Friday, January 18, 2013

"Everything you EVER wanted to know about about THE AVENGERS movie"

My friend Clint sent me this fantastic (and very long) article that serves as a breakdown of THE AVENGERS.  It's a great examination of the film scene-by-scene, breaking down structure, character motivations and plot development.  Todd Alcott does a wonderful job as our guide through the film.

The Oscar nominations were announced the other day. To no one’s surprise, the screenplay for The Avengers was not among them. That’s a shame, because the screenplay for The Avengers is a startling model of precision, density and propulsion. It manages to juggle no fewer than ten wildly disparate main characters in its ensemble cast and give each of them weight, clarity and purpose. Dear readers, I’ve worked on many a comic-book movie, none of which ever got near production. To get one superhero narrative to work is damn near impossible; The Avengers soars with seven. 

We begin with a blue cube on a black screen. That’s the Tesseract. What is the Tesseract? Well, assuming the viewer has not seen Thor or Captain America, the answer is “Who knows?” But the Tesseract is the very first thing mentioned in The Avengers. It is, of course, the maguffin of the movie, the object around which the narrative revolves. That it has been mentioned in previous movies doesn’t matter. In a lot of ways, and this is an important concept, what the maguffin of any narrative is doesn’t matter. It is “an object of consequence,” and that’s all you need to know.

Read the rest here.


  1. The Avengers was a mess, but it still was probably the best handled (multiple) superhero movie.

    My issues;

    1. Nick Fury doesn't really do anything.
    2. Captain America, Scar-Jo, and Hurt Locker are practically useless, and that's not necessarily their fault. They'd work okay in tactical situations, but not full blown alien invasions. Next film needs to give them at least a Jet Pack so they can keep up with the real superheroes.

    It's a case of "Angel Summoner and BMX Bandit" syndrome. You've got three main characters that have God-like powers, and two that have "BMX Bandit"-like powers.

    So Wheadon created situations that gave the lesser characters a false reason to matter in the story.

    3. Alien invaders don't have "machine guns" but single shot weapons. This isn't necessarily a problem, as it is common in a lot of sci-fi, but in reality bad guys and good guys have machine guns; very powerful machine guns... and missiles.

    This short wraps up all of the major problems with the Avengers film, in under three minutes:

    1. CinemaSins is about as useful for a serious discussion as Honest Trailers for a movie of Avengers' caliber. Fun for nitpicking, but little else. If we were talking the Hunger Games it would be different.

      I'm not terribly bothered by 1. Maybe Fury is more of an action man in the comics. 3, yes, but those flaws are most glaring in a fight between the Chitauri-whatever and the National Guard, and we don't really care to see that. I'll admit 2 is a big deal for the reasons you mentioned. It would be nice for them to have to fight a critical villain or something next time.

      In any case, the point is the film isn't a mess.

  2. I just got done reading. It was worth it. The kind of work Whedon did, anchoring emotional arcs effectively to action on the screen, is a big reason why the original Star Wars trilogy was successful, and Todd does an excellent job of pointing out how. I'm going to have to re-read some parts to really understand that.

    He could have done without the irritating political references, though. By the time he was musing about the implications of Captain America saving some people in a bank (there are none), it's clear he's just indulging himself. Also, I really don't buy that Cap's patriotism is the "red" in his ledger, or some sort of fault.

    I suppose I should be heartened that he does mention in an aside that straight-up screeds like Green Zone are destined for failure. Hell, if I'm being honest, I'll admit that some of his political readings in the script are correct, but that's exactly why action movies like Avengers are successful and Green Zone is in the dump. Restraint. Whedon knows it.

  3. The funny thing is that Wheadon is at home swimming in a Scrooge McDuck sized pool of money from Avengers, despite the movie having a lot of problems. Not saying Wheadon half assed the entire movie, but there was a lot of sloppy problems with the movie.

    The only thing that saved the movie (in the end) was (ironically) the red-headed stepchild of superhero movies, the Incredible Hulk. Imagine how lame the movie would have been without the Hulk.

    Hopefully, some day someone will realize that people want to see superheroes vs. supervillains, not superheroes vs. some ambiguous invasion force, or other lame singular supervillain.

    Remember how people went apeshit when Wolverine chopped the head off of a Sentinel, but it turned out to be a danger room training session?

    At least Wheadon teased Thanos for the next Avengers, so possibly we'll get some villains that can stand up to the Avengers.

  4. Alcott is the man... he's also broken down a whole bunch of other films extensively (including the recent X-man film), my favorites are his Spielberg films and the QT series... it's great reading...

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  6. The other breakdowns are at his blog: