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I don’t want to write this article, but in a moment of weakness, I told a co-worker about my long buried Avengers opinion, who told another co-worker, who told another co-worker (shoutout REO Speedwagon) and well, here we are now. Might as well just accept my fate and embrace my shame. Before the first Avengers movie came out, I pitched maybe the most regrettable article of my life. It was mercifully shot down by an editor multiple times here at CinemaBlend because God does exist and didn’t want this freezing cold take to follow me around for the rest of my life. But then I opened my stupid mouth, and maybe I should scrap that last sentence.
Anyway, the article title was the following: The Avengers Movie Is A Dumb Idea Because It Can’t Support That Many Main Characters.
Yeah, I Was Wrong, But Hold Up A Second...
Now, to state the obvious here: I was wrong. Billions of sequel dollars, millions of fans and thousands of reviews have all extended a shiny middle finger back at me and my thesis statement. I’m well-adjusted enough to admit when I get one wrong. I was wrong here. Credit to me on that personal growth. That being said I wouldn’t also be a grade A blowhard if I didn’t defend my thought process, and unfortunately for you, the reader of this article, that’s exactly what I intend to do. So, here’s a bunch of paragraphs about why I came to this bad conclusion that you never asked for and some of you probably won’t read.
Prior to The Avengers in 2012, Marvel had given us five movies: two about Iron Man and one each about Thor, Hulk and Captain America. Iron Man 1 is obviously top notch. I like Thor and Captain America 1 well enough, but on the whole, it’s not like these five movies were some incredible run of cinematic promise. None were considered to be anywhere close to the same level as Nolan’s Dark Knight, and collectively, they were not THE MARVEL CINEMATIC UNIVERSE we know today. They were just some fine enough superhero movies. There was no reason to give the benefit of the doubt to Marvel or Kevin Feige. They hadn’t earned it, and I was deeply skeptical of where all of this was going.
My co-workers, on the other hand, shared none of my skepticism. We started getting some loose plot info and bare bones marketing materials, and you would have thought by their confidence level we were getting a prime collaboration between Martin Scorsese and Philip Seymour Hoffman. You would have thought by their confidence level Daniel Day-Lewis was involved and emerging from one of his 5 dozen retirements. One more. You would have thought by their confidence level someone had finally found the right starring vehicle for Ben Foster. Actually one more… more. You would have thought by their confidence level Viola Davis had been hired to play a side character that has one big emotionally key scene. But no. They just liked these superheroes and felt shoving them all together was going to be great. I did not share that feeling for what I still feel are/ were very justifiable reasons.
More is not always better. Have you ever put too much ketchup on something? Have you ever eaten more than three bites of fudge? Stayed at the beach for an hour too long? Played a board game that just wouldn’t end? Gone on a hike that was a few more miles than you thought? Most foods, drinks, activities, games, relationships, movies, tv shows and especially Rube Goldberg Machines are about achieving balance. Everything needs to be in its place. Just because your orange top is super cute doesn’t mean you should wear it with your orange skirt, and just because you enjoyed watching Captain America kick some ass in his own movie doesn’t mean he’s a natural fit to be the third lead in some other movie.
How could someone like Thor or Hulk go from leading the charge and getting the bulk of screen time to being a support player in a larger vision? How would these characters work with only fifty lines of dialogue spaced out over two and a half hours? Wouldn’t it be better to use actual side characters who are designed to function as side characters instead of relegating main attractions to supports? That was my thought process anyway. It turns out the answer is a Hulk-sized no.
Yes, The Actual Movie Turned Out To Be Great
What I got instead was a great movie. I mean, what else do you want me to say? Avengers 1 is fantastic and makes me want to beat people up and then eat shawarma afterwards. It has so many great laughs. All of the characters bounce off one another in ways that are both exciting to watch and thoughtful enough to feel honest and set up future threads to unravel. Loki is the perfect villain to bring everything together, and no one gets short-changed at all. It's everything my jerk co-workers thought it was going to be, and every single time I bitched proved to be wasted mental energy.
What I didn’t take into account and what everyone just takes for granted now (shoutout Kevin Feige) is that if you give characters time to develop in their solo movies and teach the audiences their personalities, there’s way less development work that needs to go into future shared universe projects. If Thor and Captain America both have had success with fish out of water style jokes in the past, you can just cut to them for another without setting up any of the backstory. If the audience knows Tony Stark is kind of a loveable dick, the chance to see him encounter and play that energy off other characters you already care about can be thrilling without requiring much setup.
And, of course, perhaps most importantly, in Loki, Marvel found a villain or a believable cause that was able to raise the stakes enough where it didn’t feel like The Avengers were just going through the motions. For some reason, I had this picture in my head of old Batman TV show style action where our heroes were just laying waste to one henchman after another in boring and repetitive fashion. I thought it was going to look like The Dream Team just mowing down foreign countries in ’92 by 40 points an outing.
So, there. That’s my personal shame out in the open. I was so convinced The Avengers was going to be a dumb and pointless waste of time that I pitched an article about it. When the editor told me no, I even circled back around and pitched it a second time with a slightly different angle about how it was going to feel like an NBA All-Star Game. Luckily, that one never saw the light of day either, and I’ve been quietly enjoying Avengers movies and pretending like I was on board the whole time, at least until I blurted it all out here in a moment of oversharing Drax would appreciate.