By Mona J
WE’LL CALL IT. Joss Whedon is the Aaron Sorkin of sci-fi and fantasy. Buffy was his The West Wing and The Avengers is his Social Network. The movie kickstarts with Loki (Tom Hiddleston), archvillain and Thor’s (Hems worth) half-brother, landing at a Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division (SHIELD) base where Dr Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) is conducting research on the Tesseract, to steal it. The Tesseract, much like the plot, is a four-dimensional hypercube that can open a portal to other dimensions and universes in the Marvel omniverse. Also present are SHIELD agents Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson), Phillip Coulson (Clark Gregg), Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner).
Fury activates the Avengers initiative, which as mere mortals put it, gathers “a handful of freaks”. Predictably, by the time the Avengers convene, question SHIELD’s and each other’s motives, see the light and start working together against Loki’s evil plan, the plan is already on its way to fruition. The Tesseract has been deployed to let in Loki’s allied alien forces to take over Earth. The second half of the movie is, as Nick Fury deems it, “War”.
Tensions stay strung and egos clash and the plot’s centre of gravity is tossed around. Placing the Tesseract at the core of the plot was the perfect way to deal with a fictional franchise of this proportion, an omniverse with both science fiction and fantasy elements that have been built over decades by Marvel writers, artists, plotters and editors, where the tiniest imbalance can break your suspension of disbelief.
Each Avenger’s 3D introduction alone was worth the ticket price. Whedon loves playing rock, paper, scissors, lizard, Spock with the heroes’ superpowers. In this epic ensemble, all the stars are given ample time to spout their Comic Con lines and the writer-director’s pacing keeps ticking like a time-delayed detonation that blows the mind. If Bollywood got together all its Khans, the cousins and unrelated Kapoors, and breakout Balans etc, it’d still be short of the star superpower on Whedon’s screen.
Whedon uses Captain America (Chris Evans) as a metaphor; his place in the team reflects America’s place in a modern cultural zeitgeist
The innate nature of the characters is used beautifully in the screenplay. Thor’s “Gods are people too” speech delivered to discourage Loki, is a summary on the SF&F discourse on scientific gods. What makes you stand up and applaud is when The Hulk smashes the same explanation into Loki. Seeing Bruce Banner’s (Ruffalo) self-deprecatory humour rub up against Tony Stark’s (Downey Jr) narcissistic repartee, helped us see why men like lesbian porn. Whedon uses Captain America (Chris Evans) as a metaphor; his place in the team reflects America’s place in a modern cultural zeitgeist, where gods are scientific and soldiers are collateral damage. The Black Widow (Johansson) is in full throttle mode, and you learn that a superspy is a superhero too.
If you’re still looking for subtext after all that, then The Avengers is the story of “a handful of geeks”, sitting in their costumes, unable to get playtime going because they can’t seem to agree with each other. Not till their imagination is under attack by adults and their perversions. Once it is, they suit up, crash Loki’s party and save the world. Minor grouse, could we release the character introductions outside the movie than spend the entire first one and half acts on them?