I finally saw Avengers and I very much enjoyed it. But, it took me a while to realize what the movie’s biggest flaw was, the one thing that could have made everything else go away and allow me to thoroughly enjoy the movie. I did enjoy it, but at the same time, I didn’t. That one thing was emotion. Avengers lacked a compelling amount of emotion to get me to care about these characters, beyond the fact that they’re Captain America and Thor. A movie is a movie and you need empathy, and a sign of emotion would have solved that.
Most of the movie felt like actors who were acting. Literally. The scene where Black Widow goes down to Loki to make a deal in order to save Hawkeye could have been a great scene. She feels a certain bond with him and will do whatever it takes to save him. Whether it’s love or a sense of honor you can tell she has her own priorities and her own convictions. Just when you get the sense that we’re peeking into who she really is, when Loki explains how he’s going to kill the two of them and she begins to cry, it all turns out to be a ruse. There are no tears, no emotion, no feelings. You’re supposed to feel like it was clever, but for me it felt like we were cheated out of a moment to connect with someone, even if we didn’t agree with her logic or methods.
Then there was the scene where Coulson dies. Or fake dies? Maybe that part was emotional in the theater, before everyone knew what happened. Here it was just silly. Instead of just shooting Loki in the face, he taunts him and pays for it. I can’t really feel sorry for someone who does that. It was pretty dumb. Then you get the sense that everyone was emotionally affected by his death, but kind of barely. There were so many other people dying and most of them hardly interacted with Coulson. I bought Tony Stark’s reaction. They were clearly friends and his reaction was well in line with his belief that the weak should not get in the way. But that was kind of cut short and forgotten about. Then we find out that the biggest emotional weight on the whole scene, where Fury throws the cards down in front of Captain America to inspire him, was all a lie. Coulson didn’t die with them in his pocket, he didn’t die believing in heroes, he just died a stupid death. And now we were supposed to take that emotional death and turn it into another clever chuckle. Another ruse and another cheap laugh.
Thor was the only character with a personal stake in the entire movie. His own brother, who he thought dead, was destroying a place that he loved. Except there was no surprise that Loki was still alive, it was just ‘oh, hey Loki, stop breaking the Earth’ and then when there was an emotional moment building in the forest, Iron Man comes out of nowhere and utterly destroys it all and there is only a silly joke that remains. That was the scene where they could have really made us feel for Thor, that despite all that he’s done, Thor really does still love his brother. That never really happens. Thor tries again on the rooftop and he gets stabbed. It’s like Loki is just an angry teenager, lashing out at everything because he was adopted and he doesn’t know who he is anymore. There even lacked an emotional attachment to the villain. He just sounded like a silly child. That’s not really emotional.
Enter the Hulk. The timid Bruce Banner takes up the background throughout most of the movie. He disappears at several points and you begin to wonder if he will ever turn into the Hulk, but of course he will, this is a comic book movie. Finally at the end of the movie, during the big fight, Bruce comes to terms with his other half and fully embraces his ability to destroy. “I’m always angry,” he declares, as if stating he will always be like this, there’s no point in denying it. Then Captain America tells him to smash and you get a sense that Hulk is finally letting lose, taking the fight to the bad guys and finally punching with real emotion. He becomes a walking bomb and utterly destroys his enemies.
He doesn’t just hit the bad guy, he completely pulverizes him and I think the reason why everyone loves Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk was because he delivered what everyone had been craving for. Utter destruction and an emotional attachment to the events that were occurring. It’s easy to say they were being heroes because they’re heroic, but the tormented soul of the Hulk was finally laying it all out there, finally busting loose, and finally doing it for good. And just as soon as you start to feel something, they quickly cut away from the scene and that’s really the end of it.
Then there’s the scene where Iron Man might be dead, finally dying a hero. You can feel the emotion bubbling up as no one knows what to do or say. A man just sacrificed his life for his country and now he’s laying at their feet. Captain America was speechless and you get the feeling that there’s something coming. But Hulk is the one who lets it out. Iron Man is falling to earth and no one can save him in time. The Hulk can. He jumps into the air to save his friend, the only one who believed in him, the one who had faith in him, and sacrifices his body so that Iron Man might survive the fall. He lets loose a roar of pain and frustration, as the only form of emotion Banner can release as the Hulk. And then that ends. Tony wakes up, makes a joke out of it, and everything is all smiles and fun after that.
I absolutely mean it when I say the Hulk saved the movie for me. I enjoyed it, but so much of the first half of the movie was frustrating to watch. The Hulk injected the movie with rage and injected me with empathy. I actually felt something welling up inside me when he rescued the falling Iron Man. In my mind I found myself saying “hell yeah” when he finally started to tear shit up. It’s just too bad none of the other characters could offer the same amount of connection, or really any connection. It’s a good thing I already knew who these characters were, because otherwise I wouldn’t have cared. Hulk was the hero, the other guys and gals just got more screen time.