Mixed feelings about this one. On the one hand there were some good moments and some great set pieces – the final half-hour long battle was pretty spectacular and must have been still more so in the cinema. On the other, I think one’s first feeling on looking at the poster is – wow, there sure is a lot going on in that film, might it all become a muddle? And, yeah, it did. Great cooking doesn’t necessarily involve every spice in the rack.
The central players were all decent enough, it’s just that there were too many vying for attention. Having had so many of their back stories set up in other Marvel films over the past few years certainly helped and leant a bit of depth, but there wasn’t much room for development within this film. One member we hadn’t seen before (I don’t think, anyway), was the only female member of the crew, Black Widow. I thought Scarlett Johansen was a bit of an odd casting choice there, not that I dislike her as an actor but they could have done with someone with, I don’t know, a bit more edge. She rather lacked oomph as a character too. No doubt she kicked a bit of ass, but amongst a bunch of mega powered men calling down the lightning, zooming about jet-powered and demolishing buildings, Black Widow’s significant contributions all seemed to consist of tricking men using her sexy/vulnerable feminine wiles.
There was a bit of a frustrating lack of consistency in places. I know I keep banging this drum and it matters less in some contexts than others, but even so, it always seems to me that it’s as easy to have things make sense in a script as to have them not make sense, and far preferable. The Hulk, for example. One moment he was an uncontrollable menace, deadly to friend and foe alike. The next he was quite capable of co-operating with others, taking instruction and, indeed, grinning at his cohorts like everyone’s loveable green best mate.
There was a slightly odd imbalance too in that, typically in these superhero movies, the hero faces a more powerful villain with greater resources and must use grit and ingenuity or the power of love or whatever to prevail against the odds, whereas here you had five or six really highly powered superheroes, backed up by the bottomless resources of the world’s combined governments facing, well, Loki on his own, really. You couldn’t help feeling a bit sorry for Loki. Rooting for the underdog. He it was who had to come up with all the clever schemes, take the chances and stay on the offensive while the Avengers squabbled, dithered, and squandered their home advantage. Loki was – I dunno – sort of the hero of the film, wasn’t he? He certainly had more good lines than anyone else. The result was that the plot sputtered along for most of the considerable length, lots of time spent with the heroes rather bittily reacting to minor crises of their own making.
Hey, given the amount to juggle, it could have been a lot worse. It had it’s moments, and I’d probably watch another one. I remain to be convinced that our Superheroes aren’t better served up individually, though…
EDIT: I haven’t expressed my thoughts about Black Widow very well. There are some further ruminations on the representation of women in the film (or lack thereof) lower down the comments.
88 comments so far
Black Widow was featured in Iron Man 2 previously.
Poor Joe. Black Widow was in Iron Man 2.
And as for the Hulks ‘inconsistency’, I think at the end of The Incredible Hulk its implied he has gained control over his Hulk side, and when he willingly goes into it at the end it confirms it. That isnt to say, when he randomly gets hit by an explosion that it wont slip out in a fit like it used to.
I completely agree in regards to Scarlett Johansen’s casting. It was a little out-of-place. I think they came up with a very short list of attractive redheaded female actors and she was the only one that stood out.
As for the Hulk… well, the character has always had that dual-nature thing going for him. In the comics it’s much the same. One moment he’s destroying everything in sight in a rage, the next he’s helping defeat whatever bad guy is attacking the Earth. I think where he lands basically depends on who it was that pissed him off: if it’s the good guys, he’s beating on them. If it’s the bad guys, he’s beating on them. In this case, they gave it a bit of an explanation by having Banner choose to become the Hulk, giving him some control.
Loki had some great lines, but I didn’t think of him so much as the hero of the movie as the pawn of a greater evil. Was pleased to see that hunch confirmed with the mid-credit scene.
Frankly, though, some of the battle scenes made the movie that much better by combining characters’ fighting styles pretty seamlessly. I’ve seen the movie a few times, mind you, and all in the theater so I had a better chance to notice those details. Plus, without the team movie, how else would you have been able to see Stark and Banner engage in scientific banter, or see the Hulk cold-clock Thor?
It was fun. But I think I’m from the Garth Ennis school of thought in that Super Heroes are inherently ridiculous. Just cant take them seriously.
Hah. Well, I didn’t see Iron Man 2. Or probably the latest Hulk either. Nor am I particularly conversant with the comics. I guess that’ll learn me…
Certainly some of the action was spectacular, just can’t help thinking it would’ve made for better balance to have a few more super-powered villains for them to face. As it was you just had Loki, who ain’t really a match for Thor alone, and hordes of cannon fodder.
Modern science has probably found a way to extend the possible list of red-haired actors through the use of some kind of hair dye…
Certainly the levels of power have to be kept in some kind of compass and balance. Part of the problem here was that Thor is ultra-highly powered, Iron Man is very highly powered, Captain America is considerably less so, and Black Widow is more or less on the very highly trained ordinary human level (correct me if I’m wrong, that was my impression), so the relative contributions are more than a bit distorting. It’s like they have to find contributions for the weaker characters to make, when you can’t help thinking you’d actually just get Thor to destroy all opposition with lightning bolts from his ass while Iron Man mops up. The rest of us will be in the pub.
good critique. felt the same way.
I worry a little that too many villains would unbalance things quite a bit; we see what happened when they started adding them in the Batman movies, and the Spider-Man trilogy. Doing so in such an already-large movie might not be the best call.
Though if they go the route I hope to see with Thanos, they won’t need any other villains. Or really any armies at all. Thanos will be powerful enough to handle the lot of them. More than powerful enough, in fact. Which is why I expect to see their roster expand a bit.
“Great cooking doesn’t necessarily involve every spice in the rack.”
Joe: Considering Ms. Johansson isn’t an actual redhead anyways… I get your drift, though. I just can’t come up with a good reason to choose her over other actresses that may have been better-suited for the role.
Regarding Loki’s supposed inferiority to Thor, it has been stated on the Internet that Loki gets exactly what wants at the end of the movie. He’s free of his obligation to the Chitauri, and he’s back in Asgard (albeit in chains, but seriously, how long is that going to last with his smooth-talking wits up against the HONORFAMILYMEAD-constrained minds of his peers). I guess Thor 2 will tell, and the death of a major character in that movie has been hinted at…
I really enjoyed the film in the cinema, and I thought it was interesting that a film with relatively little plot could be so exciting and fun. I even went and saw it a second time a few weeks ago, and enjoyed it all over again. I suspect that this is a film that gets an extra boost from the big screen, big sound system experience (and I had the far too rare experience of enjoying having a full cinema audience around me too – reacting and enjoying the film together).
I’m glad you enjoyed it too (albeit with reservations) though I think you might have liked it more at the cinema. It didn’t feel muddled or stuttering to me even though I can see the sense of some of the points you make.
As a small nitpick, I thought Black Widow made significant contributions putting down Hawkeye and getting up to and closing the portal device. In each situation the film takes a moment to note the courage of being scared out of your mind, and then getting up and kicking ass anyway. I think it might be unnecessarily dismissive to say that all her significant contributions were tricking men with her sexy/vulnerable feminine wiles.
What did you think of the post-credits villain teaser?
Maybe. I just felt given she’s the only female presence they could have done more with her.
As far as the end credits bit, er, I turned it off while the credits were rolling. Why can’t they get the job done during the bloody film these days? Grrr. Get off my lawn!
I felt like it was a good enough film, but definitely agree we could have used more bad guys. Perhaps if they make another one you could lend them Shenkt? Or just go all out and give The Hundred Words a cameo.
The guy that plays Loki is a true talent. I hope he gets cast when the first law HBO series gets made. Possibly as Jezal or Calder.
I see what you mean. I think that they might have done better having more female presences (a woman with powers really). Not sure how they will do this going forward, but it’s definitely a gap (and one which I agree that Black Widow does not fill by her lonesome).
Post-credits – long story short, the Chitauri chap that Loki talks with during the film is merely an underling of Thanos. In the post-credits bit, a mention of ‘courting death’ is made by the underling, and Thanos turns his big purple corrugated chin to the camera and smiles. I thought it was terrible; just watched it again and it contains the line: “they are unruly and therefore cannot be ruled”..
Yeah, it was definitely lacking in tension. But damn, it was just too much fun for me to care. I thought Tony Stark had all the best lines though, not Loki. Honestly I find Loki a boring villain.
Yeah I know what you mean even though I did really, really, REALLY enjoy the film – that last half-hour of action was stunning. I think my main problem with it was that Loki wasn’t threatening enough. He was good here, but he was far better in Thor – so much more savage and desperate – Branagh’s direction was sublime in that film.
In Avengers however, even Black Widow could out-think him – I mean sweet baby Jesus, guys, Loki’s the Trickster God! That means God of Tricks. *sigh* I suppose Whedon needed an excuse for the “mewling quim” line, so I can’t really begrudge him that… but it’s like every time Loki got close to being threatening something happened to take him down a peg.
And I am DYING for a blockbuster comic book movie to have a decent female main character. If I have to sit through another “Catwoman” or “Elektra” I will GOUGE OUT MY OWN EYES. Sadly, there are very few decent female main characters in the actual comics, so it’ll probably be a long time coming.
I thought the movie was a bit overrated. It was fun and for action it was nails, but Loki’s plot was paper-thin, though I appreciated Namor’s insight – it seems like Loki was really in a win-win so long as he didn’t die, which seems particularly difficult.
I liked it fine, I’d stack it up in that second tier, with Iron Man and its sequel, Batman Begins, Dark Knight Rises, etc.
It’s just not Spider-Man 2 or The Dark Knight.
I LOVED Avengers. I thought the characters worked and their actions and reactions made sense in the light of the previous films. (Can’t judge Hulk, though, because I’ve not seen any of the Hulk movies.) I was particularly happy that the forming of the ‘family’ was done on screen, with all the power play and testosterone a gathering of ueber-powered men would entail.
I came out of the cinema grinning like a fool, and the 15 or so strangers who had also gotten up early on that Saturday morning looked as ready to high-five me as I was them. (Sorry, I can’t grammar.)
I can’t help but agree on the casting of Black Widow, though. ScarJo is too…pouty, I think. I’d like to have seen someone more bad-ass, like, I dunno, Summer Glau? Or Claudia Black.
PS: PUNY GOD.
PPS: @CountSpatula: AMEN.
I thought it was as good as it could have been. I agree there was a large potential for things to become muddled, so keeping the development and story light was for the best.
Seeing it at the cinema, the sheer spectacle kept me entertained, Avengers Assemble is the most fun I’ve had in the cinema this year. Though I can imagine that spectacle being diminished on the small screen, which would make the films short comings all the more apparent.
Going off on a slight tangent, I don’t agree with JonathanL’s ranking of comic films, for me Batman Begins and the 1st Iron Man are top rank, and I prefered The Dark Knight Rises to The Dark Knight.
I must confess that I watched it with the sound relatively low for fear of waking up the kids. I can imagine in the cinema with big sound it’s a lot more impressive.
Headphones are the solution to that particular problem…..
But surely you heard all the words, despite the down-turned sound? Did you not find it funny at all, Joe? I remember laughing and laughing, and when I read the quotes on imdb just now, I had giggle-fits all over again. Did you have no laugh-out loud moments? That’d make me sad. 🙁
There is a perfectly good excue for the Hulk going crazy one minute and be completely under control the next. Kevin Feige (head of Marvel) said that when Bruce Banner touched Loki’s staff (oo-er) then it did something to him due to the corruption in the staff and that’s why he goes bonkers at Black Widow and only chooses to later on. Thought I’d help clear that up.
For sure there were some laughs, and some good visual gags. ‘He’s adopted’ being my favourite line but, I dunno, I guess I found Thor funnier in Thor and Iron Man funnier in Iron Man. It felt like less than the sum of its parts, if you know what I mean.
If only we could all feel the calming influence of Loki’s rod.
“Clench up, Legolas.” 🙂
But yeah, I see where you’re coming from.
Have you considered a Google+ page. I’ve noticed that your blog gets a lot of traffic and I’ve seen quite a few authors who use Google.
Just a thought…..
I hadn’t ever really considered some of the points you brought up, but giving it some more thought, that seems to be a typical formula that comes out with any of the projects that Josh Wheedon works on/directs (breezy pacing, smart dialogue/banter and nonsensical plotting, with a scattered handful of emotionally poignant moments and ass kickery thrown in for good measure).
That said, concerning the discrepancies in power between heroes, comics have always been a mirror for humanity to hold up and catch a glimpse of our own projected common vulnerabilities. What makes these characters fascinating is how their strengths carry an odd duality that is also (at times) a crippling liability. No part in the film proved this better then when Black Widow was chased in the Shield Flying Fortress by an out of control, unstoppable Hulk. Yeah, she’s just a human, but she uses her savvy and wit to get out of harms way while the Hulk goes about in a rage trying to destroy the collective efforts of his friends and humanity. The sense of claustrophobia there was sublime, and I remember holding my breath in anticipation of what these two would do. There is no such similar pay-off when the Hulk gets screen time with Thor. So, in sense, it brings balance which these comic book writers have known for decades now. Just a thought! 🙂
Yep, with too many characters like that, it’s difficult to get much in the way of character development, you just see the group and that’s it. I’m a big comicbook fan, but never really got into the Avengers books for that reason.
Perhaps if they had all lost their powers in the film, it might have been more convincing to see them struggle against one lone man. It’s like seeing a Ferrari struggle on a race track against a Kia Picanto, it’s just not believable.
I like how you think Loki should have been the hero of the film. Is Hollywood ready for the level of anti-hero you’ve created in your own stories, Mr. Abercrombie?
You didn’t miss anything with Iron Man 2, Joe. Terrible flick.
This is a hard story to translate to film. You’re basically taking so many seperate components and trying to squeeze them into a watchable amount of time. Knowing the comic, knowing everything Whedon had to accomplish, I think the film was actually quite great.
RE, the Hulk, that was the one thing I think they got right. It was the biggest hurdle they had to leap, there was very little room to really work him into the story without it being disastrous and – being someone who read lots of Hulk comics in my youth – any other way would have either a.) sucked or b.) taken too much time out of the story to explain why he’s there as an Avenger without all that raging. It was a hard sell from the beginning and Whedon closed on it better than anyone else I can imagine.
Everybody I know expected the task of balancing the big characters to be impossible and came out thinking what an amazing job had been done.
Expectations are everything….
I see sfx has the first law trilogy at number one on it’s list of “Top 10 Fantasy Film Franchises Waiting To Happen”
Overall, I really enjoyed the film. I felt the focus of a single bad guy allowed JW to develop the mix of superheroes, how they interacted and got on with each other. So it was a good ‘set up’ movie, for me.
It was great to finally see a movie depiction of the Hulk that worked. I thought Mark Ruffalo was surprisingly good as Banner…
@ Graham – Ooooo indeed, though I would say Tom Hiddleston as Jezal as Dan suggested up there ^^ somewhere, would be way better than Ryan Gosling.
If I had to pinpoint the exact instant my mindset shifted from “It’s a movie, just go with it” to “I don’t have time for this”, it would undoubtedly be the moment an aircraft carrier hovered out of the ocean, floated a mile into the sky, and then cloaked itself.
For all the build up (or attempted build up), there was never really any doubt that everything would turn out just fine. The final battle felt like watching the Harlem Globetrotters play whoever that team is that they play just to show off.
Maybe it was the fact that every avenger was practically Invincible. Which aside from sucking the suspense out of the action scenes, really made the inter-avenger brawls very Looney Toons. Any one of them could knock the other a quarter mile away with a single blow, which seemed to cause a noticeable lack of damage to said avenger. For a group of heroes from different backgrounds, time periods and galaxies they were conveniently very evenly matched.
And as always the Men’s Health photo shoot appearance of all the main characters really watered down their intimidation factor. Thor is supposed to be a Viking Warrior God! But between the neatly groomed facial hair, highlights, and generously aesthetic armor, the finished product is more reminiscent of Fabio in a cheap Halloween costume. Captain America looks like a Backstreet boy, and to quote Chuck Hogan, Jeremy Renner’s “Bargain Bin Face” was a real incongruence to the popped collars, and skin-tight runway apparel he sported throughout the movie. Don’t heroes ever wear jeans?
I also found Hawkeye and Widow’s disproportionate amount of attitude irritating. Comparatively speaking, they really have nothing to brag about.
I recommend you avoid every superhero film ever made. They are all Harlem globetrotters. Even in Joe’s books it’s a fair assumption only one POV character will croak at the most and the something will happen to the others that will require some TCP. You might as well not watch a film like Dredd where the sequal is in the pipeline before the film is released, because, you know, Dredd ain’t gonna die in film one. Or two. Probably not three.
@Scott, speaking of death of superheroes in movies, I’m surprised Nolan chickened out at the end of TDKR. I saw no reason for him not to go the whole hog and kill off Batman except to provide us with a few more plot holes. It would have made sense for him to die at the end, and it’s not like Nolan’s going to make another one (I hope!)
I hate superheroes. I have to get that off my chest.
Only ones I could stand and have human empathy for are the characters from The Watchman, Spawn, League of Extraordinary Gentleman, Punisher, and so forth. They are normal people. Not “look guys, we’re from NY, the shining beacon of hope for humanity and [insert some elitist background society they are made up from]”.
At least Batman, even for being an upper class, snobby rich kid who is overly traumatized and beats up disabled people, understands things on some level it seems…here and there.
All true enough. But I don’t think it’s unreasonable to at least ask for a struggle. Some hero blood would be nice. Maybe some scratches on Thor’s highly polished armor. It’s not victory that disappoints me. It’s flawless victory that disappoints me.
Dredd sequel? That’s a shame. It seems Hollywood never misses an opportunity to beat a dead horse into something that resembles blended lasagna.
Have to disagree with this one. Thought Black Widow was fantastic considering all the big names that she was fighting next to. (Hulk, Thor anybody??) And you had the volume down? No sir, that will not do.
I thorughly enjoyed this. I thought it was near-miraculous how Whedon juggled all the elements andgave everyone their moments to shine.
I thought Ruffalo was a revelation as Banner/Hulk. Scarlett Whatsername had a pretty good role written for her, but she’s so wooden and dull she sucked most of the life out of it.
Overall, I felt that what could have a been the most monumental clusterfuck in cinema history was an extremely enjoyable, well-made piece of entertainment. And we don;t get too many of those these days.
Some people love Thai cooking, so do not.
( I meant “some do not” of course. )
One thing people don’t seem to have really understood, is in the Thor movie, Loki was going to be punished and probably banished from Asgard, which is why he lets himself fall into the abyss.
The entire plot of Avengers is Loki forcing Thor to return him to Asgard.
Anyone who has read the original comics would look at this and say “Wow, compared to his normal plots, that was relatively straight forward, obvious, and un-devious”.
You can’t trick Loki, and when you seem to have defeated him, really he has tricked you. That is his superpower, he is the avatar of trickery.
Avatar of Trickery would be a great band name.
I dont get homemade super heroes.
Sure Iron Mans suit is pretty cool but how could that cokehead from Less Then Zero survive any of that traumatic impact. The brain and other important organs ( and not so important organs, sorry gallbladder, spleen and kidney 2) cannot handle being thrown into a wall at 50 mph and come to a sudden stop. (80.467 KPH for Joe and his countrymen, and 43.448 knots for all our nautical friends)
Stark is human ( batman suffers the same unfortunate malady) but we are supposed to believe otherwise when he dons the coke can.
In regards to the movie, snore,snore, snore ……..Hulk Smash. Holy F@#%in Shite!!!!! This is awesome!!
Oh and where does Legolas Bourne store his endless supply of blowie up arrows?
First Law Trilogy at number one on SFX’s list of “Top 10 Fantasy Film Franchises Waiting To Happen”
= right where it should be. 😉
Thanks to Graham for the heads-up.
(However, I’d rather have The First Law as a TV series because then we could get at least about 12 hours of pleasure rather than about 6-9, assuming each book would be adapted to a film of 2-3 hours. Unless of course there was a director’s cut with at least an hour of extra footage, which seems unlikely.)
I have to agree with some of the comments above in regards to superheroes. Lets face it, most superheroes look like nobs. I just can’t take any of them seriously. Apart from Batman that is, he’s awesome.
If you like superhero bashing though, check out ‘The Boys’ by Garth Ennis. A group of government funded human operatives with the specific task of keeping super powered heroes in line. Very sick humour in it, but still mildly amusing.
Speaking of Mr Ennis..
Joe, you mentioned that you’ve never really been into comics much. I would highly recommend you check out the Preacher graphic novels by Garth Ennis if you’ve not already read them.
A disgraced Preacher from Texas inadvertently gets the voice of god and travels across America trying to find god (who has buggered off and left everything to go to pot) so he can make him answer for his crimes. As company he has the ghost of John Wayne for moral guidence and a hard drinking, fighting Irish Vampire as a friend. I read it years ago when it first came out and is still just as good (and slightly offensive) today.
First book in the series is ‘Gone to Texas’.
There’s even a character in it called ‘arseface’.
All the above should sell it to you 😉
I enjoyed the Avengers.
I accepted the change in the Hulk’s behaviour because on the last occasion Banner chooses to transform, instead of fighting against it. Also, Hulk and Banner both want the same thing. So, I was good with that.
The attitude thing with the Black Widow and Hawkeye seems oddly fitting to me. Iron Man, Thor, and even Captain America can afford to have human moments because they are super human. It must be terrifying for the humans operating in that world.
Yep, if I was going to tell someone to try some comics it would be “Preacher” and “Hitman” ( Both written by Ennis ) and “The Unwritten”.
If you gave them a try and were not interested, then comics are not for you.
I gave Preacher a go many years ago when it first came out, I think. Liked it well enough but didn’t find it hugely compelling. Just don’t know that it’s ever been a format that particularly spoke to me. That may be changing, though…
Joe, if you got a decent artist to collaborate with, the First Law could be pretty spectacular as a graphic novel.
Joe, Black Widow is in Ironman 2 – maybe you missed that one? But yes she’s there mostly as Eye Candy.
Damn….didn’t notice the comments page was already on number 2 – please feel free to point and laugh at my “Oh so late to the party” comment above….
I don’t think that Black Widow was all about her “feminine wiles” – she kicked a lot of butt all the way through the film, from beginning to end, and I think her character was made more impressive by the fact that she was the only one without super-powers or amazing equipment.
And the Hulk’s personality change made sense to me, considering that the first transformation was when he lost control, and the second was done of his own free will.
Scarlet Johansson is most definiely eye candy. A large portion of the male population would most definitely like to see physical evidence of her not being a natural redhead.
Talking about graphic novels again, The Invisibles by Grant Morrison is another good one to check out, if anything because it is so out there with conspiracy theories, aliens, alternate universes, end of the world etc. Is a fun read, but one that requires a lot of thinking.
The Sin City books are quite good fun too. Black and White Noire style with a sprinkling of dark humour.
I 3rd (or 4th) Tom Hiddleston for Jezal or possibly Bethod. He would be a great addition to the show no matter what role he played. We might as well start planning roles because it’s GOING TO HAPPEN!!!
The Hulk was under the sway of Loki’s scepter. That’s why Banner lost control while on the shield helecarrier.
You missed a plot point point or two that would have cleared up the Hulk confusion for you. Basically, Banner was now able to control the Hulk but on the helicarrier everyone’s emotions were being manipulated by the staff (which was Loki’s plan). Notice the hostility before the explosion and the camera focusing on the staff.
Later Banner showed how he was able to control the Hulk.
I think Sean Bean for… no, wait, he’s done enough.
I do see Tom Hiddleston in the film adaptation of Joe’s fine work, but I kinda see him as Glokta.
And whoever plays him, it’s got to be James Earl Jones’s voice for Bayaz! I’ve had it in my head since day one and on a recently finished re-read it was still him!
Maybe The Unwritten might strongly appeal to you Mr Abercrombie, because its whole thing is a long interesting browse on the idea of, and ideas behind “Literature” (stories) and its power over humanity. And Morality being a story we tell ourselves, it is about that too.
Plus, various highlights and all sorts of goodness.
This isn’t going down at all well at Wheedonesque. Apparently we’re all rather ‘sexist.’
We’re sexist because we want a better range of female characters? I’m not ragging on Whedon, a lot of his stuff is conspicuous for having some really good female characters, and to a large degree he’s got the framework the comics have given him. But taking a step back from the history of the comics or whatever and looking at this on its own, in a film with this many characters, very few were women. You had, what, Pepper in a very minor role, Fury’s competent female sidekick, but the only one given any screen time was Black Widow. Sure, she kicked ass, and that’s great, but everyone kicked ass. What was the special skill she brought as the one woman in the crew? Largely, sexy seductiveness or cunning trading on her feminine vulnerability. The men tended to bring things like world class Gamma Ray expertise, billionaire genius, old school American grit and leadership, super-vision, or megastrength and lightning. Loki’s a trickster, but he can do it without necessarily being sexy, know what I mean? Hey, don’t get me wrong, it could have been way worse. Probably some of my stuff is way worse. But I think you’d have to say it could have been better.
I think it would be a person looking for something to pick on who said as a group we had been being discriminatorily sexist.
Anyone candid, who read the comments on this thread would see that some of us were merely saying she was too underpowered in comparison to the other characters.
The same could have been said about Hawkeye, but we were talking about her simply because she was the only female. Hawkeye wasn’t carrying any extra weight because after all there were already four big hitter men on the team, why would we need five.
Actually, I am only saying “we” out of a sense of fair play, I didn’t express an opinion of her, or one of who she could have been replaced with, because I couldn’t think of a point to add. I was part of the discussion though, so will line up for my whipping with the rest of you.
Sometimes you come across people who have pitched their tent in a particular camp, and they shoot first and call what they hit a target.
It bothers me that of all the issues with the film you call out the one female hero. I’d say she played a much stronger role in the film than Thor did, for example. It’s not all about superhero strength.
I saw your comment to the other poster above, and I can see your point, but when a respected author like you only draws attention to a few specific things, and you choose the female hero as one of them, it does come across as a bit sexist, even if you meant the opposite. It’s like no girl can be good enough.
Personally, I don’t think her manipulation of Loki was really all about feminine wiles. She wasn’t out to seduce him. She wanted him to think she was weak and scared, but she was really in control of the situation the whole time. It was awesome. When I saw it for the first time I was extremely extremely excited to see how awesome a girl hero could be, especially when she doesn’t even have a superpower. Not even supersmarts. Reducing that to “feminine wiles” feels like belittlement. And it kind of hurts.
I actually am a long time comic geek and basically loved the movie. Did it have flaws? yes, but it kept my attention worlds better than the last couple of Batman movies or that dreadful attempt to reignite Superman from a couple of years ago. Mind you, I’ve still not seen Dredd, but for me, the Avengers is one of the better attempts, and decidedly the best I’ve seen when it comes to juggling that many characters.
Still, yes, Loki stole the show.
And eye candy or not, I liked the handling of Black Widow, because at least they showed WHY she was in the mix with the others, even if the main reason was her ability to manipulate men to answer her questions.
Thanks for your comment. Respected author, though? You must be thinking of someone else…
Sorry if this has come across as sexist, that’s certainly not my intention. I’m looking at this from a writer’s point of view. Treatment of female characters is very much on my mind because it’s an area where I have decidedly not always covered myself in glory, and where I’m always trying to do better. Maybe I’m more sensitive to it than I should be, but when you notice something you can’t just pretend not to notice it. People are of course free to disagree with me, point out what I’ve missed with an admittedly pretty superficial viewing and so on.
I would have very much liked to see some more women in the film. In a way Black Widow is forced to behave a certain way because everyone else in the film is a man. Are there any significant relationships between women in the film? Is there even one line of dialogue between women? Of course that’s not the be all and end all test of anything but, given the number of lines, it’s quite surprising when you think about it that virtually none are from one woman to another, but sadly not all that uncommon in films.
I’m not saying Black Widow is an awful character, necessarily, but as the one and only female character I did think the writers had made her rely on being a woman a lot as her weapon. She kicked ass at the start, but it was implied she’d lulled her adversaries into a false sense of security by wearing a sexy dress. I’m not saying she couldn’t have kicked their asses in overalls, but that’s just the point, the writers chose to give the whole thing a honey-trap vibe. She tricked Loki by convincing him she was, in his words, ‘a mewling quim’. It’s not a criticism of her, she’s not a real person, it’s a criticism of the writing, because everything that’s done or said in a film is a choice by the writers. In this case the decisions are complicated and the writers are many, because you have the weight of the source material and a pressure to remain faithful to the source material, and comic books are not known for their brilliant representation of female characters.
But let me stretch your patience with some blue sky thinking for a moment. Imagine if, say, Stark had been a woman. A wisecracking, smartass, risk-taking, genius, smart suit-wearing billionaire businesswoman with super armour. What an interesting and refreshing character that would be. Perhaps she could have some dialogue with Black Widow and add a bit of a different flavour to things. A female friendship. A female rivalry. What a more varied dynamic within the group it would create. In James Bond, M was always a man. I think one of the best things they’ve done in the recent films is to cast Judi Dench. She is a powerful woman with no recourse to sex appeal. Not that she doesn’t have any, but it’s in no way the source of her authority. It’s made for a far more interesting relationship with Bond. I just don’t see the downside to having a far wider variety of interesting women in our entertainment. Real life is full of ’em, after all.
So, you know, very sorry if I’ve offended, but it struck me as a missed opportunity.
Completely agree with you. I would love to see a Deborah Meaden character in a film just for once. What I don’t understand is why you beat yourself up over female characters. Even in the Blade Itself, your female characters were great, even if there was only one protagonist.
Avengers Assemble. At last a Marvel film that actually rates more than a 3/10. I might even buy a copy it was that good. Maybe I’ve just had my expectations reduced severely by the previous crap that they have pumped out? All the same, it made my Sat night viewing.
I’m certainly keen to improve my writing in any way possible. I think I’ve made mistakes with female characters in the past. I’ve discussed that a bit in my rereads of the First Law recently. A lot of them are the sort of mistakes that are very common, especially from male writers, but that’s no excuse, or at least it’s no reason to not try to do better. I’ve seen criticisms that on sober reflection I find ludicrous, and ones that on sober reflection I find telling, but either way I think sober reflection is important. As a writer I think you’ve got to do what you want, and that means you’ll make mistakes, but once you do make them you’ve got to try and own them and learn from them.
On the one hand, separating this entirely from the political aspect, if you like, presenting a world which seems to have a lot of varied and interesting female characters in it is just presenting a world like the real world, which is simple good writing. I don’t see the downside of it. It makes for a more vivid, more interesting, more satisfying reading experience, which is what I want to give people. Occasionally in response to this kind of argument people will say things like, ‘but the writer must be free to do what they want!’ and, yeah, that’s true, but who wants to write shit female characters?
On the other hand, without wanting to labour the point, there’s the possibility that ‘art’ (used in its broadest possible sense when applied to my stuff, say entertainment if you like) influences the way people think, and hence there may be some smidgen of responsibility on creators to use their powers for good, as it were. I don’t delude myself that any influence I might have is anything but infinitesimally small, but why not use it in a positive direction? Which, from the standpoint of the representation of female characters, might be to try and carry the message, ‘women can be diverse, interesting, powerful and unpredictable in all kinds of ways,’ rather than ‘women fit into a few easily recognised categories always defined by their relationships with men.’
This is a difficult, complicated area and there aren’t any easy answers. One person’s crappy stereotype is often another’s perceptive examination. But reflecting on it is always a good thing, I think. Writers probably should beat themselves up a bit from time to time.
[…] people, here’s the deal with the Hulk in Avengers. I’ve been reading some reviews about the film, and the writers are always like, “What’s with the Hulk towards the end? […]
i actually like your female characters, because they always disappointed me by not doing things, i expected them to do, as a media infested man 🙂
“This is a difficult, complicated area and there aren’t any easy answers.”
Quite – and the situation is complicated in part because some people in various ways conform to the stereotype with which they are identified.
“One person’s crappy stereotype is often another’s perceptive examination.”
Or just a reasonable depiction of a character. For example, there has been an objection made to the depiction of Terez in The First Law as pandering to a supposed stereotype (I think the word ‘shrill’ was a particular focus), but I interpreted Terez’s manner as simply reflecting the fact that she is pissed off and furious about being put in a situation that she desperately doesn’t want to be in.
[…] Reviews: Joe Abercrombie reviews The Avengers. […]
Couldn’t agree more – my own review raises the same issues and adds the following: with Ironman, Hulk and Thor up on the screen throwing around real superhero moves, Captain America, Black Widow and Nick Fury are greatly diminished; Cap’s “action” takes are basically nothing more than running, jumping and shielding himself behind his shield.
100% – there was just too much squeezed into one little old film.
Joe all I can say is that both my wife and I have read your books (she actually got them first) IMO, your writing is at the top end of the chart, and your female characters were well done.
With regard to Black Widow not having any interaction with Maria Hill, it’s called the Bechdel test and Avengers is far from the only movie to fail it. While Black Widow may fall into certain tropes with regard to female characters, I’d rather have one woman than no women at all and at least she wasn’t a damsel in distress. That said, I’m really hoping the sequel gets a few more women in there, say Captain (formerly Ms.) Marvel.
I thoroughly enjoyed the movie but I know plenty of people who were utterly bored, such is the way with subjective perspectives. Maybe there was a lot crammed into the film but I didn’t feel overwhelmed.
I don’t know why I read blog posts I know I’m going to disagree with, perhaps it’s some sort of bizarre intellectual masochism, and I generally don’t comment on them for fear of rocking the boat. But I appreciate your critique and felt like I had to put my two cents in.
P.S. I haven’t read any of your work but based on the comments I’ve read here I fully intend to as soon as I make it out of the working poor economic class.
Heh. You can come back and tell me how badly my books fail the Bechdel Test…
Realising that the entire First Law just barely passes was one of the first steps in my own faltering awareness of this entire issue.
If one only reads opinions one agrees with, how will one ever learn anything?
Let’s forget this superhero stuff and focus on the important topic at hand: Judi Dench’s sex appeal.
To don my comic book hat for a minute, the character of Maria Hill (played by Cobie Smulders in the Avengers) is actually a tough, smart and really well drawn character in the comics. She was introduced by one writer then taken to lots of new places by others, moving her from a bland new face to someone to watch. In Invincible Iron Man (pretty much the whole run by Matt Fraction) she goes toe to toe with Tony Stark / Iron Man and is really well fleshed out. Fraction is a writer who is very aware of gender and both Maria and Pepper Potts prove to be Stark’s equal in the series. So if you want to see more of either character then take a look. Also (and I stand to be corrected) but Fraction and a small team of other comic book writers are part of Marvel’s comic book brain trust, so they get to add their 2 cents to every Marvel owned comic book film. They make suggestions and help massage the script, so I’m sure Fraction and others would have raised the gender issue.
I understand some of the frustrations about Black Widow in the Avengers, but staying with the comic book history for a moment, she’s was a cold war agent, so it was all sex appeal, espionage, using what assets she had to outsmart the spies. Yes, the film is not set in the Cold War era, so an update is necessary, but there again, suddenly giving her super powers or making her invulnerable would have been an odd decision. I think there was a lot crammed in there, so some characters did suffer a little, including Black Widow, but in my opinion, Cap was the worst off.
My hope is, Maria Hill be seen in the forthcoming sequels (Iron Man 3, Thor 2, Cap 2), have her character fleshed out a bit more (maybe even become a bit of a foil for Stark as she is in the comics) and then get more screen in The Avengers 2. Also, before Av2, as someone else mentioned, Captain Marvel might (totally a rumour) be on the team, if she appears in Guardians of the Galaxy (another Marvel film that is on the cards). She’s ex-military, so she has that bond with Cap. She’s pretty much tough and nails and super powered, so she could go toe to toe with any of the others. Fingers crossed she joins the team.
I do hope and presume that your sober reflection is used in a balanced manner along with the counter-weight of appropriate time spent in joyful inebriation to glean meaningful and uninhibited insights into strong women.. I note you are married and have daughters, so imagine you have no lack of staunch females around and ready inspiration/not infrequent direction..
(Great books, thanks!)
Opps, what is that?. Only “Staunch” and “Strong” female characters are good?. And we mere males have to get them from observation, even talented writers?.
Do talented FEMALE writers have to study strong male characters for inspiration?. Never allowed to use thier imaginations?. Are they constrained to only use “strong” and “Staunch” male characters?.
That is the entire problem with bigotry, in a nutshell.
Ouch …nothing wrong with a bit of study.. (“..i before e except after c..)
“If one only reads opinions one agrees with, how will one ever learn anything?”
But I don’t accept the Bechdel test as a primary standard for assessing the value of a literary or cinematic work, even though some works would be enhanced by meeting the criteria. In other words, there are certain works that don’t need to pass the Bechdel test in order to be great (just as there can be great works that don’t meet similar criteria vis-a-vis male characters.) ‘The Wind in the Willows’, ‘The Hobbit’,’The Name of the Rose’ and perhaps the earlier Earthsea books are all examples of such works [though see Le Guin’s important later reflections on this – and the fascinating development of her later Earthsea books], and ‘The Brothers Karamazov’ is possibly another. Would they be enhanced by meeting the Bechdel test? Probably, if it was done well, and especially if prominent female characters were essential to the story – as they are in Dostoievski, but not in the other books.
So dare I propose the following principle:
A good work of fiction explores the experience of certain characters, and if that experience plausibly involves limited or no interaction with members of the opposite sex, then the work should not be faulted for failing to include any exploration of the experiences of characters of that sex.
I’m not sure that anyone does hold the Bechdel test up as a primary standard for assessing the value of anything, but it’s always pretty surprising how many things fail. I agree there might be many reasons why a book might not have many female characters in it. The Name of the Rose, for example, is a book about a catholic monastery so, yeah, women by definition not going to play a big role. The Heroes is about warfare, soldiers, and male conceptions of heroism so I don’t have as big an issue with the limited female presence there as I do with the First Law.
Don’t really agree on the hobbit, though. I’ve been reading it to my daughter recently, great book, sure, but no significant female characters at all? For why? The dwarves, all male. The shire, no female hobbits. Rivendell, no female elves. Beorn, a man living on his own. The goblins, all male. The wood elves, all male. Laketown – maybe it’s implied there are women about but none actually say or do anything that I can recall. One could be forgiven for thinking Middle Earth was a world without women. Where’s the upside in eliding half the population? I mean, it’s a great book, with all kinds of things to celebrate and admire, but I don’t see why you can’t also express some disappointment that it appears to include absolutely no women. I don’t necessarily see what’s ‘plausible’ about that either.
Good point about ‘The Hobbit’.
Even though the narrative is limited in what it covers (i.e. the time spent in each social setting is limited, so interactions between the main characters and other people are limited) the absence of female characters is very notable. But I did acknowledge that all these books would probably be enhanced by meeting the B. test (i.e. the presence of female characters who interacted with one another) – I just don’t think it would much change the fact that they are great books, by which I mean (to explain myself a bit) that their greatness lies in something not dependent on the depiction of relationships between the sexes.
For example, The Hobbit is a legend or fairy-tale of personal transformation that is artistically perfect (or close to) in its use of the convention of the hero who undergoes a series of adventures that allow him to ultimately make a decision that requires his courage for a greater good (i.e. when Bilbo gives the Arkenstone to Bard and Thranduil). The sex of the characters is not essential to the story in what it attempts to do. However, by the same token , the presence of central and non-central female characters would not detract from that either, so you’re right – disappointment about the absence of women is reasonable.
But perhaps the real test of fairness would be whether – taking my position – one would also appreciate a great book with an exclusively female cast. The problem here, of course, is plausibility, because human beings have often lived in societies in which women are excluded from some domains (most obviously, public life) while men have a decisive presence in all, so it’s very difficult to construct a story in which males don’t appear – even nunneries and female-headed families are likely to acknowledge at least one male, like the visiting priest or the absent father. Arguably, fantasy and sci.fi. are the genres in which this kind of gender reversal could be most plausibly explored, but I suspect there is a limit to how far an author could take this without their work starting to look like wishful thinking. The new realism in other-world fiction – exemplified by your work and GRRM, but also by Le Guin’s later Earthsea books and perhaps also Lois Bujold’s ‘The Curse of Chalion’ – has raised the threshold on how much authors can expect to get away with in depicting worlds significantly different from our own.
Of course, this brings us straight back to the plausibility of The Hobbit, vis-a-vis female characters, and I guess the only way this could be resolved is to conclude that the societies of Middle Earth have a very hierarchical structure in which males can engage in manifold social interactions to the exclusion of women – a conclusion that is disappointing, to say the least, especially when its a precondition that is totally unnecessary to the greatness of the story.
I’ve actually read all of the preceeding posts before commenting, and felt a desire to point out a couple of little things. Mind you, I’m on hour 25 of work in the last 36 hours; will do my best not to ramble incoherently.
The first being that Whedon basically had 5 different movies written, produced and directed by other people leading up to The Avengers. Characters were already established with back stories, yes, but it left him with no wiggle room for what characters he could chose to be in the movie. Hawkeye was in Thor, Black Widow in Iron Man 2.
The second thing is that the movie tried hard (and successfully to a point, in my opinion) to show that the heroes without powers could be as needed as the heavy hitters. I don’t know that DC’s Justice League will be able to do the same with Batman and Green Arrow rubbing shoulders with Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern and Martian Manhunter.
Third: Collectively about the Black Widow. We could have had Wasp, who shrinks down, flys and zaps with little energy blasts. Don’t get me wrong, love her character, but not a power hitter.
Instead we got Black Widow, who used not only her physical training but her mind to find the weakness of her foe each time, and then easily manipulated it to her advantage.
Who else could we have had, considering the ‘boys club’ that the Avengers was in the early years?
Finally, it was pointed out in the movie that Black Widow was trained as a spy, not as a soldier. I think she was shown pretty well as a soldier.
Enough blathering. Cannot wait for Red Country’s release.