Primarily I take umbrage with your distaste about Hawkeye. I can forgive you not giving a shit for Cap (oh my god but how why steeeeeeeeeve) because all right, Australian, meet Captain America, Captain America, meet Australian fascinated by American culture but fearsomely hardcore about Australian independence etc etc etc etc etc I can see how you would prefer to just… gloss over him. But Hawkeye! Magical arrows?!?!?!? HOW. DARE. YOU.
No no but really. The key to enjoying the Avengers is not to have “read the Avengers” because straight up, that DOES NOT EXIST. At this point there are so many divergent Marvel continuities, and the Avengers are often treated like a cobbled together supergroup of whoever might need a sales bump for their own title, and god, it’s worse than Doctor Who, that expecting to have to read a century’s worth of comic books is not at all what’s required. The expectation is purely movie based. It’s the MCU - the Marvel Cinematic Universe - and it’s a self-contained continuity. This includes the Hulk movie which I’ve never actually seen and does not star Mark Ruffalo and so in my opinion does not even really count, the two existing Iron Man movies which are both straight up pleasurable popcorn flicks, the Captain America movie which was less a superhero movie and more an alternate universe war film with an incredibly endearing protagonist, and Thor, which set up all of Loki’s motivations towards evil in the Avengers, as well as, of course, Thor’s point for being on Earth too.
There’s an Iron Man 3 being filmed, a sequel to Captain America that people have signed contracts for, an Avengers sequel, and probably a handful more movies to be made now that the Avengers basically broke all box office records forever. It’s a huge profitable franchise but at the MOMENT it boils down to six (well five not counting hulk) movies to watch. You don’t have to read a single comic to understand any of it, apart from having the basic understanding about what a superhero is and where you should suspend your disbelief for maximum popcorn-munching enjoyment.
It’s interesting that you made a comparison to the Harry Potter movies in your post, because in my opinion the MCU is a far more successful example of a movie adaptation of complex canon than the HP films. Instead of just dropping entire subplots or randomly providing huge expository chunks at weird times in the stories, the Avengers franchise films have the benefit of switching perspective, tone, and even audience for each main character. And interesting references and callbacks and side characters are incorporated in tantalizing ways that can be enjoyed on their own in the movies (like Hawkeye, whose backstory is currently unexamined in MCU) or investigated further with some geeky research if that’s your bag (Hawkeye is kind of the Robin of Marvel in that he’s an orphan from the circus but he was a bad guy and the good guys decided not to kill him and he became a good guy instead and also he’s a cocky sonofabitch and I just have a lot of feelings about him okay but that’s just not in any of the movies yet) but none of that knowledge is required to understand the plot of the movies, because they are all, on a basic level, simple stories about saving the day. It’s just that, taken all together, they form a story that’s much more complex. No less about saving the day though.
My favorite thing about the Avengers specifically, and not any of the other MCU movies, is the lack of gendered gaze. Oh, there is GAZING all right, the whole thing is a festival of bodies doing attractive and cool things, but there is just as much lingering on Captain America’s uplit amazing ass and RDJ’s great big brown eyes as there is lingering on Natasha’s perfectly cradled breasts or Pepper’s vulnerably bare feet. (Side note, apparently Tony Stark in the comics has blue eyes - this is the primary indicator for a fic author coming into the fandom fold before or after the MCU was an established-as-going-to-really-happen thing. Robert Downey Jr is such a convincingly perfect Tony Stark, in almost every single other way, and his big brown eyes are the #1 thing I find attractive about him, that whenever I come across reference to blue eyes, I get all annoyed on RDJ’s behalf.) Anyway back to what I was saying - which is that, for all of Whedon’s faults as a writer and a director and showrunner, the Avengers is an example of him really getting a lot of his gender issues right. I don’t know if that’s because he had the right team of people to work with, or if he had to fight tooth and nail against asshole execs for it and actually won this time, or WHAT, but if there’s anything to be said about the rise of the superhero film in its defense as a form, I think that something is there in the expansion of what is now deemed acceptable summer blockbuster eyecandy.
In conclusion, please tell me that at least you liked the butts.
I’m afraid we may really come to blows then, Mizu, because I don’t understand the appeal of Hawkeye at all. Maybe it’s because I don’t know the backstory, but if he had his own movie I wouldn’t see it, and I suspect that if he were digitally erased from The Avengers, it would make no difference to the movie.
I actually do, however, see the point of Captain America, and I can see why he’d work in his own movie. Part of the reason I love America is because I do believe there is a truth in its evocations of individual liberty as a foundational value. I sort of do believe, per Lincoln, that it might be the last best hope of the world. So I can see the value in a character that is a personification of America at its best, and why an alternate universe (World) war (II) film would be a particularly suitable means of exploring that character. But wrenching him from out of that reality and sitting him along side Iron Man and Black Widow forces him to be more person than idea, and that just makes him seem corny.
As much as I love America, it often falls short of its ideals, and I can’t maintain the pretence that a white man from the ’40s is a reasonable representation of what America is. And that’s both because it erases the pluralities and complexities that make America great and because it permits nostalgia to be something worth celebrating. I think we were meant to sympathise, sort of, when Cap says a lot has changed since his time, and much of it for the worse. (Or whatever the quote was.) Note that the film takes the easy way out by not specifying what exactly has changed for the worse, so we’re all invited to feed our particular personal prejudices about the modern world into the complaint. (Whedon does try to deal with this by having some scene where Captain America unintentionally acts a fool to Samuel L. Jackson, but that just came off as See! Joss knows racism is a thing!)
Fair point though about the gendered gaze thing, but geez, I dunno. If the film’s achievement in that regard is that it simply refrained from being terrible, kudos to it, but is not being terrible the same as doing something well. I think I remember Erin saying in a conversation we had a few weeks back that it’s not that Whedon is so great on gender, just that he’s so much better than most other people. So maybe this is that. Still, seems a backhanded compliment to me.
Perhaps this is the thing: once around these Tumblrs, someone — I think J. Bogz or Tom Ewing — made a comparison between rap collaborations and comic book crossovers. And I love posse cuts because you get a ton of different rappers and hand them the same beat and you get to see what they each do with it, all in the space of one song. But someone who didn’t have a particular interest in rappers might like, say, the Jay-Z verse and the Nicki Minaj verse, and wonder why all those other goons had to show up. And so my take on The Avengers ends up as, well, I guess Tony Starks spit a hot sixteen.