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"The words 'Let that be a lesson' are a tad redundant at this juncture."
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June 01 2012

Writer Ken Levine's reaction to the Avengers. Ken Levine, writer on M*A*S*H, Cheers, and Frasier, discusses the Avengers, and gives a suggestion the Avengers II.

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I appreciate the "have the heroes use their brains" sentiment, but I'm not sure that I am persuaded that The Avengers win the day by might alone. I think that putting each character in position to use their particular talents and powers is a kind of problem solving, even if it is about deployment of "might". It also seems to me that problem solving is used at different points in the film, such as, for example, when trying to locate the Tesseract. Maybe the problem here is that much of the thinking that goes into something like that involves engineering and on screen we mostly see characters waiting while algorithms are run.

But the Levine piece seems to see brains and brawn as either/or, whereas I think The Avengers has more of a both/and solution to the narrative.
I agree SPH, that article seems to be written by someone who is very narrow-minded. And I wonder why he had to refer to Scarlett as Jewish twice? What's that matter to anything??
I agree, sph, Levine is taking too narrow a view. Personally I think that each hero was using their brains by figuring out what challenges they could meet and helping to support their fellow avengers at the same time. Even the Hulk was using his brains when he saved Ironman in free fall.

Ktara, I believe that Levine, who is Jewish, was celebrating the hot (partly) Jewish action hero that is Scarlett/Black Widow. Personally I find him funny and charming.
I imagine he likes pointing out other Jewish people?
It's what we do, unfortunately. We like to point our other Jews. I find it extremely annoying, to be honest. It's ok he mentioned it once, but the second time was unnecessary.
It just reminded me of Adam Sandler singing about how Paul Newman is a hot looking Jew. It's only a joke (and it's true).
But itís not my favorite.


It's mine too.

I agree SPH, that article seems to be written by someone who is very narrow-minded.

Play the ball, not the man.
The second mention of Scarlet being Jewish, in connection with Black Widow being the one to use her brains rather than might, is his playing with the stereotype that Jews are smart and that we use our brains to solve problems rather than brawn (it's a _positive_ stereotype). It's a Jewish thing. It's meant to be funny, in a Woody Allen or Adam Sandler kind of way.

Of course, in the context of the film, as a few people have pointed out, there are a couple of bona fide supergenuises whose work goes into defeating the villain. We don't get to see a whole lot of Hawkeye, but those are some technologically impressive arrows he's got which I understand he'd designed himself which also bespeaks a fair amount of intelligence. I think sph in the first substantive comment above does a really good job of pointing out the way it's not simply a brains vs. brawn situation.

And I did just see the movie for the second time last night and have to say that it's even better the second time around. When you're not concentrating on figuring out how these pieces fit together or wondering what's coming next you can focus on the wonderful cleverness, the elegance and the impressive depth that Joss manages to get in, given the number of characters and the fact that he wasn't working with his own characters. It says something about how much he gave to each one that so many people are able to come away saying that the movie was really a showcase for fill in their preferred character. For me it was totally Black Widow's story. But watching it the second time I was struck by the bonding and understanding between Tony Stark and Bruce Banner. Not an obvious relationship.
Natasha tricking Loki, Iron Man figuring out where Loki has set his portal opener and then getting the new suit from under Lokis nose tricking him again, Captain Americas strategy skills, Natasha trying to find another way to close the portal, everyone suspecting Fury is not on the level, science portrayed by Stark and Banner, including Starks learning an entire discipline in one afternoon... There is plenty of brain usage in this fight. And then, of course, there is a lot of arse kicking cause, well... They are gorram superheroes and they have been using brute force since before Kirbys days...
I rather took the obsessive naming of ScarJo as a joke. The man wrote for M*A*S*H, Cheers, and Frasier, so I'm pretty sure he can string together text with more than a literal purpose.

I really do agree with him about point 2, which I'll be really honest is probably the reason I'm not a bigger Marvel fan. The penchant for the public to be whatever the writer really needs at the moment tends to feel extremely hollow after a certain point. I was rewatching X-Men First Class last night and that whole scene after the just desserts of Sebastian Shaw really only worked for me if I turned both sides Generals/Leadership into idiots.

It didn't bug me as much in the Avengers though, as it was just maybe a few news reactions and yet another "secret advisory cabal" making ridiculously plot convenient but tactically idiotic decisions (yea, I'm officially calling this an trope overused).
Disagree about Superman II (unless he means the Donner cut.) And I'm a Supes girl.

My favourite comic book movie is still Sin City, and my favourite Superhero one Unbreakable (which still has Samuel L.) :)
I can certainly see why Superman II would be a choice for fave Superhero film. Not mine, but I will never agree with that scene as the payoff. I loathe that scene. It makes Superman look like a cheap bully IMO and robs him of any Heroism.
Yeah, I feel like there was plenty of intelligence in it. And it needed to have the big battles in the end. It'd be a waste if they didn't go crazy with these characters, especially with Thor and the Hulk in the mix. But I do like his appreciation of Black Widow. As much as I trusted Joss, I still didn't expect him to do that good of a job with her.

Actually, that Superman II diner scene always rubbed me the wrong way. I can see why people loved it but it was out of character. The hero, especially Superman, should be the bigger man. And Clark Kent is anything but petty and childish :P.
Best part of the review was in the comments, wherein someone criticized Avengers for being a "good-vs-unambiguous-evil story". Absolutely true, and really why I don't get the love for this film. But I don't blame Joss, since he's said that the acts were already laid out for him by the studio. The resulting simple film is entertaining, but fluffy.
"Unbreakable" was unappreciated gold, IMO. "Superman II" is a fantastic thing. Although if "Avengers" was missing anything "Superman II" had, it was a moment like Terrance Stamp as Zod, sounding genuinely troubled and concerned for Lex Luther's well being, delivers one of the movie's most quotable lines. Loki needed something more like that, and "will you ever not fall for that?" isn't quite there.

I would agree that the diner scene might be bad for Clark, but I also figure he was also going to be perfectly sure not to permanently damage the guy, because in the movies Clark can basically do anything and everything.

By the way, what's ambiguous about the evil in "Avengers"? "Free you from 'freedom'", "aliens soldiers capriciously wiping out whatever they feel like" is about as unambiguously blackhatted as an agenda can get in my book. I think Loki himself was more ambivalent than his goal was ambiguous.
@King, nothing is ambiguous about the evil in Avengers, hence the "un". Dollhouse, it wasn't!
But wasn't that a stated goal of the movie? To make an un-deconstructed superhero film, without those shades of grey?

I'm not sure that in itself is a bad thing....there are lots of great movies with unambiguous bad guys (like, say, Indiana Jones and the Nazis). If they're well made like the Avengers, the 'black and white' nature of the villains doesn't mean they don't have nuance elsewhere (eg Black Widow's backstory) just means you can cheer on your heroes even more!
Heh, sorry, stared right through the "un-". Of course, I don't find much ambiguous about the evil in "Dollhouse", either, namely... the Dollhouse, but YMMV.

No, there is nothing bad about an undeconstructed superhero film. And I don't think there's anything wrong with deconstructing the hero a little (for instance, the Nolan Batman series is pretty open about pointing out that... he's pretty effed up, plus a couple other thematic things). Where you're going to lose people is trying to vacillate about the evil.
Oh yeah, and the other thing that's so important in winning the day besides the combination of might AND brains, is teamwork. Giving up the ego to work together. Heroism, being more than being a genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist, but being willing to sacrifice yourself for others. Choosing to make amends for what you've done wrong in the past (yah Black Widow - as Hawkeye says, she's a spy not a soldier, but now she chooses to wade into a war, which is why she's there to figure out how to close the portal). Lots more than big fisticuffs going on.
The movie ran over two hours, and still barely had time to introduce the characters, who they are, what they can do, and deal with the conflict. Adding significant ambiguity ("grey") would have just confused the hell out of people, especially the ones not familiar with these comic book heroes.

Now that the introduction is out of the way, the ambiguity can be dealt with in the sequel. Didn't Whedon say that (if he makes the sequel) it would be more personal?

I agree with many of the commenters of the original article. The writer is remembering the high points of "Superman II", and glossing over the clunkers.
His point is interesting. Rather than it being a stereotype, barboo, his argument (brains over braun) tends to reflect an important more in Judaism, where using one's mind to solve problems is always better than using brute force. According to Jewish biblical scholars, that is supposed to be the lesson of the story of Samson (and Delilah).

I understand his thinking "Superman II" is the best superhero movie of all time. Until "The Avengers" came out, I thought that as well. (Now it's the second best in my mind.)

From the article: Huh? What? Sarah Palin is a great American, but Iron Man needs to be held in check?

Hey, you know? That's the way it is in real life!

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