Friday, May 11, 2012

Can you rewind that?

Sorry about the long gap between blogs. I spent the first half of last week in Las Vegas attending the Superstars Writing Seminar and the last half working both day jobs. (As a side note, I don't recommend going back to work the day you fly back.) The seminar was beyond amazing and I'll write about it over the next few weeks. However, right now I want to talk about the Avengers.

Please withhold all groans. This isn't another pointless review. We all know how awesome the movie is (and if you don't because you haven't seen it yet, what's wrong with you?) and that Joss Whedon is a genius. Besides, this is a writing blog, not a movie review blog. So, why bring it up? Because it's very well written. Now, I'm not saying that it's a masterpiece of cinema, but it is well constructed. In fact, I want to go back and see it several times so I can pick it apart and study it.

Two years ago I went to Dave Farland's Writer's Death Camp. As part of the course, we watched two movies (Avatar and J.J. Abrams' Star Trek) and looked for the various emotional beats and storytelling devices we'd been studying. Dave did warn us that once we learned how to do this, we wouldn't be able to simply watch a movie anymore. We would always be in dissect mode. He was right about that, but it hasn't ruined movies for me. In my opinion it enhances the viewing experience. Now, a good film can entertain both halves of my brain.

You see, last night, my right-brain fan girl was very happy. I was squeeing throughout the film. It was Avengers, it was action packed, it was Joss (squee! I love you Joss!), it had schwarma. What's not to love?

Well, there were a few inconsistencies, which my left-brain was more than happy to point out. But overall, my analytical left-brain loved it too. Why? Because the beats and devices were exactly where they needed to be in order to keep the viewer engaged. The big fight scene on the hover-ship stands out in particular. The way they jumped from character to character while moving the story forward was brilliant. We care about each of the Avengers in some way and exploiting that affection is, in my opinion, the ultimate device.

(spoiler alert)

Each Avenger is placed in individual danger as well as the larger group danger that the ship is facing, which is on top of the overlying threat of Loki destroying the world. At the beginning of the movie, the Earth is placed in danger by Loki's bid for world domination. This is also when Hawkeye is placed in personal danger when he's mind hacked by Loki. In the big hover-ship fight scene, each danger/threat is dealt with one by one. It's just done in such rapid succession that you don't notice unless you know what to look for.

The inciting incident for the fight is when Hawkeye shows up with his goons, shuts down engine 3, and attacks the bridge. While Cap and Tony are dealing with the engine repair (group danger), Natasha is running from the Hulk (personal danger). Of course, the Hulk's smashing is an additional threat to the ship which is why Thor stepped in (and he needed to save the damsel in distress). (I'd say that this places Thor in personal danger but it's hard to argue that when he's a god.) The Cap and Tony are each placed in personal danger when Hawkeye's goons attack and the engine rotors reach top speed. Since the group threat is mostly dealt with, they can deal with the personal danger quickly and get back to saving the ship. Meanwhile, back on the bridge, the goons have been dealt with but not before Hawkeye shuts down the computers and another engine (group danger). Cap finishes the goons and saves Tony just in time, which also saves the ship, just in time.

Ok, let's pause for a tally.

Personal danger: Cap (X)  Tony (X)  Natasha (X) Thor (in progress)  Hawkeye ()

Group danger: Engine 3 (X)  Hulk (in progress)  Bridge (X)

Earth danger: ???

Alright, back to the frey. Natasha puts on her big girl panties (no, that wasn't a deleted scene. I was speaking figuratively) and takes out Hawkeye, which of course solves his personal danger by literally knocking Loki out of his head. The final ship danger, the Hulk, is dealt with by a nameless, but not forgettable anonymous airman. The hulk's removal and descent could be argued as personal danger, but like Thor, his indestructible nature makes it a hard point to prove.

Now that the Personal and Group dangers have been dealt with they can get back the saving the earth, right? Wrong. Loki breaks out of his cell, tricks Thor (another arguable personal danger) and kills the lovable squire (personal loss for the group). Do you see what he did there? In typical Joss fashion, the plucky heroes are given a reason to put their differences aside, work together and kick Loki in the balls. Plus, it gave the heroes the final piece of the puzzle so they knew exactly where to go to do said ball kicking.

Now, this is just what I've picked up upon first viewing. I know there were some things that I didn't pick up on, so feel free to add to the discussion. Because, lets face it. There can't be too much discussion on the writing brilliance of Joss.

No comments:

Post a Comment