If you’re one of the ten or eleven people that still haven’t seen The Avengers yet, but do intend to, do yourself a favor and skip this column, cause we’re getting into heavy spoiler territory. If, however, you’ve already seen the film like a normal, decent person, allow me to share with you something that’s been bugging me about the whole thing…
Now, don’t get me wrong. I liked The Avengers. Liked it quite a bit (in fact, here’s my review). Maybe I didn’t think it was the end-all-be-all of action and/or comic-book movies that a lot of other people did, but I still dug it a lot. And pretty much almost everything that is right with the film I chalk up to writer/director Joss Whedon. I mean, yeah, the cast is great and all, but this thing could have been a disaster with the wrong guy at the helm. Whedon’s not the wrong guy. Nerds like me practically creamed our pants when Marvel first confirmed he had the gig. Now, here we are a year later, and we stand vindicated (but still out a nice pair of pants).
There are a lot of Whedon-esque moments you can point to in The Avengers, but I think one sticks out more than any other. I’m talking…and like I said, SPOILERS…about the sudden, shocking death of SHIELD Agent Phil Coulson. You know, Coulson, that relatively minor character from the first Iron Man movie that turned into one of the luckiest breaks ever for actor Clark Gregg, as he surprisingly became one of the main connective tissues between all these interweaving Marvel films. He was given his own little short-films on the blu-rays of Thor and Captain America, and the character became so popular with fans that he was added to the Ultimate Spider-Man animated series and was even recently added to the main Marvel Comic Universe continuity.
So, yeah, Whedon killed that sucker.
Although it’s a shocking moment in the film, it’s really not that surprising if you’re familiar with Whedon’s work. Think back to Buffy, Angel, Serenity…heck, even Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog – Whedon has never been afraid to unexpectedly kill off a beloved character to create a powerful moment that raises the stakes dramatically. And, really, sorry, but if he wanted to do that in The Avengers, Coulson had to be the guy. I mean, maybe Whedon first pitched killing off Thor…but I doubt it.
So even though I enjoyed the Coulson character, I have no problem with his death, which is a striking moment in the movie. But what I took issue with were Coulson’s final dying words to SHIELD Director Nick Fury. And I’m paraphrasing here, because I’ve only seen the thing once and there was way too much other cool stuff to try to remember, but I think Coulson’s final words go a little something like:
“It’s OK, it’s better this way. If this was going to work, they needed something to…”
Well, somebody sure has a high opinion of themselves, huh?? I mean, c’mon, we all know what that fucker was about to say. “They needed something to AVENGE.” That’s right, in this guys mind, from this point on The Avengers are called The Avengers because they are avenging Phil Coulson. Sort of makes you look at the name of the movie in a whole new light, doesn’t it?
Now, on one hand, this seems like an incredibly egotistical thing to say. We’ve all had moments where we think we’re the center of attention, are convinced everyone is talking about us, etc. But I have never taken it as far as believing an entire team of superheroes is going to finally set aside their differences and bond together as a team simply because of little old me. But Coulson does. Can you believe the balls on this guy?
But what’s even crazier about the movie is this simple fact:
The way it comes across, it IS Coulson’s death that causes these great heroes to finally get their shit together and get their heads in the game in the battle against Loki. They all sit around moping like Loki killed their mother or best friend or something. I mean, I get Black Widow and Hawkeye being bothered – they’ve probably worked with the guy for years, probably got drunk together and holiday parties and were in office Super Bowl and Oscar pools. But Captain America? He’s known the guy for like a day or two, and quite frankly, Coulson was sort of creepy around him. Tony Stark always seemed annoyed by Coulson. I know he uses his snarky cynicism as a defense mechanism, but still. And then there’s Thor, who has met the man before, but only briefly, and not always in the best circumstances (remember when Coulson had him handcuffed and was interrogating him?).
It’s not that I’m saying they shouldn’t be saddened by his death. He is a comrade, and from everything we’ve seen a pretty darn good agent. But it seems odd to so heavily insinuate that his death is any more meaningful to these heroes than the deaths of the hundreds of other agents that certainly died in the same attack (do you think any of them died thinking they were the one that The Avengers would really mourn?). Coulson’s death should mean more to us, the audience, but I don’t know what to think of superheroes who can’t work together against a potentially world-conquering threat unless they can pick out one particular victim to care about. What about SHIELD Agent Dereck Taylor, who worked on level one and was killed in one of the initial explosions? Or, hell, what about janitor Toby Peterson, who was sucked out of the side of the helicarier during the attack and plunged to his death, leaving behind a wife and three children? Granted, I just made both those guys up, but still, there were a lot of people like them, and you’d hope someone like Captain America would care just as much about them (maybe not Hulk, though…that guy doesn’t care about shit).
Before I wrap this up, I should also probably bring up one last possibility – what if Coulson isn’t even dead? I mean, he probably is, but you obviously can’t put it past Nick Fury to just lie to the team and tell him he’s dead even though he’s not. He lied about those bloody trading cards, after all (does that mean Fury went and grabbed the cards and then rubbed them all over Coulson’s bloody body?). Maybe Coulson just slipped into a coma but Fury took his last words to heart and told the team he perished, so as to ensure they would actually stop the earth from dying and all. Or maybe they saved Coulson’s brain and they’re gonna put it in a robot body and make him The Vision. Wouldn’t that be something? An emotionless android that is still somehow always gloating, “hey guys, remember when you all avenged me? I knew you loved me, guys.”
That probably won’t happen. Dude’s dead. And thank heavens for that, I suppose…otherwise these so-called Avengers might have just let Loki kill all our asses.