Friday, August 2, 2013

Character Assassination: The Avengers (2012)

Ah, the Avengers. It’s still weird to me that it actually came out. After being excited for it since the credits of Iron Man, I still can’t wrap my head around- no, you don’t want to read about that. You want me to talk about the death. If you’ve seen the movie, you know exactly what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, Spoiler Alert. You have one chance to turn back before spoilers, Bruce Willis was dead the whole time. See? Missed your chance. Avengers spoilers ahoy!

THE BUILDUP (Behind the Scenes)
It was only a matter of time before a Joss Whedon creation appeared on this show. Killing characters is kind of his thing. If I may quote Nathan Fillion from the bonus features of Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog,

“People are always surprised when Joss kills characters. Come on man, look at the history; that guy loves to kill people! He loves to get you invested, he loves to get you all worked up, and rootin' for people, and then bam.”

Is that unfair to say? No. Joss himself has stated,

“People love a happy ending. So every episode, I will explain once again that I don't like people. And then Mal will shoot someone. Someone we like. And their puppy.”

And then Joss worked his murderin’ magic on none other than Agent Phil Coulson. A character no one realized they even cared about.

Eat it, Batman.
THE BUILDUP (In the Films)
Phil Coulson started off as a bland, slightly smug bit part in Iron Man. We couldn’t even remember his name, and his face was kind of punchable.

In the sequel, he was Tony Stark’s babysitter. And we started to tolerate him a little bit. 
Then he found Thor’s hammer in the desert. And then… for some reason we all began to like him. 
Then he appeared in an accompanying short called A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor’s Hammer. Then we loved him. But we didn’t know it.

And then he appeared in the Avengers. From there, it turned into OMG, Coulson is adorkable. As it turns out, he’s the biggest Captain America fanboy ever, and that’s just precious. Augh, he’s just got “Whedon’s going to kill me” written all over him. 

When Loki’s wreaking his Loki havoc, and the Avengers are all busy, Coulson steps up. Weak, human Coulson goes up against Loki, a freakin’ god. (Frost giant, but still.) He loses, of course, but what a way to go. Armed with nothing but an experimental laser cannon, he aims it squarely at the God of Evil... only to be sucker-shanked from behind.

"Oh, them's me life juices."
As he goads Loki into standing there, gloating, he gets off a single blast, and the audience cheers. He says, "So that's what it does," and the audience laughs. Nick Fury declares him dead, and the audience is in denial. And then Joss Whedon tugs on the heartstrings even more by revealing that Coulson had his Captain America cards in his pocket, planning on getting Cap to sign then. MY GOD, WHEDON.

Or so we thought.
In the film, the Avengers finally have something to avenge. You can attack S.H.I.E.L.D., you can ally yourself with evil aliens, you can try to take over Germany, but how DARE you try and kill Phil! In the audience, we felt utter outrage over a character we didn’t know we cared about so much. Well played, Joss. Now, I need to remark that the bloody cards that Fury throws on the table were actually in Phil’s locker, meaning Fury bloodstained them. Now, does this mean that Phil actually survived, and he lied in order to motivate the team? It’s left ambiguous.

When I originally wrote this a few months ago (I like to plan ahead), I wrote "There is a rumor that Coulson will be appearing in the S.H.I.E.L.D. TV show being made, and I think that’s true." Yep, it's true. And apparently, his resurrection will actually be a point of interest on the show, and not simply glossed over.

Hey, Joss? Can I call you Joss? This time, can we have the answers to the mysteries before the show gets canceled? C'mon, mix it up.

In spite of (or perhaps because of) Coulson's death, Phil’s been popular enough to appear in not only the comics, but also Ultimate Spider-Man (the TV show) where he actually went on a date with Aunt May. Before you say anything, she’s only in her 40’s or so in the show, so it’s a May-December romance, not a May-Ice Age romance. Um… no pun intended.

All in all, I cannot stress this enough: we didn’t know we cared so much. But we did. Joss Whedon got us more worked up than we thought we could be.

Now, does this death of a fan-favorite character ruin The Avengers? No. Because it’s handled well. If I may paraphrase Linkara, “a good story leaves you mad at the villain, a bad story leaves you mad at the writer.”

Whedon has an amazing talent to kill off these characters the audience loves, and have the audience be mad at the villain, not him. That takes some serious skill, and I applaud you for it, Mr. Whedon. Well, I hope I haven’t ruined The Avengers for you, person who hasn’t seen The Avengers but read this anyway.
Yeah, you, Jacob. 
I, um, I don’t know if there is a guy named Jacob who fits that description, but if there is, man, was he freaked out just now!
Well, I'll see you all at the next Character Assassination.  You better be there, too, Jacob.

Final Thoughts
Why the heck is Agent Coulson called “Cheese” in the comics?

EDIT: 11/23/13
As it turns out, Whedon was not behind the death of Coulson. Or so he claims.

"In our first meeting Kevin Feige said, this is what we’re gonna do and I said, "Oh but you have to go out there and tell everybody that it was your idea because this is going to get me so much shit. Because they are all going to be like, 'Oh he did it again!'" It was stipulated from the beginning, and I completely agree that it was the right thing to do, and so did Clark. Who said in the early days, when I was busy apologizing for it, 'In a movie like this, with what’s going on if there isn’t some toll, it’s just irresponsible story telling.'" 


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