Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Avengers Characters

Yes, I was one of the $600M+ ticket sales who went and saw The Avengers last weekend.  It was a great movie.  The CGI was so amazing and seamless, it almost seemed realistic.

BUT, so I don't ruin the movie for those who have not seen it yet, I wanted to discuss the characterization that was apparent in the movie.  I'll mention a few key scenes, but I'm mostly interested in how the characters act and interact.  (And I'm sure those of who are comic afficianados will tell me how wrong I am, and that's okay, but this is my impression from the movie.)

Main Characters: Black Widow, Hawkeye, Hulk, Captain America, Iron Man, Thor.

Villain: Loki (brother of Thor)

Black Widow: Not as fully developed, perhaps because she hasn't had her own introductory movie.  Basically a bad girl turned good.  "Saved" by Hawkeye.  Great marital arts-type moves, and loves her handguns.

Hawkeye: Also not as developed, but is "brainwashed" onto the bad side at the beginning.  Wicked-awesome bow and arrows with deadly accurate aim, even over hundreds of yards.  Pretty cool because usually we see guns or swords, but I think it takes even greater skill to be so accurate with a bow and arrows.  And his arrows can have special "abilities" attached to them.

Hulk:  Anger issues (obviously).  The doctor has become a pacifist, essentially, in order to prevent himself from changing into the Hulk.  Most of the other characters are nervous and wonder how he contains himself and keeps himself from getting angry.  At the end he reveals his secret: he's always angry.  Leaves much for the viewer to figure out about him.  The doctor is so afraid of changing because he is a destroyer when he is the Hulk.

Captain America:  Trained and acts as a soldier.  Super strong, and has an indestructible shield.  Feeling exceptionally misplaced until this mission because he "died" in the '40s, and was revived today.  Takes the role as the "leader" in assigning roles.

Iron Man:  In his own words, "A genius, billionaire, ladies' man philanthropist."  Arrogant, but lovable.  (Probably my favorite character because of his personality.)  Probably the reason we still love and accept him although he is SO arrogant is because he actually has a valid reason to be arrogant.  He really is better than other people in many ways.  The other reason is because he is impeccably honest...and can afford to be so.  And ultimately, he wants to help the innocent -- and beat up the not-so-innocent.  He even takes on a slight mentoring role, though it is not the traditional manifestation of such a role, but would we expect less?  Uses technology in his suit as his weapons.

Thor:  A demigod from another planet: Asgaard.  As his description implies, exceptionally strong and nearly indestructible.  His main pursuit is justice.  Not quite arrogant, but definitely confident.  Uses his signature hammer to fly, destroy, and summon lightning.

Loki:  Thor's adoptive brother bent on exacting revenge on his brother for his father's lies.  He determines to destroy the planet Thor loves regardless of cost or consequence.  Of course, evil, but manipulative as well.  He tries to get all the heroes to destroy each other for him.  Arrogant, and thinks he deserves to be worshipped by everyone.  (Teaser:  A great scene toward the end of what the Hulk thinks about that idea.  Classic.)

So, now that you know a little bit about all the personalities of the characters, I want to describe two major scenes where these personalities interact so beautifully.  First of all, about the middle of the movie, Iron Man and Captain America capture Loki (don't worry -- it's all part of the plan).  As they are taking him back to their base, Thor comes down from Asgaard and kidnaps Loki away in order to return him to Asgaard to stand trial for his crimes.  Of course, Captain America and Iron Man are not too happy about that.  Iron Man reaches Thor first and starts fighting with him.  Basically it turns into a show of power, a "little boys' peeing contest," if you will.  Captain America has to step between them to stop their fighting, especially since they completely forgot about Loki in their pursuit of one-up-manship.  It's the basic school grounds fight.

Why I think this is a great scene is because it is the first time the heroes have to interact, and they do a terrible job at it.  They are so intent on proving their superiority to everyone else, they completely forget about what their actual job is.  And of course, everything around them gets destroyed in fantastic ways.

The second scene is the final battle scene.  I love this scene more than just for the sheer awesomeness of it, though that is definitely a part of it.  In this scene, the heroes have learned how to work together, but they also each use their particular skills and abilities in different ways.  It is the epitome of utilizing each member's strengths.

Iron Man is given the task of flying through the air and fighting the invaders that are up there.  Hawkeye is supposed to sit on top of the building and call out patterns and formations.  With his "hawkeyes," he is to be the reconnaissance resource.  He is literally the eyes for the rest of the team.  Captain America calls out each team member's assignment, like the perfect "captain-soldier" that he is.  And the Hulk's role is simple:  "Hulk, smash," to which the Hulk grins widely and takes off on his assignment.  Thor, Black Widow, and Captain America stay on the ground to fight the invaders and protect the citizens, although as the battle progresses, they adapt to the needs of the battle.

Now, this is an awesome movie, but there is another reason why I am writing about this on a writing blog.  I think the writers/creators did an amazing job at characterizing the main characters and staying true to their characters.  The story develops, and the characters kind of develop.  But it's not like a lot of movies wherein the characters grow and change.  Instead, the characters' personalities are established, but they don't change.  Rather, the characters learn how to work together while still maintaining their personalities.  And what I think is so amazing is that I think it would be exceptionally difficult to pull that off and still make the characters believable.  And they are definitely believable.

One aspect that I was astounded that they could pull off believably is how the characters interact.  Each hero is definitely an alpha personality.  This is exhibited quite obviously in the first scene I described above.  They all have problems with authority, and therefore their personalities would not work well with a leader over them all; they all want to be the leader.  As they learn to work together, what I think is amazing is that no clear leader ever really emerges.  It's as though they share the leadership role with each of the heroes covering a different aspect of the necessary story that must develop.

Although Captain America is the one who is calling out the orders at the end, it doesn't feel like he is particularly "in charge;" instead it just feels like he is trying to help organize all the others into a productive formation.  And I reiterate, I think part of why this works the way it does is because Captain America basically tells everyone to do what they are really good at.  It's almost as though he is simply reminding them of their skills and abilities.

So, after this super long post today...what does this all boil down to?  First of all, The Avengers is an awesome movie that, especially if you like action flicks, it is a definite Must-See.  Secondly, a huge KUDOS to the writers who took on the exceptionally difficult task of putting all these different characters together and keeping true to those personalities throughout the entire movie while still making the story work believably.  I could only hope to be so talented...