Envisioning Other Worlds
December 16th, 2015
Cultural Value of The Avengers
The Avengers is a 2012 action film directed by Joss Whedon- In the film, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) reactivates the “avengers initiative.” Fury is the head of a government organization called S.H.I.E.L.D. The avengers initiative is to gather a group of particularly skilled operatives to conduct an operation in which they are to retrieve something called the Tesseract; a source of immense, intergalactic power. The Tesseract allows Loki, an Asgardian prince bent on world domination, to come to Earth with the intention of bringing his armies down through the same portal. It is at this point that the Avengers themselves enter to intercede and prevent Loki’s plans from happening. However, it is the people that make up the avengers and the way that they interact that drives the story and makes it more than just another superhero movie. The characters are the most significant aspect of the narrative.
6 beings comprise the team, and each have a specific dynamic with at least one other member of the team. Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), or Iron Man, is already a famed superhero (and “billionaire playboy philanthropist,” as he puts it) in their universe. He quarrels fairly often with Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) also known as Captain America. Stark’s boisterous and arrogant nature does not mesh well with Rogers’ cut-and-dry sense of good versus evil. Rogers says to Stark “you may not be a threat, but you’d better stop pretending to be a hero.” While Stark does believe in doing the right thing, it can be said that he takes serious tasks lightly, such as the one at hand. Rogers never falters with his strict moral codes.
Another important dynamic is that of Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Dr. Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), otherwise known as The Hulk. The two at first speak very little, but once conflict ensues, their infighting proves to be a much larger issue than that of Stark and Rogers. When Loki’s Possessed agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. begin to attack, Banner has transformed into The Hulk. He and Thor proceed to fight while the agents are destroying the helicarrier that they are flying on. Thor and The Hulk are also the only two members of the team that would not be considered human.
Ultimately, the team is capable of working together after they begin to realize this is not an enemy they can defeat individually. The location at which the battle for the fate of the earth takes place is important as well; it happens in modern New York City. There could be several reasons the director chose to do this, but the most obvious is to make it so that the audience could relate to it. Many members of the audience had been to or at least seen New York; so seeing it destroyed made the film feel much more real.
The idea of having the final battle in New York might also be a social commentary. New York City is the most populous city in the United States and one of the most populous in the Western Hemisphere. After Loki’s army invaded, the government sent in troops and ground support for the Avengers. However, they ultimately decided it would be in their best interest to launch a nuclear warhead at the City. Even though Iron Man was able to send the missile into space instead of allowing it to explode in New York. Could this have been a jab at the overbearing militarism of modern western culture? It seems as though they are saying that the government would be willing to kill millions of its own people if it meant stopping a potential threat, even though The Avengers were able to deal with the invaders on their own. This theory is also present earlier in the film, when we discover that the government wanted the Tesseract to use as a weapon in the first place. The idea of an overbearing military is not a new one and is a common element in several works of science fiction, but here it has proven to be a social critique as well.
The Avengers was a wildly successful film that showed a team of people who should not have been able to work together completing the task at hand, as well as defending the city from its own military. The commentary on our own military is particularly important considering how prominent militarism was at the time the film was produced, and how prominent it still is today.
The Avengers Dir. Joss Whedon. Perf. Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johannson, Jeremy Renner, Mark Ruffalo. Marvel, 2012