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Thursday, May 17th, 2012 12:18 pm
Okay, first things first - this is the first movie I've actually watched in the cinema in over two years. I don't go to the cinema much, mainly because I'm not fond of crowds, and also because I don't like having my eardrums hammered six inches into my skull by the volume the movie is inevitably played at. However, my partner had, by this time, seen the Avengers movie twice, and I'd seen enough rave reviews of the trailers on various US sites (we got it here in Australia about a week or two before the folks in the US... I suspect we were being used as a test case) to suspect it was going to be a movie I'd enjoy. I wasn't wrong there.

(Oh, and can I just offer a brief thumbs-up to the Rockingham United cinema complex - very nice little place, although the seats were a bit snug around the hips. It was a bit quiet on Sunday morning when we went there, but that was all to the good, as far as I was concerned).

The star of the movie, overall, was Tom Hiddlestone as Loki. The Loki they've written here is a believable deity of chaos, of destruction, of discord. He gets gleeful when people are running in fear and terror. He loves watching as arguments go on. His personal effects heighten the levels of discord and anger around them, and tip things toward the chaotic end of the spectrum. This is a very believable deity of chaos, someone to be genuinely afraid of. His (very genuine) belief that humans have a deep-seated need to be ruled and controlled (Mr Wheedon, have you been reading that bit in Pratchett where Vimes mentions the main human design flaw as being the bit where we bend at the knee?) and his dislike of humans can be seen as coming from the same place as the sort of deep-seated racism that drives groups like white supremacists and anti-Semitic groups - here are these... creatures, who look so much like his own people, and who act as though they're equal, but they AREN'T. There's an almost visceral revulsion involved at times - it shows up in his interrogation scene with the Black Widow.

What Loki isn't (and I realise I'm treading into Unpopular Fandom Opinion territory here) is a woobie. Loki will not be fixed by a hug and a blankie, and a few cuddles. There is something deeply broken in this guy, possibly down at the level of species difference - his need to conquer, to dominate, to create havoc and chaos is built into him almost at the genetic level. It may be part of his Asgardian make-up, something which is the primal drive behind his existence (rather like Thor's apparent drive to Make Heroic Speeches in somewhat archaic language). Let's not forget: Loki isn't human, no matter how much he looks like one on the outside.

One of the other interesting things I liked about this is that they downplayed the "trickster" side of Loki's nature as a god of chaos. Instead, the "trickster" figure is Tony Stark - and Tony Stark is the trickster in this film right down to the bone. He isn't on any particular side (except his own). He's well aware that he's smarter than most of the other kids (and he really rubs it in with Captain America in particular, but also with Thor - I'd have to look at the Iron Man movies to see whether there wasn't some kind of background issue there) and he plays up this intelligence, hacking into SHIELD's databases, needling everyone to try and get his bit in because he really doesn't like what's going on and he doesn't want to have to be there. The scene toward the end where he realises what Loki is going to be doing by basically going "well, what would I do in the situation" is just a classic.

Good Bits:

Okay, the absolute comic book perfection moment is the Hulk's beautiful smackdown on Loki, and its aftermath. That was absolute comic book perfection, and Warner Brothers Cartoon perfection and animated ANYTHING perfection all rolled up into the one short sequence. "Puny god" indeed!

The interrogation scene with the Black Widow. I particularly enjoyed the whole sudden switch for Loki from being somewhat flirtatious toward Ms Romanov to showing just how visceral his hate for humans is. He must have hated having to pretend to be sympathetic.

Captain America's beautiful sense of being so very bewildered, isolated, and caught out of time. Things have changed around him, he's so far behind he's never going to be caught up, when he went to sleep he was fighting the Germans and the Japanese and the Russians, now they're all allies of the USA, and he's so far out of his comfort zone it's just not funny. And on top of all that, he's got this Agent Coulson, who he probably can't stop thinking of as someone older than himself, who acts like a teenage fanboy in front of him. It can't be easy for him to suddenly have to be part of this group. Hint to FFVII fanwriters writing either Cloud Strife or Vincent Valentine - this is the quality you're looking for. That wonderful sense of "so far out of his depth he needs a lifejacket, but soldiering on gamely".

Actually, all the emotive sequences were brilliant. A combination of wonderful scriptwriting, absolutely brilliant acting, and a damn good director who's capable of getting the best out of both the actors and the script. But I think the best moments come from Mark Ruffalo when he's talking about his character's attempt at suicide - there's that sense of absolute despair which is part of the drive toward self-annihilation, and then the even more crushing despair when he realises he can't kill himself - when he talks of shooting the bullet into his skull, and "the other guy" spitting it back out. Having been in a suicidal situation myself on a few occasions, I found the understated despair involved here to be a deadly accurate portrayal. It takes a lot of self-hatred to want to kill yourself. It generates even more when you realise you can't carry through, and you have to live with yourself afterwards.

Not-So-Good Bits:

Loki's use of the q-word as an insult. Yes, yes, very nice use of archaic language to get your point across, but don't get any ideas boys - the q-word is just as insulting and offensive as the c-word it's synonymous with as a descriptor for a female character. I'll give you points for scriptwriting style, but this is one thing I really don't want to see becoming a trend. Also, kudos for Mr Hiddlestone for giving this insult the venom it needed.

I also got a bit tired of Tony Stark and his whole "enfant wholly terrible" persona by the middle of the film. Yes, I get that Robert Downey Jnr is the Big Name for the film. But if I'd wanted an entire film of Robert Downey Jnr, I'd have watched either of the Iron Man films. I didn't watch either of the Iron Man films (although I may get them on DVD once I'm able to afford it), and quite frankly, Tony Stark being provocative for the sake of it deserved a smackdown a lot earlier in the film than he got it.

I think Thor's a little too quick to disown Loki ("He's adopted.") when Black Widow speaks of the deaths Loki has caused. It's just too pat. I'd need to see the Thor movie to see which side of things is actually true to the characterisation - does Thor really believe the whole "love and family" side of things, or does he really think Loki's done his dash as far as brotherly affection goes? (It's worth noting: in at least one version of the original Norse mythos, Loki was the oath-sibling of Odin, not of Odin's son Thor).

Missed Chances:

I really think they could have had a lot more fun with the opera house scenes. I mean, really - it's an opera house, it's in Germany, and we have a Norse God gatecrashing the performance... so why wasn't the performance one of the Wagnerian operas? (Preferably Götterdammerung, but any of the Ring Cycle would have done nicely!). Instead, it's a nice quiet little Schubert quartet. I'm sure Loki would agree with me that it's just a little anti-climactic.

As I mentioned above, there's a strong similarity between the personalities of Loki and Tony Stark, and it would have been a lot of fun to see this explored further. Tony Stark really has the potential to be a thoroughly loose cannon in the Avengers team, and I suspect he's really blown his chances of ever being a trusted associate of SHIELD right out of the water. In a comic book or novel adaptation, this would be an intriguing opportunity for character development.


Okay, I come to the Avengers movie with a lot of comics background from the late 1980s and early 1990s. I recognise a lot of the characters, and a lot of the canon. I've loved Marvel's stuff for years, and I really do prefer their take on the world over DC's take. I also have a lot of respect for Joss Wheedon as a director, a screenwriter, and a fan of things geeky - he knows how seriously the fans take things, and he respects that - and what's even better, he's shown that respecting the fans and how seriously they take things can be a real money-spinner for Hollywood, so he's not as subject to Executive Meddling as some other directors. So there was a lot of Good Stuff coming into the movie from the beginning. That said, what came out at the end more than deserves all the rave reviews and thumbs up this film is getting everywhere.

I'd give it at least four out of five; on a percentage scale, it's rating up around the ninety-two percent mark. Not absolutely 100% brilliant, but certainly close.