade crash down as she snags the gun from under the table and pulls on Bruce. In that moment you see the Black Widow fall with fear before even the idea of the Hulk. With pure fear in her eyes, the Black Widow trains the gun on Bruce and doesn’t lower the firearm even after a heartfelt “sorry” from Banner. Yet again we get a chance to connect with a character in a perfect way.
These three little moments are only a few of the many but are key moments that really endear the movie to its fan base whether they consciously think about it or just subconsciously connect to the movie through them. Is the movie perfect? Of course not, and I would argue that the treatment of Captain America in the film, both from his out of place and out of character angst to the terrible rendition of his costume (thanks Phil for your “design input”), and his very un-leader-like behavior bother me; and I’m not sure who to blame for this but at least they fixed that for The Avengers: Age of Ultron. Regardless I encourage you to get the movie out and rewatch it at home one evening at let me know what other small moments stand out to you.