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Puny God: What Worked & What Didn’t In ‘The Avengers’

Puny God: What Worked & What Didn't In 'The Avengers'

Given that it made a record-breaking $200 million over the weekend, and has made two-thirds of a billion dollars worldwide in just over ten days, it seems safe to assume that you’ve seen “The Avengers” by now. And given that the film received a rarer-than-unicorns A+ CinemaScore from audiences, we assume that you enjoyed it. And rightly so. Not one, but two of our reviews agree that it’s one of the best comic book movies to date, and one of the more satisfying summer blockbusters in a long time.

However, that’s not to say that it’s flawless. Writer-director Joss Whedon gets an awful lot right, but there’s also a fair few sticking points in there that could perhaps have been better handled. Below, you’ll find five aspects of the film that we had particular issue, as well as five that we think are first among the reasons that the film is connecting with as many people as it is. Warning — we’ll be going into the film in some depth, with spoilers, so if you haven’t seen it yet, bookmark for later use. And if you have seen it, let us know what did and didn’t work for you in the comments section.

What Worked

The Right Man For The Job
Marvel‘s approach to hiring directors has been somewhat scattershot, but they do at least deserve credit for going for some less obvious choices, Kenneth Branagh for “Thor” being chief among them. Joss Whedon was unlikely enough when he was hired that many took the news as an April Fool’s Day prank (the news of his potential involvement first leaked April 1, 2010); though, a beloved geek figure, his sole directorial effort to date was “Serenity,” a $40 million flop spin-off of his own TV series. But it’s clear that Marvel’s gamble paid off in spades, and it’s difficult to think of the film working with anyone but Whedon in charge. His traditional strengths are firmly in evidence, but he’s also wise enough not to overwhelm the piece with too many Whedon-isms, while still writing the hell out of that script. And his directorial skills have come on leaps and bounds since “Serenity,” with a fine eye for iconic framing, pace and memorable action. That sound you hear is a million doors opening for him.  

The Characters Are Done Right
Given that the main four characters had each led at least one movie so far, it was always going to be an incredibly tricky balancing act to develop each one without letting one or the other get short shrift. Not only did Whedon manage to juggle his enormous cast of heroes deftly (with one semi-exception — see below), but he also, perhaps most importantly, gets these characters in a way that few others have managed so far, and with an impressive economy of writing. Tony Stark is snarky and egotistical without becoming smug and unlikable (as he did in “Iron Man 2“) and never overpowers the movie. Thor is used sparingly, but feels genuinely god-like in a way that never happened in the solo movie. Captain America is the golden boy he was in the original, but with a man-out-of-time feel that gives him real pathos (that “Wizard of Oz” line? Great screenwriting). Nick Fury is no longer Exposition Man, and instead is the world-class manipulator that he always should have been. And Black Widow feels like an entirely different person than the blank scenery she proved to be in her previous appearance. And some of the most compelling moments in the film aren’t the big action scenes, but the little character beats when the heroes rub up against one another, or give each other support in the midst of battle.  And all of that is to ignore the biggest character victory of the film…

Hulk Smash
After two attempts in a decade, no one had ever managed to get the Hulk right on screen — until now. Mark Ruffalo was an inspired choice to play Bruce Banner, playing troubled, rather than angsty, and his flashes of anger are genuinely shocking as a result. And once the “other guy” comes out, he’s bang on — frightening and uncontrollable on the helicarrier, and then a ton of fun once Ruffalo is in control and smashing alien heads. The film’s two biggest laughs (Hulk laying the smackdown to Thor and Loki, respectively) are down to the green giant, which doesn’t just serve as a gag, but also a reminder that you can only control the Hulk so much. He’s also sparingly used, with only two Hulk-outs in the movie (the second of which is a cunning character payoff). It’s unsurprising that the clamor for a solo Hulk movie has already started.

The Action Has Real Stakes
Comparisons to the third act of “Transformers 3” have come up when it comes to the final New York-set battle of “The Avengers,” but it’s a useful case study to note what makes it involving, and what makes Michael Bay‘s similarly epic sequences pretty dull. Namely, it feels like something is at stake. Whedon has always been good at making the victories feel earned and losses really hurt, and the heroes are on the back-foot from the get-go, with S.H.I.E.L.D.’s operations devastated and the heroes un-assembled. As soon as they’re together, Whedon then rips them apart again, and in a classic Whedon move that really stings, he kills off Agent Coulson, Clark Gregg‘s scene-stealing comic relief character who’s appeared in three previous Marvel movies. It gives them, as Fury says, “something to fight for,” and also makes you realize that if he doesn’t make it out, maybe the survival of the rest is more in question that you might have thought. And when it comes to the final battle, Whedon keeps upping the ante — as soon as one seemingly unkillable dragon/spaceship thing is vanquished, another dozen come swarming through the portal. Even as the characters start to get overwhelmed, suddenly they’ve got a nuke on the way to deal with. It’s what makes it feel like it matters. It also helps that Whedon keeps the action grounded in character too, as each fights and strategizes like you’d expect them to.

It Put The Comic Back In Comic Book Movies
Christopher Nolan‘s Batman movies were almost revelatory in the way that grounded their superhero characters in a world that felt like reality. But it’s also been a little dull to see other movies move towards that feel, while Marvel’s earlier films have often felt like they’ve been pinching the pennies, with stock locations and small-scale action. “The Avengers” feels important not just because it’s so huge in scale, but also because of the way it suggests that being comic book-y doesn’t have to be a dirty word. The film is bright and colorful without being gaudy (at least in 2D, it’s pretty murky in 3D), and the action seems drawn from the pages of the funny papers, big and expansive and impossible, and yet the direction isn’t in thrall to comics in the way that Ang Lee‘s “Hulk” or Zack Snyder‘s “Watchmen” were. Plus, with Whedon involved, the film is as funny as any comedy of recent note, from Robert Downey Jr.‘s pop-culture wisecracks (“Shakespeare in the Park,” et al) and Thor’s dryly delivered “He’s adopted” to idiosyncratic asides like the S.H.I.E.L.D. agent playing “Galaga” and the Hulk’s aforementioned smash moments. We’re absolutely happy with Nolan’s darker take, but we’re pleased someone’s managed to use some different colors in the pallete to equal success.

What Didn’t Work

That Boring, Humorless Opening
By the end of the first reel of “The Avengers,” we’d be lying if we said we weren’t a little concerned. Given how good the rest of the film is, we can only assume that Whedon had the flu when he both wrote and directed the early scenes. That brief early prologue is lame enough, but then we get Nick Fury and Maria Hill arriving at some secret S.H.I.E.L.D base that looks like the combination of a conference hotel and an aircraft hanger. They reel off some clunky technojargon, we see Clark Gregg as Agent Coulson (who mostly sits on the sidelines), Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye, and Stellan Skarsgard as Dr. Contracted-To-Appear, and then Loki arrives. The brief fight scene that follows is airless and not even that well shot, and then Loki starts zombifying all those around him. Then the building starts collapsing, and we get some big effects shots reminiscent more of Roland Emmerich movies than anything else. It’s all a bit half-hearted, as though Whedon didn’t really care when his superheroes were offscreen, and had the movie continued along the same lines, we wouldn’t be looking at the giant success that it’s turned out to be.

Hawkeye Is Wasted
Speaking of that opening, it contains the biggest misstep of the plot, making Hawkeye a brainwashed henchman of Loki for over half the running time. With some characters having appeared in earlier installments, it gives you a shorthand to care for them. But Jeremy Renner‘s only appearance was in those crude, obviously-added-in-reshoots cameos in “Thor,” so we’re not particularly attached to him going in. And as soon as we meet him properly in “The Avengers,” he’s immediately turned to the dark side, a personality-free zombie serving Loki. He’s eventually turned back, but the fact that we’ve never been that invested in him in the first place means that his return doesn’t serve as some grand victory. It’s presumably been done to give Black Widow some emotional investment in the whole thing, but it’s hard not to feel that sidelining him is a waste of Renner’s talents, just as it was in “Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol.” Attention movie franchises: if you hire a double Oscar-nominee like Renner, try and give him something to do.  And speaking of wasted, we’d hope that Cobie Smulders, a talented comedienne, would get more to do that a humorless riff on Sigourney Weaver‘s computer-repeating character in “Galaxy Quest.”

The Weak Villains
As much as Whedon gets the heroes right, it’s a shame that they don’t have adversaries worth their salt. Tom Hiddleston brought such an off-kilter bruised energy to his performance in “Thor,” but here is reduced to a one-note sneering baddie, without much of the pathos that was one of the highlights of his earlier appearance. And Lord help you if didn’t see that film, and want to know why Loki is so angry. And then there’s his army: why does his hard-on for conquering humanity obscure the fact that the Chitauri are a bunch of space bums who lie down with barely a fight? A quick shot shows a handful of alien soldiers amongst about hundred people inside a bank, hoarding them together so they’re easy to kill. Dude, there’s a planet of us, nice try. Why doesn’t Loki go about assembling an army from Jotunheim to conquer the Chitauri, then set two alien races upon the earth? If the remaining Nine Realms are as full of pushovers as the world of the Chitauri, then this is going to be one boring-ass franchise. If you’re going to involve a race of redshirts (admittedly, kind of a funny idea), don’t have them just stage one sloppy, uncoordinated invasion in the third act of your movie. We’re led to believe their plan was to wait for Loki to procure what, to them, is the ultimate weapon, and then simply jump into Earth feet first and shoot wildly? Yeah, Manhattan took the worst of it, but the rest of the Earth has to be watching and thinking, “Oh, it’s cool, nothing to worry about.”

It’s Kinda Plotless
Yeah, a lot of stuff happens in “The Avengers,” but what’s the story? Loki wants to dominate Earth, S.H.I.E.L.D. assembles the Avengers, and they combat the threat. Seems simple, right? So why is this movie two and a half hours long? Because we must have Avengers infighting! Except that it never seems organic, but could it ever? We’ve got “Iron Man 3,” “Captain America 2,” “Thor 2” and God knows what else on the docket, why would you risk changing these characters in any real way? So instead Loki, who has minions working on the Tesseract, decides to show off a little. First he makes his way to Germany, in a fairly deadening sequence meant to illustrate just how powerless someone like Captain America is against this Norse villain.  Then he merely allows himself to be captured, slapped into a prison for a good forty five minutes, so everyone can fight amongst themselves, without much in the way of a ticking clock. And surprise! His plan backfires, and this supposed God of Trickery only ends up wasting the film’s second act strengthening our heroes. D’oh. Meanwhile, the film’s juiciest suggestion — that S.H.I.E.L.D. is seeking the Tesseract because they want to build weapons of mass destruction — is abandoned, and Nick Fury has a change of heart. Because he knows it isn’t right? Or because he was caught? Or does he simply realize having a team like the Avengers is even more lethal than the Tesseract, a reality-altering power source? Whatever, don’t think too much about it. S.H.I.E.L.D.’s got this, now stop asking questions

The Ending is Rushed
Though a delicate balancing act, Joss Whedon can’t stick the landing at all. First off, journalists don’t seem too interested in the story of how we HAVE to believe hundreds (thousands?) died in one of the worst attacks on American soil. They also don’t seem concerned by the mind-warping realization that a portal opened up at the top of Manhattan and started leaking aliens from another universe. Might want to do a double check on the atmosphere up there, guys. Oh, and by the way, all religions just got a MASSIVE page one rewrite. And then there’s Thor and Loki, gallivanting their way back to Asgard with the Tesseract like it ain’t no thing, as Captain America motorcycles away like a badass. Now what? How is Cap, a man frozen in time from World War II, coping with a future world with iPods, the internet, microwaves and now motherflippin’ aliens? Nick Fury is so confident the Avengers will return that when asked about it, he replies, “Because we’ll need them.” Dunno about that, Nick. Won’t Iron Man be busy discovering alternate energy sources? Won’t Hawkeye and Black Widow be working black ops somewhere? Won’t Thor be in another universe? Won’t Bruce Banner be… wait, what the hell does Bruce Banner do, anyway? Anyone wanna lend this dude some money? Oh, and one more nitpick: given the damage done by Downey Jr. in his Iron Man suit, does it not cross anyone’s minds that there’s another hero with equal abilities knocking around, say, Don Cheadle‘s War Machine? It’s not his exclusion that annoys us: it’s one more character that Whedon would have had to juggle. But at least include a line about how Rhodesy is on holiday, or something.

— Gabe Toro & Oliver Lyttelton

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What happened to Banner? Didn't you pay attention? At the end he rides away with Tony Stark. Meaning, he took that job that Tony offered him.


Love the review. I loved Avengers, but it's not without it's flaws. I think that it's just so satisfying that it's easy to overlook the things you've mentioned. The movie had a lot more strong qualities than weak ones for sure, but where they lacked this time around is just a way they can only improve the next time. THANK YOU for taking the time to give a detailed review and reasons why you said what you did. Too many "critics" don't anymore and it's nice to see someone actually put some energy into it.


"It's unsurprising that the clamor for a solo Hulk movie has already started." there IS a solo Hulk movie.


Puny reviewer…


Why is it that the biggest pussies who whine are always the ones who get no pussy? Now there is some hipster irony.


I will predict that an idiot who has no real talent to create anything himself wrote this. Am I right? @MrStevenMorrow


I'd like to see a real Hulk movie.

AFAIK, Hulks power is that he becomes more powerful as he gets angrier, while I don't read the comics myself, it's my understanding that there isn't any limit on this, so it could make for a truly epic movie.

I'd love to see Hulk slowly going out of control, and heroes coming out of the wood works to stop him(which, I believe has happened in the comics).

I just want to see Hulk in his more extreme incarnations in action. :D (That scene with Loki got me pumped for some real Hulk action.)

Also, check out Superman vs. Doomsday(animated movie), I'd love to see something along those lines as well, most of these super hero movies are too tame compared to the comics, and animated versions.

Avengers got me pumped for some real CGI super hero action. :P


Hawkeye wasn't missused in my opinion. Hawkeye in the comics actually started out as a villain and I feel Whedon is making homage to that making Hawkeye come under Loki's mind/heart control.


War Machine? What about the whole goddamn Air Force? I mean, there's an aerial invasion of the US and the best the American military can do is send freakin' humvees? Not even a squadron of gunships?


The movie is not flawless. Your article is not flawless. Nothing humans do is flawless. I enjoyed the movie enough to forget about nitpicking. You have greater ability in that area than I. Congratulations.


It was not perfect but I rather liked it, and I am willing to see it again. However I am going to wait for the DVD/Blu-ray release to see all of the extras they add.

My critiques/rant:
After a while the one liners got to me, I mean yeah they were funny ("He's Adopted" "Puny God" Etc.), but I would have liked to hear some real dialogue between the characters. (However it has been stated the the next film should be more "personal")
The weak villains; Yes, personally I would have liked to see some more/other villians along with Loki. However I think that Loki only being after revenge (one-dimensional nature) is suitable for this film as revenge and avenge are two sides of the same coin. Basically the villain's and the heroes's goals were equal. And I think they do explain that Loki's mind control is most effective on the weak willed/minded, so to me it makes sense that Dr. Selvig from Thor could partially resist it.
Hawkeye; I think that adding him to Loki's side for a bit helped to showcase his skills, abilities, and usefulness. Which would have seemed less significant with Thor, Cap, and Iron Man around. And even though we (as the audience) were not invested in him at that point, we want him back with SHIELD and The Avengers a.k.a. the good guys.
As for the opening, RD Jr. talked to Whedon about an into featuring Stark, however both he and Whedon agreed that it did not really work for the film. ( So the new opening was probably not as in-depth as they would have wanted it to be, but after making at least one completely different opening they did not want to invest too much time/money/effort into another one.
Finally one thing that also really bugged me was the lack of other heroes. Are we supposed to believe that Spider-man (Who is excusable for corny one-liners) is just like "Fuck this, i'm out."? That The Fantastic Four are unconcerned with their city/base being destroyed by an alien invasion?
And the lack of War Machine did leave me wondering why he was not there, at least for the final fight. I know he is a soldier/pilot for the U.S. Gov't, but you would think that SHIELD should have enough influence to get him into the final fight for some "crowd control" with his heavy weaponry. Granted I am not into the comic books, and the other films are seperate from this canon, however they made it seem like (to me anyways) the heroes in The Avengers are the only ones around, and that there are no others on Earth.

(Anything else I did not mention is probably because I don't really care, as this rant is already long enough, or it has already been commented on by someone else eg using the "Jotunheim to conquer the Chitauri." or the Chitauri being red-shirts. )


If you want to see some "normal" movie, than do not see this one, because this movie is not the typical movie you are going to see every day at the cinema. This movie is inspired in the Marvel Universe. You can´t change the context of the characters like it was made , for example in the awful Dragon Ball Z Evolution, it is possible to do subtle alterations to make it look right, because that do not offend the creator. And for me this movie proves that it is possible to do anything if you had the imagination to do it.


I loved the movie. I think most of your critics are pretty baseless. Why is there soooo much avengers infighting? Because they are all huge personalities that clash in several different ways and that clash was going to continue until they had SOMETHING TO UNITE THEM. like, say… AVENGING Agent Coulson? Avenging… where have I heard that recently? oh yeah, that's in the name of the fucking movie, in case you didn't get the point. They united out of respect for a fallen comrade, someone who helped every one of them (albeit in ways large and small) at some point in time. This is all pretty obvious in the film, yet you managed to not include them anywhere in your critique.

PS, I love the people that say don't waste your time on this movie if you have a life and then proceed to write an ESSAY about what they didn't like about the movie. Hilarious!


"Yeah, Manhattan took the worst of it, but the rest of the Earth has to be watching and thinking, “'Oh, it’s cool, nothing to worry about.'”

Not sure that this makes the villains incompetent.

Take a look at hostile invaders in the last 80+ years of movies, comics, and in real life. King Kong. Lex Luthor. Bin Laden. Aside from the Nazis (and Godzilla, of course), when the baddies want to make a really big statement to us Earthlings, New York City almost always gets it first, and worst.

It's what bad guys do.

Oddly, though, this time, the baddies didn't manage to take out any major landmarks. The Empire State Building remained relatively intact.

Maybe Whedon's saving that for the sequel. :)


Just one comment on your question about why Loki doesn't get an army from Jotunheim . . . they hate him. Jotuns are a bunch of bullies that don't like anything smaller, weaker, or with a shred of something resembling intelligence. Loki was left in the temple to die by Laufey because he was an embarrassment to the race of frost giants. It would be like a runt lion cub trying to take control of a pride after being reared by compassionate chimps . . . not going to happen.


Man, I'm going to be honest. Saw it at midnight, it was great. Saw it at 7:00 a week later, and it wasn't. Quite frankly, it grated my nerves the entire movie to realize how many holes there were in the movie. Just simple, logical things that were completely wrong. Like the fact that fighting Loki, Captain America just kind of falls from the sky. No noise, no parachute. And Thor tries to murder Iron Man and Captain America! Mjolnir was unblockable in his movie, so, by extension, he would've thought it unblockable when he hits Stark. Plus, Hawkeye was completely brainwashed by Loki, but the Doctor, strictly for the sake of the plot, was able to create a way to destroy the cube? I don't know. Maybe I'm nitpicking. But it just seems like incredibly lazy writing, more focused on one-liners than actually making a movie that can be watched (and enjoyed) more than once.


I have to disagree that Hawkeye is wasted. Out of the six avenger members, four of them have at least one movie featuring them, and we all know what Natasha is capable of from the second Iron Man film. What, then, about Hawkeye? He seems to be the character least portrayed within this series of filmic franchise of the Avengers. He has only appeared as cameo in Thor’s movie. So what way is it the best for introducing this character which we have particularly no previous idea of apart from pulling the bow for a couple of seconds? Simple – we turn him to the dark side for the first half of the film. Let us all not forget the review suggests that the villains are weak. So by turning Hawkeye to the dark side for half the film's length, it does not only "strengthen up" the villains, but it allows the portrayal and development of this character to quite an extent. If Hawkeye remains with the Avengers throughout, he will simply be overwhelmed by the other members in terms of ability and strength, and will become a totally underdeveloped character. In that case, Hawkeye will then be truly wasted. .


It's shocking how little you know about comic books.

Traci Loudin

What a thorough review! I agree with a lot of what you mentioned, although I think the "It's Kind of Plotless" part is less about what didn't work and more about the genre in general. The latest installment of Batman has been setting the bar high, but for the most part, I think of comic book movies as a subset of action movies, which are always a little light on plot. Another thing that didn't really work for me was how the Hulk goes from seemingly out of control of "the other guy" to being suddenly focused at the end. I would have loved to see a scene in the middle where he learns to control himself better as the Hulk, perhaps in an indestructible room Iron Man has specially built for him or something, since the two seem to hit it off so well. It would have made for a better transition. I wrote more about this, Black Widow's characterization, Hawkeye as damsel in distress, and who the real heroes of this movie are over at my blog: I linked to this article for what you wrote about Hawkeye being stuck on the sidelines for most of the movie. Thanks for the great write-up!


Well I adored the movie. And though I think the movie started a little slow, once it hits its stride it just delivers. And as far as having weak villains – I found Tom Hiddleston's performance to be exactly what I was hoping for. I believe Chris Hemsworth does a decent job as Thor but he was a little boring in the Thor movie and honestly I had a tremendously hard time rooting for him (And this is despite the fact that I do read marvel comics and THOR is my favourite marvel hero) . On the other hand I did cheer for Loki till the very end and was left wondering 'Why the hell is this movie called THOR'. Hiddleston stole the show with a very sympathetic Loki and you understand his motivations in the avengers because its generally assumed you've watched Thor and seen its ending. And I think he translates loki very well from one movie to the other because, yes, he's this nefarious foe but he holds onto the real tragedy of his character even in Avengers and having watched the Thor movie you can understand why he's become so wounded and villainous.
And its probably been pointed out but – why in the world would the frost giants agree to help Loki? The guy who deceived them, murdered their king and then tried to destroy their entire race. I think you need to watch the Thor movie again and maybe form some second opinions.


I enjoyed the film, truly. A few plot holes, but what film or story doesn't? Shoot. Real life has plot holes LOL

By the way Agent Coulson isn't dead, think about it. You saw him expire, with a medical team responding within 15 seconds. Furry saw this as a binding moment to manipulate, which he does well. Do remember that Coulson's death was the codifying moment for the Avengers.

Plus, the actor who plays Coulson is in a 6 deal contract. This is only his 5th film.

Avengers SUCKED

This movie is for homo WOW fans. If you have a life avoid this pile of rubbish.

Over Rated Movie

Movie was so so. So over rated. Bunch of 1 liners. Really don't want to see it again.


It was the best movie I've seen all year. Some of these criticisms, in my opinion, are nothing. Most of them are "big whoop". I don't see why you have to find the tiniest flaws in everything, including this amazing movie. Find something else to do with your time. LOL


The ending was fine because the solo sequals will answer the questions of how they are and what they do next. The Avengers is about the 4 main characters… The supporting cast is great but they are the supporting cast. If you put too much time on them you lose out on the main characters. I applaud Whedon and just hope he's on board for Avengers II.

Movie Jit

Quotes from The Avengers and Other New Releases
Movie Jit – Best Movie Dialogues Forever


Oh and another thing, how the hell does Thor get back to Earth? I thought the Bifrost was destroyed, and how did he even know where Loki was?


My only question is once Iron Man is in space how the hell does he just fall back to Earth and through the portal? Cause correct me if I'm wrong but there is no gravity in space, so wouldn't he just float off and die??? Besides that huge plot hole it was a pretty good movie. Thor 2 better not get f*ck*d up cause I am straight jacked for that.


If Manipulative Marketing Keeps Making Money… Why Stop Making Bad Movies?

I recently sat through over two hours of cheesy one-liners, and I’m left wondering whether the 92% favorable rating given to The Avengers by critics on Rotten Tomatoes means they’re all on the studio’s payroll or just didn’t think critically enough. I’m also beyond confused as to why Marvel didn’t hire Jon Favreau, Kenneth Branagh, Joe Johnson or Louis Leterrier – or indeed any director with the genuine talent to tell a story. Joss Whedon has no credibility for this project, and was clearly out of his depth. What a waste – of the studio’s money, and of mine as a frequent moviegoer and shareholder. To mention nothing of the minds of Americans, which this movie will help to further dumb down into thinking that hype and CGI make a “good story” despite grossing $200M+ opening weekend. But unlike other consumer products, smarter moviegoers can’t “return” their viewing of this movie for a refund.

Let’s begin with the script, which is appallingly low-minded. Even a fast-paced comic-book-
hero action movie can and should contain thoughtful, character-revealing dialogue (dialogue meaning more than two sentences per utterance, at least now and then!). It becomes quickly impossible to care at all about any of these once-special characters, each of whom is reduced to sheer flatness.

Nor is there any discernable armature (moral) – just a vague sense that the movie is flogging to death the platitude of how awesome America is because it’s full of rag-tag teams of really special, gifted people who are destined to save the world from some nebulous evil. The entire plot is, in fact, disconnected and rambling. On the one hand, the movie makes the sweeping assumption that every moviegoer will already know the backstory of the characters (It opens with Loki arriving and being introduced as Loki. End of introduction.) Why not set up each character (as well as the concept of S.H.I.E.L.D) in a way that ties all the prior movies together into this one? But regardless of the lack of backstory and context-setting, the plot is full of outrageously intelligence-insulting turns that are devoid of both logic and human (or superhero) authenticity. Loki plans to use the Hulk against the group – because in a convenient up-ending of logical continuity, the Hulk’s first rage in this movie will be unleashed on anyone and anything around him and be unable to distinguish his friends and enemies. The Black Widow announces that apparently, a blow to the head is sufficient to clear Loki’s magical mind-controlling energy zaps. Loki opens a hole in the sky and randomly brings in Transformers-esque aliens to help him in his feebly articulated quest to “free Earth from freedom”.

Kudos to critics like A. O. Scott for telling the truth about this movie and Whedon’s failed vision for The Avengers. Just because people spend their money on something hotly anticipated doesn’t mean it’s good. This movie is a crass manipulation of people to cough up money to cover the studio’s ill-spent investment, and you can keep doing this because moviegoers are not entitled to demand a refund for the waste of two hours of their life. Nor, can they take you to court over product misrepresentation through trailers that set a tone of quality that the feature film doesn’t even begin to reach. Clearly, it’s time for that kind of consumer protection in the movie industry, because failing that it seems unlikely that studios will actually take responsibility for the egregious waste of resources that goes into churning out mediocre movies like The Avengers, let alone the outright duplicity of packaging it as something worthwhile and meaningful.


I can agree with most of these criticisms, but not about the ending being rushed. I really think they got it just right in not spending a ton of time on resolutions and concluding exposition. Too many films these days completely kill all their momentum and excitement by not being able to wrap it up quickly. But here, the audience is still on a high when the credits roll.


Well..from the scene during the credits the last thing you have to worry about in Avengers 2 is a weak villain. You'll get all the strong personality of someone like Dark Knight's Joker mixed with intelligence and strength beyond any of the Avengers.


Great points. The Avengers had GREAT action, great comedy, and great interaction between "the Avengers" making it a highly enjoyable movie. What it didn't have is a great plot. It didn't tell a great story. As you mentioned the opening could have played much better, and Loki's motivation, and scheme could have been better/clearer. Maria Hill could have been given more to do to avoid the Black Widow being the only female with more than a token amount of screen time. I disagree with you on Hawkeye, yes Jeremy Renner was wasted, but I don't know that anybody walked out of the theater thinking I need more Hawkeye.

It will be really interesting to see what they do with the second movie. It appears the plot will involve aliens attacking, and there's certainly going to be some friction/in-fighting within the group, so it will be fascinating to see what they do to differentiate it and if they can top themselves.


Like all of the other criticisms of The Avengers that are out there, you are just trying to hard. We don't care about Hawkeye? You even hit the nail on the head when you said the point was to create emotional investment for Widow, and then dismissed it as not good enough. That's what the zombifying of Hawkeye was for, and it was great. Complaining about the time spent on the in-fighting is also idiotic. What makes this this movie great is that they shouldn't work as a team, but the come together anyway. The only criticism that is barely warranted is the one-dimensional nature of Loki. However, anyone who says you don't need to see Thor before you watch this movie is wrong. If you saw how Thor ended, you know what you need to know about Loki. He's not even the one calling the shots, he basically is told by The Other that he will suffer unimaginable pain if he fails. For all we know he dropped in on Thanos at the end of Thor and had to plead for his life.. and convince him that he could conquer Earth.


You pretty much nailed it on most counts.
I hadn't considered the War Machine angle, but I also didn't miss him either, so that is what it is.
As for Hawkeye, does anyone REALLY believe there won't be a Hawkeye movie? Make no mistake that Renner is expecting a big paycheque when his turn comes round. I agree we aren't that vested in the arrow thrower, but when he finally arrives on the light side, we are impressed. Not a great redemption, but a redemption moment after a fashion.
Despite it's flaws, it will stand equally with Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy as a benchmark of what a Comic book movie CAN be as opposed to what they typically are.

Well done


You guys need to get laid.


I'm fascinated by how polarizing having slightly different opinions on The Avengers can be. It's not as if there's been a serious negative review of the movie– even septuagenarian Joe Morgenstern's "fitfully enjoyable" review at the Wall Street Journal included a caveat that he was feeling particularly cranky that day, due to bad 3D glasses. But even to suggest that the film was imperfect seems heresy to some, who consider it the epitome of cinematic art. It's certainly an enjoyable, entertaining flick, but hardly perfect. Whedon well deserves the plaudits for handing a difficult juggling act, under a tight filming schedule, to craft a true "comic book" movie. It's just that, yes, it could have been even better.

A week ago, I wrote a similar piece– on, no less– covering what I saw as weaknesses in the movie. The review above hits most of them. We're told that the first cut of the film ran 3 hours — with 30 minutes to appear as extras on disc. Perhaps some of the excised parts might fill in the cracks. Although, there's not much to be done with how minimally threatening and one-dimensional the Chitauri are as an alien conquering army. The greatest threat in the end is man-made, in the form of the cliched alien ship-killing nuke. You'd think by now they would have a defence against such "primitive" technology.


Given that, I'm not an Avengers apologist. So my biggest beef with the movie – and a real weak point, to me – is that they used yet another alien invasion to rally the troops. So, okay, yeah, somewhat truthful to the comics, maybe, but do we really need to see yet another alien invasion on screen? I think they should have made The Avengers face off against a global supervillain team headed by Loki instead. That would have expanded the Marvel movie universe tremendously, when you are made to realise that the US does not have a monopoly on superheroes. Then the following Marvel movies could go globetrotting.


The second part of this article is rather weak and it really just goes to show how awesome The Avengers movie is, that people have to struggle to find the weak spots. Most of the attempted reasoning don't work because the whole goddam movie was like a giant steamroll that levels everything in its path and doesn't let the glaring holes jar our attention for a moment. That's why the absence of plot doesn't matter – it's more like going to watch a WWF match, where you go for the sheer adrenaline and not the dramatics.

I found the opening ironic, and perhaps deliberately so, because it so out of sync with the rest of the film's mood. Then again. It is also a pretty workable metaphor as a peek into Loki's soul – all dark, obscure and with a hint of despair about it. I don't mind missing Hawkeye because we never had a relationship with him from the previous movies, so this is his jumping off point whereas the others already had theirs in the other movies. Besides, we already had so many character stories to keep track of on screen.


It's "Rhodey" not "Rhodesy" but that's the only thing I have to correct. There isn't anything here that I don't agree with and I'm the kind of read-every-issue Avengers fan who you should expect to trounce all over your high-brow film critical ignorance. In fact, I'll add that CGI was overused. Why can't a stuntman or Chris Evans himself jump six feet with a running start? Why did they spend money animating a cartoon character to perform this basic feat? The Avengers was pretty decent but people need to calm down with the Kool-Aid.

Michael Kontaxis

Dear whoever wrote this… Don't let fanboy commenters get you down. Your article is perfect. Yes, the film was great (in my eyes one of the top 2 best comic book film of all time) but its flawed. My biggest issues were the villains and the ridiculous threat/bizarre plot. But the fact that the film worked so well nonetheless is a testament to it. The humor in particular was top-notch.


Hulk had his moments but has everyone gone doolally? Could someone explain to me how, in the first half of the movie, Hulk can't control his anger and wants to annihilate Black Widow and anything and everything, and then conveniently, in the second half of the movie, he can stand still and be cool and obedient, and be sentient and engaged…? It just doesn't compute!


They reel off some clunky technojargon

"There may not be a minimum safe distance!"

"Then get all the protypes for phase 2 on a truck and out of here then!"

"is that really a priority"


Yeah, TOTAL technojargon… ??? and not a *plot* point at all


Loki didn't go to Jotunheim because maybe, just maybe because he betrayed and killed Laufey, revealing his true plan to use Laufey's attempt on Odin's life as an excuse to destroy Jotunheim with the Bifrost Bridge and proving himself to Odin


So I think whoever wrote this just went for 5 and 5 because of the symmetry…never mind the fact that the complaints are at best nit-picking.

1. The pacing in the film is great. One thing Whedon has always been good at was pacing. Not an insane start, but it builds, which of course this movie did.

2. Fair point, we should have more Hawkeye.

3. Okay, not a terrible point, but it worked. Read the original Avengers. Loki's only goal was to use the Hulk to cause some destruction.

4. Can't say I agree, but whatever. We don't know that Fury abandoned using the tesseract to make weapons, he's just waiting to see what the heroes can do first. I highly doubt he has a change of heart. If I know the character the way I think I do, phase 2 was being continued during the whole final battle just in case it didn't work out.

5. You can't say this movie gets the heroes right and then complain that the newscasters don't do justice to the chaos or the implications of aliens….again this was true to the comics. Either they go for hyper realism or they get the comics right. They got them right, which you pointed out. They put the comics back into the whole thing.

Last but not least, this is a side note….but I really hate the insinuation that extra terrestrial life means "all religions just got a MASSIVE page one rewrite." That's just an ignorant assumption from someone who doesn't understand religion. If alien life exists elsewhere, or if there are parallel universes it doesn't disprove anything. It just means there's more than we're aware of. I mean no matter what religion you are, if your god created the world and didn't tell you he created others that doesn't prove anything. I think most faith's agree that their god(s) don't OWE them anything. A simple analogy: Just because you go to a friend's house, look at his refrigerator and see people's pictures you've never met doesn't mean your friend is a lie….


Great article if you ignore the second page. Maybe some things didn't work, but Hawkeye was in NO WAY one of these things. I could argue against the rest, but the other comments are pretty much handling that already.


Posted this on whedonesque, but I'll copy and paste:

"I agree on what worked, but don't really care much for their didn't work examples. I'm not saying they were wrong all the time, I'm saying it didn't bother me. For example, yes, some characters were a bit wasted, but you can only focus on so many characters in one movie. And one of the reasons Hawkeye was sent off and Maria Hill was in the background was because we didn't care about them as much due to us not "knowing them" very well from other movies, so the focus was on the other characters that we did know and care more about. I don't think there was time for anything else, without letting fan favorites take a back seat.

A thing I thought was flat out on the list wrong was saying the plotlessness was bad. Instead of a lot of stuff going on, we got to see the characters interact, which to me was really great. The time spent on the ship, when I guess one could say the plot stood still, was terrific. of course, that's my preference. I also liked the opening, thought the villains were good enough. Loki was creepy and scary, the army was just that, and army, that didn't have to be more scary than their numbers made them. And I think the ending was good enough, a way to tie up lose ends and show everyone going off in different directions. If we had to see more people on the news saying "OMG aliens! OMG portals! OMG Gods!" that might have been too much."


Imdb is too good of a site to even feature a writer of this nature poorly argued bait and switch tactic only works with points the fans and critics can relate to not one mans rush attempt to do good vs bad article he praises the more famous actors but yet those with impressive performances he bags on because why? They arent as famous?

Jason todd

The guy who wrote this is an over-anal comic book nerd he bags on all the stuff that wasnt bad
He reminds me of a rocketeer superfan


Why doesn’t Loki go about assembling an army from Jotunheim to conquer the Chitauri, then set two alien races upon the earth?

Oh I don't know, maybe because he betrayed and killed Laufey, revealing his true plan to use Laufey's attempt on Odin's life as an excuse to destroy Jotunheim with the Bifröst Bridge, proving himself worthy to his father.


This is bullshit, obviously the guy who wrote this artical must really hate the avengers. Almost all the bad things he wrote about it is not true a all. The opening was good, Hiddleston played a awesome loki, it's NOT plotless and the ending was very good, giving you some to think about. I have to admit that it was right about Hawkeye, perhaps he was a litte wasted and after the movie I was kinda wondering where Wat machine was.


Gotta disagree on the weak villains; The dragon Chitauri ship thing was badass and Loki is, if not one of my favorite character, my favorite villain. Tom Hiddleston did an amazing job as Loki and you know why he's angry and wants to conquer earth because you've seen Thor! Alot of these points, like about the ending and no plot bit, they can all be answered in the previous movies or in the following Marvel movies.


Oh, awesome! Another article about the Avengers. I can't wait to read, "Five Things I Smelled While Watching The Avengers" and "Top Ten Performances by Background Extras in The Avengers". Fuck me, this is getting ridiculous.


You do know that all the answers you want from the ending are easy to infer and will be answered in future movies (Oh yeah millions of people were saved by the Avengers and that would be a bigger story than those lost, and they even have a scene in the montage of people grieving together, but the fact that they were saved is a bigger deal)? You also know where Cap is going: he's going to find Peggy and eventually stumble upon her niece Sharon. Clint and Nat are going to go do what they do but they are still technically SHIELD agents. This leaves Thor and Loki to deal with probably something far worse than Loki in The Almighty Thor. Which finally leaves us with Bruce and Tony heading off to California and then China. Where Tony will probably need his friend Bruce, to battle something called FING FANG FOOM. Rhodey might show up as well but while the lack of shout out to Rhodey is glaring, he does not work for Stark Industries, and is an officer in the US Air Force. He's also across the country in California.

You also doubting they will assemble again, after a 200m dollar opening is pretty damn funny. They are the Avengers and will assemble when called. They heed the call. It's who they are.


I disagree about Loki. Hiddleston was the surprise in Thor and here he is even better. Yes, he's sneers but does so so deliciously he's as good as a villian as jeff Bridges was in Iron Man.

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