With the recent success of Marvels' Avengers Endgame still a talking point around the water cooler, I thought it might be interesting to do a quick post about the very first Avengers 'team-up' film from 2012, Avenger's Assemble and explore why these characters work so well together - and why it is this factor above all else that made me so excited for the recent films.
I loved the first Iron Man (2008) but Iron Man 2 was a let down and I didn't particularly care about Black Widow or Nicky Fury as characters in that film. No particular reason for this, but as someone who didn't know anything about the Marvel Story-verse, these characters did nothing for me. Thor was a different story. For the longest time, I always maintained that this was the strongest story in the MCU - the story of a prince exiled from his kingdom and having to prove his worthiness and live up to his father's ideals. Again, Hawkeye's cameo in that film meant nothing to me other than deriving a quick smirk upon the realisation that this was Jeremy Renner (an actor that I have huge admiration for).
I was all pumped up for Captain America: The First Avenger. A superhero fighting in WW2? What's not to love? Well, for one reason or another, at the time I felt very underwhelmed. I've changed my mind completely about that character now and the film as a whole, but at the time, nothing.
So, when Avengers Assemble came along, I wasn't that excited but I did buy into the marketing and the hype and went along to a packed out theatre to watch it. And I loved it. I loved every moment of it and it was one of the most enjoyable experiences I've had in the cinema. Remember, this is a film that features a set of characters who I've had a love/hate relationship with. Half the movies of phase one I loved, the other half I hated. So why did this film wow me so much?
Well, it wasn't the set pieces or the action. Believe it or not, action never did it for me either in these movies, and still doesn't. I believe the strongest scenes in Thor Rangorok (perhaps my favourite MCU film) are the scenes between Thor and Loki and the best scenes in Infinity War are the ones where Thanos is preaching about balance. I could watch that stuff all day and would gladly trade all the explosions and web slinging any day of the week to see Peter Parker sneaking around with his friends after school.
It's the characters that made these films work. It wasn't the set pieces or the fan service moments. It was well constructed characters who complimented and, above all, needed each other in order to achieve their goal. Marvel achieved something that most filmmakers struggle to do, something that DC and Warner Brothers only dreamed of - they created a collection of characters that truly fit together like jigsaw puzzle pieces.
You see, the difference between Marvel and DC (specifically their cinematic universes) is that the Marvel characters compliment each other, where as the DC heroes negate the necessity for each other.
Iron Man is quite happy to take the heavy lifting all by himself. He'd prefer to work alone.
Captain America is a fish out of water and has no idea how to adapt to today's world.
Banner is hot headed and, while incredibly gifted, loses all of that in favour of clumsy strength when he transforms into Hulk.
Black Widow and Hawkeye are, let's face it, outmatched by characters such as Loki, but they are experts in espionage and other deep cover tactics.
Finally, Thor is a 'God', yes, but he's vulnerable and undisciplined. He's happy to charge into battle but without strategy.
As a team however, they all support each other.
Captain America is a strategist and a leader - he can give Thor and Iron Man direction.
Thor can provide insight into Loki and his ways and match his supernatural abilities.
Banner has Black Widow to keep him in check and offer support (their relationship continues to blossom throughout the franchise).
Captain America and Thor may be the outsiders, but the rest of the team are useful for filling them in on useful info and keeping them grounded.
In short, everyone clicks.
Now look at DC's Justice League.
It is arguable that three of these characters are one and the same. Superman, Wonder Woman and Aquaman all seem to have the same skills and abilities - they can fly, move fast, seem impervious to damage.
The Flash doesn't seem to have any skill outside of his ability to move fast.
Cyborg (frankly the most interesting character in the group thanks to his personal backstory) seems to rob Batman of his usefulness as a techno genius and 'answers man'.
Never has Batman, my personal favourite of all the heroes listed in this post, been so unnecessary in the face of danger. And that's the problem with this movie. I kept thinking to myself, surely half this group on their own could stop the villain. Surely one of these characters (like Wonder Woman) could carry the weight of Flash and Batman instead of letting them risk their lives?
Fast forward to 2018 and the now infamous 'Snap'. Thanos, the overarching villain of the MCU has gathered the Infinity Stones and wiped out half of the universe. It was an incredible moment, not because I believed they were all dead (I've written a post already about how Marvel are incapable of making us believe that characters are ever truly gone) but because the team had been fractured. The survivors would now have to figure out a new way to stop Thanos and doing that would involve the storytellers employing the traits that make them unique as characters - making them work together in interesting ways that showcase the intricacies of their relationships and their individual arcs.
Now, whether we got that or not is a different story and I'll leave that up to you to decide. I loved Endgame and will probably write about it when it comes out on Blu-Ray so as to avoid any spoilers.
Screenwriters can take a page out of Marvel's playbook and write characters that are not only well developed and rounded but that also work well together and that demonstrate the need for these characters to exist together.
(Image copyright: Disney/Warner Brothers)