Week of February 6, 2022:

The Avengers released May 4, 2012 (where to watch)
Item 47 released September 25, 2012
Erik Bates | February 6, 2022
This comment contains spoilers for Spider-Man: Homecoming, Avengers: Infinity War, Captain Marvel, Avengers: Endgame, and Hawkeye. Reveal it.

Erik Bates | February 6, 2022

I know it's a running point of contention with movies like this, but how many people were killed by friendly fire as Barton and Romanov flew through the streets? Or by literally anybody else as they hurl vehicles into buildings, etc?

Scott Hardie | February 6, 2022

The Avengers: This is every bit as entertaining as when it first came out, with the sole exception being that the novelty has worn off. Now that we know that Marvel can pull off this kind of huge superhero crossover and have it be really fun, that spark of joy in seeing it all come together is gone. But it's still everything else that you want in a movie like this, plus a few little details and jokes that I missed the first time. I'm not going to write a list of superlatives because there's no need; it's widely agreed that this remains Marvel's best film or close to it. Instead, random thoughts:

• How fascistic S.H.I.E.L.D. seems in retrospect! That high-tech weaponry and the flying helicarrier and so on looked really cool the first time, but now they look frighteningly dangerous to have in existence. S.H.I.E.L.D. was capable of nuking Manhattan at a moment's notice, and almost did. That's not power that should be in anyone's hands.

• To Erik's point, asking "where the hell was [other hero] during this" is a valid question. To me, the hero whose absence feels most wrong is War Machine. Many others hadn't been introduced cinematically yet, but he had, and his suit's massive firepower would have been a huge help in New York. I am aware that the filmmakers tried to contain what was then considered a convoluted plot and a sprawling character list, and that RDJ had to fight just to get Gwyneth Paltrow added to the film, so bringing in Don Cheadle was probably impossible. But damn, couldn't they at least have written a line of dialogue explaining why Rhodey isn't present? Dude could have had the flu or been unreachable on a remote vacation or something.

• How lucky is Marvel that they planned to release this in 2012 and not 2002? This would have been impossible in the wake of 9/11. Hell, The Incredible Hulk only tore up a few blocks in one neighborhood and even it would have been jeered in 2002 for being in terrible taste. That said, Erik's right on the money about civilian deaths here: This movie wisely doesn't dwell on it, but surely thousands of people were killed as a result of this Chitauri battle, and politicians looking to score points absolutely would try to blame the heroes as the ending montage showed. (And if politicians didn't, lawyers surely would. "Sure you saved the city, but you injured my client in the process." Ka-ching.)

• Loki's use of "quim" brings back a memory. When this movie came out, two of my friends wrote a piece online about how Joss Whedon isn't this feminist genius that everyone thought he was, and that buried under the surface of his "strong female characters" was a misogynist streak. His use here of "quim," a nasty old-fashioned slur on par with today's c-word (and one that was often implied to mean that women existed to be raped for the pleasure of men) was another sign of this. I remember not understanding or believing this at the time, and most other mutual friends reacted like I did. In 2022, after the implosion of Whedon's career and reputation, those two friends seem pretty vindicated.

• One little moment that I love is Loki's scepter failing to work on Stark with a metallic clink. That's one of the tiny joys of crossovers like this, that unrelated characters have a way of forcing you to see each other in a new light and consider new things about them. Did anybody think of the mini-reactor in Stark's chest as a super-power in and of itself, until it made him immune to Loki's mind control in an unexpected way?

• Something I didn't fully appreciate the first time I saw this and Thor is how much Loki is winging it. He does make a few arrangements in advance, but it's clear from his reaction to The Other's threats that he really doesn't have a "plan B" if his invasion fails, and much of Thor was just him taking action when he sensed an opening. I thought of him as a master strategist but he's really more of a master opportunist.

• I closed my eyes during a few of Ruffalo's speeches and pictured Edward Norton giving them. It was better that way. That's no slight against Ruffalo; it's just that the feelings about Norton from his own movie would carry over, whereas with Ruffalo it's like starting all over. Recasting a part makes it hard to care about the character any more because emotions don't easily get reassigned to a new face.

• I have watched the shawarma scene a dozen times. I still don't get why it's funny, at all. After such a thrilling adventure and triumphant victory together, the heroes exit the film looking exhausted and ready to vomit their food. That's the vibe the filmmakers chose to go out on?

Erik Bates | February 6, 2022

Do we know why Norton didn't come back? Was it his choice? Casting decision? I think he would have been quite good in the role still. Like you said, no slight against Ruffalo, who really made something of the character over the series of movies, but I would have loved to see Norton continue.

I know a couple of us have a thing with Norton, but I truly think he would have been great.

Scott Hardie | February 6, 2022

Norton said he thinks it's some combination of salary differences, his desire to go darker with the material than Marvel, and his needing more time to plot that darker path. Feige publicly said that Marvel wanted "an actor who embodies the creativity and collaborative spirit of our other talented cast members," which feels really pointed, given that nearly every firing in Hollywood is explained away generically like "creative differences" or "wants to spend more time with family."

The thing is, Norton is considered difficult. He argues with studios, directors, and even co-stars. He wants to re-write every script, he wants to re-edit every scene, and so on. He thinks he knows best and he's not willing to back down. Stars like that, no matter how talented they are, don't find work for long; look at Val Kilmer or Kevin Costner for instance. In that TC discussion that you linked, I mentioned Norton having a pretty good six-year run in Hollywood, and I can see why good roles dried up for him after six years. So it certainly seems plausible that Feige's statement is PR-speak for "Norton is a pain in the ass and we won't work with him again."

All of this could have been avoided: Louis Leterrier, the director of The Incredible Hulk, wanted to cast Ruffalo in the part from the get-go. It was Marvel Studios who insisted on Norton instead.

Scott Hardie | February 7, 2022
This comment contains spoilers for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and Avengers: Endgame. Reveal it.

Scott Hardie | February 10, 2022
This comment contains spoilers for The Defenders and Hawkeye. Reveal it.

Scott Hardie | February 18, 2022

The Avengers: 8/10

Item 47: 5/10

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