Thursday, May 14, 2015

Recap: Avengers Assemble "All-Father's Day"

Well, Father's Day is right around the corner!

And by that, I mean it's sometime next month. I think.

But that's as good of a reason as any to continue looking at Avengers Assemble.

The last couple episodes have been a bit of a mixed bag, haven't they? "Mojo World" was just a bunch of hard-to-talk about fighting, and "The Ambassador" was pretty good, if nothing special by most standards. So really, this episode could go either way.

Let's see which way it goes.

The answer may surprise you. But probably not.
The episode begins inside Avengers Tower, where Hulk and Thor are trying out Tony Stark’s latest invention, handcuffs. Not just regular handcuffs, but really good handcuffs. Any energy used in an attempt to escape them just makes them stronger. With Hulk and Thor shackled for what will probably be the only time in history, Hawkeye is taking this moment to eat some food.

Hulk: “Are you eating my popcorn?”

Not necessarily his own food, though.

Hawkeye: “And your cereal. And your pickles.”

Because it’s not like bad things ever happen when Hawkeye and Hulk start arguing over pickles.

And lo and behold, bad things happen. Thor starts to summon a ginormous bolt of lightning in an attempt to break his bonds. Cap yells at him not to, because lightning and buildings don’t like to mix, but the only response he gets is an explosion. But it wasn’t Thor who brought the thunder.

Thor: “I did stay my hand, Stark.”

The Hulk didn’t appreciate getting blown up much, so he starts a kicking match with Thor. Hawkeye whips out his camera to post a picture of this to Instagram, but Black Widow shoots his phone. I hope you enjoyed that bit, because that’s the only major thing she does by herself all episode. As the smoke clears, the reason for the explosion becomes apparent.

Odin: “What is the meaning of this foolishness?”

Thor’s dad (voiced by Frank Welker, whom you may remember from everything ever) came by to pick up his son and take him home.

Odin: “You are to come back to Asgard, never to return again!”

As Odin and Thor go off to discuss this out-of-the-blue appearance, Tony and Steve quickly come to the same conclusion.

Tony Stark: “We can’t afford to lose our heaviest hitter.”
Tony Stark:One… of our heaviest hitters.”

Tony removes Hulk’s shackles, and we get a glimpse of Odin’s conversation with his son.

Odin: “Your time playing here is over.”

So, I’ve mentioned before that Asgardians are basically just like humans, but with a sense of melodrama over everything. Thursday (aka “Thor’s Day”) isn’t just the day after Hump Day, but a holiday. Taking a nap is called the Odinsleep, et cetera. Today, we get the Asgardian equivalent of a parent picking up his kid from a playdate.

Thor argues that being an Avenger is a noble calling and that the Avengers are valiant warriors and defenders of their realm… only for Hulk to start chasing Hawkeye around in revenge for eating all the popcorn. To make things even worse, Tony walks right up to Odin and attempts to get a handshake.

Odin: “Who are you to approach me?”
Tony Stark: “Just the world’s most eligible bachelor and billionaire philanthropist.”
Black Widow: “Oh, brother….”
Tony Stark: “What? It impresses most people.”

True, but “most people” aren’t the All-Father of a race of godlike superbeings who barely gain a single grey hair in the time it takes a human to wither to dust.

"People love it when I reference lines from The Avengers."
Odin isn’t too happy with the super-duper handcuffs around Thor’s wrists, but Tony explains that he had to test his impossible-to-remove restraining devices on somebody. Odin responds by breaking the cuffs to pieces with a single spark from his mighty spear.

Odin: “If their strongest can’t best a Midgard Serpent or a Destroyer, then they deserve their demise.”

Well, strictly speaking, they did both of those things. But put that aside for now.

So, Odin’s here in Avengers Tower. All-powerful, godly might, et cetera. Now, I want you to think of the worst thing the Hulk could possibly do at this very moment.

Go on, think of something.

Don’t do any further until you’ve thought of it.


Got it?


If you said “Hulk headbutts Odin through the walls of the tower”… then congratulations, you’ve also guessed exactly what he’s going to do.

This can only end well.
Black Widow: “Well, at least I have my S.H.I.E.L.D. back-up job. It was nice knowing you guys.”

Really? I though being an Avenger was your back-up job, seeing as how you’ve only appeared in, like, 14 of the 20 episodes so far.

Thor prepares to avenge his dad, but Odin comes back chuckling.

Odin: “I have underestimated you, creature. Perhaps we should try again with proper introductions. I am Odin, Son of Bor.”
Hawkeye: “’Bor’? Oh, there’s got be a joke in there somewhere.”

Okay, here’s a joke. “Bore”? You mean like what most of these episodes are?

Anyway, Odin decides that maybe these Avengers might be worth his son’s company, and makes his next demand.

Odin: “Take me to the hall of dining while I decide how to properly test you all!”
Thor: “Your stomach can continue to rumble until we clear this matter.”

Oh, come on, Thor. Just take your old man out for shawarma.

Odin, now suitably warmed up to his surroundings, tells Thor that he’s worried that Thor will grow soft in the “luxury” of Earth. Odin is apparently ignoring for a moment that not only is he a warrior-king who lives in a golden palace, but that his Asgardian outhouse is probably fancier than Avengers Tower. In his usual short-sighted rage, Thor declares that if he can’t prove that he and the Avengers fight great battles in spite of the luxuries of Earth, than he’ll return to Asgard for good.

Suddenly, an alarm blares. JARVIS brings up some current surveillance footage showing Zzzax attacking the UN building. And since “Zzzax” is spelled out right on JARVIS’s screen, I can actually spell it correctly this time.

Three Z's. One X. Got it.
Odin has Heimdall teleport them straight there, and the fight takes a second to get going, since the Avengers are a little disoriented when they exit the portal. Thor starts chewing his dad out over this, but is quickly silenced by Iron Man.

Iron Man: “Less fighting with pop, more fighting with crackle!”

Aw, snap.

The fight goes well, all things considered. The plan is to overload Zzzax with too much energy, a process that Odin speeds up when he tires of the Avengers’ efforts. Good thing, too. I was starting to be reminded of a certain movie....

Meanwhile, over in Muspelheim… oh, sorry. According to this show's warped mythology, “Helheim.” Whatever the place is called, a gigantic demon thing called “Mangog” is awakened by Odin’s use of the Odinforce.

Back on Earth, Odin is unimpressed with how the Avengers handled the situation. Thor argues that this is because he zapped them into the fight without a plan and then skipped to the end after they were winning. In response, Odin warps them all to Central Park and provides them with a new opponent. Himself. From the bushes, Mangog watches in anticipation as the fight begins. Considering the fact that they’re fighting a god in human form, it goes well. Although I have to point out how inaccurate the battle is.

Everyone knows he gives you a twenty-minute headstart.
Cap tries to get Odin to stop the fight, what with all the civilians in the area.

Odin: “A small price to pay for truth!”

There’s a subtle, but important distinction between “antagonist” and “villain” that often gets ignored.

An antagonist is merely in opposition to the “good guy” of the story. He might be doing the right thing, the wrong thing, or whatever. The point is that he stands against whomever we’re supposed to root for. Villains, on the other hand, are inherently “bad” to some degree. Criminals, thieves, murderers, et cetera.

Odin has just declared that he doesn’t care how many innocents get hurt as he beats up his son’s friends just to see if they can take it. Odin has just crossed the line into villain territory.

As his karmic reward, Mangog enters the fray and knocks the All-Father right out. Thor momentarily rescues his dad, who laments that Mangog had been waiting for him the whole time. He explains to the Avengers that Mangog was banished from Asgard long ago, and now wants revenge.

Well, if may interrupt the narrative, I will admit that I wasn’t too familiar with Mangog, so I did a bit of research.

First of all, he’s voiced by JB Blanc. NewtCave readers may recognize that as the same voice actor for Alfred in the criminally mistreated Beware the Batman.

Second, he’s an original creation of Stan Lee’s, not from the original myths.

Third, in the comics, he’s an amalgamation of the wrath of “a billion billion beings” that Odin slaughtered. (Edit: Or possibly just their hatred. Information is a little unclear, and the Marvel Wiki's official entry even notes that. I did say "I wasn't too familiar with Mangog.") Those “billion billion beings” being Vanir, as in the “Æsir-Vanir War” from the original myths.

Though I'd imagine there are a few vengeful Cleyran souls in the mix.
So, uh, yeah. Odin (very possibly) slaughtered somewhere around 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 people. (Edit: Or maybe he just bound their souls into the single form of Mangog, according to some sources. Either way, there are about 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 Vanir running around) No wonder he considers the bystanders in Central Park a drop in the bucket. But the way he sugarcoats it is so… just read what he says.

Iron Man: “Odin, just who or what is this Mangog?”
Odin: “A cast-off. A mistake. Mangog sought to make war with many. So I banished him to the dark realm.”

Oh, I see. War is inherently evil, but the genocide (or forced, unwilling amalgamation) of 1x10^18 people is just fine and dandy?

Tell me more about how you're the victim here, Odin.
Odin berates himself for coming to Earth alone as Mangog returns to claim Odin’s other eye and use it to become all-powerful. With Odin’s powers draining, the Avengers step in to fight the big guy themselves.

Hawkeye: “I hate this ‘gods and monsters’ stuff!”

Really? I thought the series was pretty good until Ultimates 3.
Odin tries to step in again to help, but Mangog’s shtick is using the Odinforce to grow stronger. So now he’s taller than the trees in the park.

Thor: “Odin’s beard!”
Odin: “My beard!”
Hawkeye: “So that’s where that phrase comes from.”

Then… ugh.

Look, I’ve said it multiple times. Fight scenes can be hard to talk about. Unless something really important happens, or important dialogue occurs, there’s really nothing to say but “So-and-So hits Whoever, who hits them back.” That's one of the reasons that this show has been a bit difficult for me to recap lately.

"Mojo World" had a plot about fighting, which means that there was a lot of fighting in the episode. Duh. But that also meant that I was kind of grasping at straws to find things to work with to bring up and/or poke fun of. "The Ambassador" was a bit better, but still had a lot of fighting for the sake of fighting. In fact, fighting for the sake of fighting is kind of a defining trait of the current Marvel shows.

So instead of complaining of yet another protracted fight scene, I'm going to offer some constructive analysis.

Let’s talk about what makes a good fight scene. Well, quite simply, progression. There needs to be a sense that something, anything, important is happening. Whether the heroes are slowly winning, slowly losing, or simply distracting the bad guys, or whatever, there needs to be a point to what’s happening on the screen.

Take the final battle of the first Iron Man film. Iron Man flies in to save Pepper, and the fight begins. It’s not just two people trading blows, but there are actual tactics involved. Obadiah puts civilians in danger, Iron Man tries to lure Obadiah from public, Pepper and Rhodey are off on different fronts assisting with the overall effort, and the day ends up saved. It’s not just trading blows, but actual story progression. Involving fists.

But in Avengers Assemble, the fight scenes generally boil down to “keep hitting it until we discover its weakness.” And "discovering its weakness" usually boils down to "Iron Man scans it repeatedly."

Which isn't always entirely useful.
That’s not to say that every battle has to be 100% integral to the plot. But Avengers Assemble keeps having long, drawn out battles that seem to only be there to pad out the running time. I mean, the Avengers will fight each other over the most trivial of things. And all it does is make the episode a tiny bit longer.

But again, that’s not to say that every fight in Avengers Assemble is pointless. Just look at “The Doomstroyer.” The whole episode could be considered one big fight, but they still manage to hit story beats. Iron Man fights off the armor on one front while Thor and Loki check out another. There’s a sense of something happening. Even when Iron Man’s side is stalemating, the tension is kept high by the stuff going on with Thor.

Speaking of Thor, let’s return to the episode.

Back in the episode, Mangog defeats Odin and claims his mighty spear, Gungnir. And for some reason, the New York Police Department has decided to get involved. Presumably, they finally got fed up with being useless when it comes to super-crime.

"Whose idea was it to go after the first supper-baddie we saw?"
"Mine, sir!"
"You're fired, Larry."
Mangog bonds Gungnir to his sword and uses its power to make all the police vehicles subject to his will. Because as we saw in Thor, enemies from other realms like to target Earth’s vehicles for some reason.
Mangog gets a new armored form, and the Avengers figure out his weakness. To the surprise of no one, it’s his sword. After Mangog taunts Thor about his daddy issues, some teamwork knocks it out of his hand, turning his outer skin to stone. For somehow.

Odin musters the energy to join in the teamwork and destroys Mangog’s sword, reclaiming his full strength. It’s a standard wrap-up from here. Iron Man slaps his super-cuffs on Mangog, he swears revenge on Odin, Odin teleports him away, and the police just kind of mill around and do nothing, I guess. We don’t see them again. Odin declares the Avengers to be true heroes, and Hawkeye invites Odin out for some Coney Dogs and a roller coaster. But no portals.

Hawkeye: “We’re taking the train.”

The episode ends with the special effect that denotes Heimdall teleporting Odin. Basically, Odin just up and ignores Hawkeye. Either that, or the animators weren't paying attention to the dialogue.

Now let's review. Let's see if I have anything left to say after that rant about fight scenes.

1 comment:

  1. "...and Hawkeye invites Odin out for some Coney Dogs..."

    You just reminded me how much I want a Spider-Man/Loki mini-series