Chapters 14 – 18. “The Invasion Begins” / “The War” / “Avengers Assembled” / “Hope is Lost” / “The Sacrifice Play” (1:38:26 – 2:09:39)
Logline: The Avengers reassemble to save Manhattan from both an alien invasion and a nuclear missile strike.
The Sequence. Well first of all, it’s long. I waited and waited for a break in the action that never came. Though there’s definitely a little internal three act structure to the battle of New York; Stark and Loki, the battle scene with the Avengers uniting at the midpoint, and the disposal of the nuke. I don’t watch the entire movie all that often, but I will absolutely throw on the third act and feel like I’ve had a complete experience.
That’s odd for me. Usually I check out during the third act of any given Marvel movies. Even if I like the character at the centre of the film, and often I do, it always seems to come down to a guy (and one time a lady) getting into a fight with some kind of CGI creature in front of a green screen. And yet I will go on record and say that this finale is not only the best of the MCU, but the best climax of any film of this type we’ve ever seen. Why is that?
It’s about the people. I think Man of Steel made filmmakers gun-shy about having regular people in danger during potentially apocalyptic final battles. Much was made of how Superman seemed to cause as much damage as Zod, and when Avengers 2 came around, the filmmakers very explicitly made it clear that their final showdown was taking place in a city that had been evacuated. Since then we’ve got climactic fights in deserted airports, alien planets. Even Infinity War keeps civilians out of the fight, even though half of them wind up dissolving.
The Avengers finds the fine line between giddy fun and real stakes. There’s people dying, buildings collapsing. We know what the death toll must be, but we don’t directly see it. The Avengers are not the cause of the chaos, they’re containing it the best they can. Every time we cut to people running from alien invaders, or Captain America or Hulk rescuing a room full of terrified hostages, it gives the situation more weight. And it’s not a green screened alien landscape, it’s New York City. It’s buildings and streets. It feels tangible, even if a lot of it was done with green screen. The whole sequence is larger than life, but it’s grounded.
That aside, this sequence does tie together so much more than the carrier battle. The music make all the little mini-scenes feel of a piece. The geography is clear, we often know where characters are in relation to each other. There’s a sense of all the heroes working towards a common goal even if they’re fighting on different fronts. Those invisible earpieces the characters have are a huge help too. Widow says something from the top of the Stark tower, Cap responds from ground. This is all one battleground and the camera is seamlessly taking us where we need to be.
It’s just funnier, more badass, and more crowdpleasing than we’re used to as well. Those individual moments are worth savouring below.
The Big Picture. Holy crap, I don’t care! The whole MCU leads into this moment, everything that happens later spins out of it, blah blah blah. We need to get to the Live Reactions. Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em, it’s gonna be a looooooong night…
1:39:00 – This movie ends much sooner if instead of shooting directly at the Tesseract, Stark shoots the support beams underneath and causes the whole floor to cave in. Sure, Stellan Skarsgard is collateral damage but you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few
of Stellan Skarsgard’s bones eggs.
1:39:31 – We’re sparred the effects heavy scene of Iron Man’s suit getting taken off piece by piece like before, it’s all close-ups of Stark. The film does remember to focus on the personal over the spectacle at the right moments.
1:40:42 – “Not a great plan.” Tony calling out Loki. In all of his appearances before and after he’s really not that big a problem, he’s a wannabe big bad and the movie’s just embracing that at this point.
1:41:07 – “If we can’t protect the Earth, you can be damn sure we’ll avenge it.” It took until Endgame for the name The Avengers to really make sense but it does.
1:41:16 – It does for a split second seem like the rest of the movie is going to be Iron Man vs. Avengers. Gotta wait for Civil War for some hero on hero action.
1:43:42 – Jesus, there’s that Loki helmet again.
1:45:12 – More spinning smoke, just like in the SHIELD carrier.
1:47:02 – “It’s too late.” This is an interesting Loki moment, it’s not setting up a redemptive turn, but more his recognition of how out of hand things are. It’s more to keep him a viable character for the future and someone we want punished more than dead.
1:47:57 – It’s horrifying, but pretty awesome, that exploding highway.
1:48:44 – Hawkeye rescuing people from the bus is very Superman, but that’s what the movie needs.
1:49:43 – I hate those kind of gags.
1:50:23 – By the way this is a good time to say (taking notes as I listen to the commentary) the scene looks a lot more disjointed without sound than it felt watching it earlier. I didn’t LOVE the soundtrack before but it might be doing a lot of work making it all feel of a piece.
1:51:18 – Stark appearing around the side of the building as the Leviathan crashes into all the empty space in the frame is one of the most satisfying shots.
1:51:43 – “I’m always angry.” Pretty zen. That one took me a while.
1:52:15 – My favourite thing about the shot is Black Widow with her tiny handgun looking as badass as everyone else with their huge weapons.
1:52:19 – It’s like the big reunion shot in Fellowship of the Ring, only lacking in me giving a shit. (I kid, I guess.)
1:52:45 – When Steve Rogers takes charge and starts giving orders, I buy it about as much as the stretch of Angel when everyone decided Wesley was the leader of the group. You can’t escape it, Stark is the star of the Avengers.
1:53:14 – “Hulk? Smash.” It’s such a long wait for Hulk but once he’s here he gets all the crowd pleasing moments.
1:54:30 – Hawkeye’s arm moves but his eyes never do, it’s incredible.
1:56:44 – The dust on the lens is a nice touch. Makes it feel as though they did this for real, and this take wasn’t quite perfect but it was the best they got.
1:56:56 – I always enjoy Hawkeye shooting that alien that’s only inches away.
1:57:17 – Joss says it best on the commentary track regarding the long tracking shot of the six Avengers. Someone would always suggest cutting it out because it was expensive. “And someone else would say, I think it’s why we’re here.”
1:57:31 – You ever got frame by frame on the famous Thor punch? He just kind of leaves frame without changing expression.
1:57:32 – I think you can draw a line directly from the Hulk/Thor punch to the moment Thor 3 was greenlit.
1:57:36 – You can always tell a big intended laugh moment by what happens immediately after. It doesn’t matter if we’re laughing and not paying attention over this long shot of Stellan Skarsgard waking up.
1:59:53 – Probably Loki’s best moment, the head tilt back at Hawkeye seconds before his downfall.
2:00:23 – Two things make the Hulk Smash moment. First, the holes Hulk is putting in the plaster, as opposed to just slamming him into a solid floor. And that beat where he stops a moment, sees that Loki is still awake, and smashes some more.
2:00:34 – Loki groans like Joe Pesci in Home Alone.
2:00:41 – Another big laugh moment, followed by a cutaway to Stellan Skarsgard. Poor guy, but even he would probably admit that we’re not watching The Avengers for him.
2:01:26 – For all that I think this is ultimately Iron Man’s sequence, mainly because he’s so clearly the star of the beginning and the end, we do lose him for quite a long stretch of the battle. He hasn’t been seen in five minutes before he turns up to battle another Leviathan.
2:01:46 – “You ever heard the tale of Jonah?” “I wouldn’t consider him a role model.” Lines like that are another reason I like this movie more than the others.
2:01:48 – Oh cool a full body enema in a family superhero movie.
2:01:57 – That’s the Shawarma place Tony talks about a few minutes later.
2:02:20 – This exact moment and angle is in the opening cutscene in the James Bond X-Box game Everything or Nothing. I can’t imagine it’s a steal but I did spend years wondering why it looked so familiar.
2:03:52 – Tony doesn’t have a glib line upon hearing there’s an incoming nuke.
2:04:25 – This isn’t really Thor’s movie, but god I love him hammering a car at the ongoing enemies.
2:05:57 – Tony Stark, diverting the path of nukes long before The Rock just starts punching them out of the way in Fast and the Furious.
2:06:50 – The nuke also cutting off everyone on the ground and ending the conflict is… fine. But god help us if Game of Thrones ends the White Walker threat the same way this Sunday.
2:08:45 – Though the animation on Hulk is overall pretty good he looks crazily like he doesn’t belong in this scene.
2:09:35 – “I’ll have that drink now.” Tying together the whole sequence, which I literally started watching hours ago.
Behind the Scenes
-Paul Bettany did all his Jarvis lines in two hours in the course of one phone call. Whedon laments never having met him, maybe planting a seed for Avengers 2.
-Worth hearing if you’re a structure nut, Joss Whedon spends a huge part of the sequence talking extensively about the thought he put into making this all feel like continuous action.
-Whedon wishes there was more Hulk in the movie but it would have been expensive. Weird to look at everything happening onscreen and think there were budget limitations.
Wall to Wall.
Chapter 19. “A Promise” (2:09:39 – 2:15:56)
Logline: The Avengers part on good terms, unaware of the much larger, cosmic threat out among the stars.
The Sequence. The movie ends while the gettings good, and I’ll take my cue and do the same with this article. There’s not a lot of hanging around to tie up loose ends. There’s not even any dialogue. The heroic statements are made in the course of the battle, we see quick glances of the Avengers going their separate ways as Fury delivers his summation, and we’re off.
There is a sense that this is a brand new world. A new world in which we know there are galactic threats, and people who can protect us from them. Those are actually the bits I like most about later MCU movies, the bits where Captain America is in education videos like “Hey kids, stay in school” and Thor is being stopped for autographs. What happens here has long ranging impact.
The film ends the only way it really can; on a note of absolute exaltation. It could have been tinged with something darker, this is essentially the MCU’s 9/11 after all (check out the Maria Hill deleted scenes), but in the end this is a pure blockbuster movie experience, on a scale not seen before. I personally don’t think the first 100 minutes or so are on the level of the closing half hour, but it’s absolutely worth the time getting there.
The Big Picture. The two best MCU films, this and Infinity War, end on completely opposite notes. The credits for this one has the feeling of a modern myth being born. This is their greatest triumph.
Flash forward six years, the Infinity War credits is their greatest failure. Watching it today, the reveal of Thanos is a sharp reminder of that. But mathematically unlikely as it is, the six Avengers we meet in this movie are alive and ready for some Avenging. I can’t wait to get to Endgame to see how it turns out.
Soon as the nerd stank is out of the theatres anyway. 😉