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    The Anchor Panel

    The following column, the ongoing result of a vaguely out of control experiment, documents the continuing expedition of one man, delving forever deeper into the world of comic books and its associated fields of study. The primary test subject, Daniel Reynolds, has been launched with only his wits and relative brainpower to absorb overwhelming graphic and video stimulus and, hopefully, report back from the void. As a slightly seasoned veteran of various comic book endeavours and filmic enterprises, Reynolds hopes to reflect and illuminate while inviting a rotating cast of co-pilots to join him as together they navigate this unforgiving and half-remembered terrain. The Anchor Panel, as it is formally known, serves as the outlet for his transmissions from deep within this wild and mysterious land.

    Prior Anchor Panel discussions can be accessed here.

    Current Article: Avengers Assemble


    Editor's Note: Well somehow, in an unprecedented move, Marvel Film Studios planned out, years in advance, a production schedule that got us to this point: The Avengers. A film featuring a bunch of their flagship characters all on screen at the same time, built off of individually launched franchises. And now a discussion featuring our enthusiastic panel, Alex, Anthony and Daniel.

    I can't promise I won't be completely biased.

    With Whedon as our directorial anchor in this cinematic relay race, I'm surprised we got to buy a ticket and watch this at all, let alone in sequence and on time! Logistics baffle me on this one, kudos to the planners.
    To commemorate the giant-sized movie, we went for a giant-sized Anchor Panel (hold your jokes) this month. I'm joined by both Alex and Anthony to hash out what we just saw. But first, let's talk about the build up and our expectations heading into the movie. Alex?

    Plainly put: the most faithful comic book adaptation yet. Knowing Joss Whedon's nerd cred and the multi-movie setup to this, I knew there was very little chance of getting this wrong.

    The bar was set high as I'd tasted and loved all of this film's ingredients on their own. But the souffle, would she rise or flop?

    Yeah, I was just amazed it all came together like it did. Thinking back, if the gamble on that first Iron Man movie hadn't worked out (Jon Favreau as a first time action director, Downey Jr. as a super hero, etc.) we wouldn't have had the slew of movies afterwards.

    Yeah, so they traversed the gauntlet and it actually worked -- makes you wonder if this will spark a trend - derailing the industry from its parade of sequels, prequels and reboots.

    Well, to be fair, the Avengers could be considered some sort of sequel. Well, four sequels in one: Hulk, Iron Man, Thor AND Captain America.
    Yeah, if anything, it will reinforce the trend with Thor 2 and Iron Man 3 already in the works. Hollywood doesn't shy away from a winner. Alright, let's get to the film. We've got lots of characters, lots of plot. How did you guys think the characters gelled together? Fair and balanced or was someone stealing the show?

    I think everyone can agree the largest piece of pie (or shawarma) went to Iron Man. Downey Jr's charisma stole any scene he was in. A pensive Banner was excellent from intro to finish, and was the only fresh character I wanted to see more of (fingers crossed for another standalone Hulk movie!).

    Editor's Note: Your prayers to be answered?

    Chris Evans didn't steal the show but he did prove that he had the chops to play a character like Captain America, finally moving on from his typical goofball pretty boy roles of old. Mark Ruffalo was a welcome addition and I found him overall better than Ed Norton or Eric Bana in the same role as he opted not to play the Hulk as this tragic figure.
    To confirm: RDJ just smashed it out of the park and was able to disarm the movie sometimes when it got a little too grandiose. I agree with you guys that Ruffalo was a nice addition. I felt like he didn't get enough screen time but definitely made the most of it. Was I the only one who grew a bit tired of the SHIELD characters though?

    Nope, unless they are serving as a supplier of awesome tech or critical intelligence, let's keep them as far out of the way of our beloved Avengers as possible. Even the rocket launcher Fury took to the nuclear-equipped jet wasn't impactful enough to alter the plot.

    You need cannon fodder for any movie and the SHIELD jabronis supplied that in spades.
    I thought Jackson's Fury was kind of tired, and Robin Sparkles (see How I Met Your Mother) was woefully miscast.

    I don't think "Sparkles" was as miscast as she was miswritten. She just had nothing to do throughout the movie but somehow survive precarious situations.

    Award for most painful set of lines goes to those two at the end of the flick (note: an approximation follows!) "Sir how do you know they'll come back?" "Because we'll need them to." Ugh. At least that served a great (hilarious) contrast to the post credits scene.

    I think we're quibbling a bit! The whole being greater than the sum of its parts and all that. For example, while it was only mildly engaging to watch the movie Thor, he was really well-employed here. Locked in an earthbound struggle, but still grappling with his brother Loki and all that Asgardian stuff. I liked how he brought a slightly different sensibility to the group, especially in his dealings with Loki.

    Weird how he was fully in his element this time around, eh? Taking a step back here, the team's initial assembly was well executed (loved the testosterone spiked introduction Iron Man, Thor and Cap had) and nothing felt awkward or chummy. Further in, something unique was brought to the table by each character, and watching the team take pot shots at each others' flaws was the deepest dissection of origin stories we've seen in a Marvel film I can recall.

    I definitely liked that it didn't have to spend a million years re-explaining who all the characters are, though. Even though the movie was like 2.5 hours long it didn't feel that long, which is definitely good. The set piece on the SHIELD craft didn't blow me away, but again, I was amazed that they found gripping things for all the characters to do.

    Same here. The team dynamic was fantastic and each character got their chance to shine. Now give me something to argue!

    Alright well, what Reynolds said about the movie not feeling 2.5 hours long? Argument incited! After that battle on the airship, things fell apart and descended in to the abyss of Bay-esque over-explosive stimulation (I loved the movie, but some things took away from a great experience).

    Careful the way you throw "Bay-esque" around here, son. If you've seen ANY of those wretched Transformers movies, you'd know that it is practically impossible to follow along with the action. The action in Avengers flowed seamlessly from character to character, showcasing amazing set pieces unique to each individual Avengers. It blows my mind that you would think this, Anth. We need to have a sit down, you and I.
    Rage building? But seriously, overstimulation is par for the course on a movie like this. The movie has to serve a lot of masters! You've gotta have shit blowing up, but it helps to develop a character or two.

    It doesn't excuse the fact that the last 30-45 minutes is a mess of action sequences that although awesome in their own right, dragged.

    Point taken, but I would contend that the Hulk scenes in that last 30-45 minutes were a highlight. People were actually cheering when he turned into the Hulk and smashed that flying armoured turtle-worm thing.

    The sequence at the end reminded me of Avatar's end sequence. Long, loud and explosive but in jungle setting. Maybe it's the whole city-scape that's your problem? Listen, man, I'll come by next week with a few beers and some Mike's Hard Lemonade (for you) and we can talk it out.

    That's his secret: he's always (an) angry (fanboy)! Haha I kid, and I'm holding you to that MHL! Back to this, another gripe I had was the attempt at writing a back story for Black Widow and Hawkeye. Johansson's interrogations were sweet, and I understand there is something there that we don't have time to learn about... but their camaraderie didn't feel real.

    Now here, I disagree. I thought the Black Widow stuff was good, gave her character something to do and also she acted as the human surrogate for the audience (albeit, a highly skilled, deadly surrogate). Her character in Iron Man 2 was basically 'hot girl in leather suit.'

    I actually did not remember her from Iron Man 2 at all, so that speaks to Black Widow becoming a more substantial player here.

    Heh, exactly. So the fact that she was emotionally engaging this time around was nice. As for Hawkeye's turn, I liked that it gave him a nice side-revenge story. And I liked the subtlety of their relationship, that they were looking out for each other and while they didn't kiss or anything, it felt like there was history there.

    I thought the Black Widow scenes were some of the most sharply written scenes in the movie as the audience is still trying to gauge her role in this entire mess and, as Reynolds explained, is the audience's link to this surreal environment (as Neo and Skywalker were in the Matrix and Star Wars, respectively). As for Hawkeye, I felt that his role as an "evil minion" helped in establishing his future role on the team in not only motivation, but in demonstrating that he has the skill set necessary to hang with demigods.
    Al, you getting soft? Where is the rage?

    Nay, Reynolds... I feel it. Still it lingers. As an outsider to comic lore, on screen I noticed very little between Loki and Fury. Should there have been?

    I'm just shifting into bitch-gear right now to give Anth a breather. My gripe is simply this: Nick Fury's role. Loki is the embodiment of chaos in myth and fiction and, much like the Joker in Dark Knight, he exemplified these qualities perfectly throughout the movie. Now, where Batman treads the line of order and chaos, Fury is the embodiment of order. Wouldn't it make sense to push him to the forefront as Loki's antithesis?
    Well, this goes back to what we were saying before. To me, Nick Fury's character was just sort of there. Loki, meanwhile, is a great character in the movie, much different from someone like the Joker (more systemic mischief vs. pure chaos). The audience is unsure of his plans or motivations. He is the bad guy, sure, but within the context of the film he feels that his actions are justifiable.

    Come on, they had two scenes opposite of each other, one in the middle of an action sequence and the other as more of a tongue in cheek way of having Fury brag about capturing him. That definitely was not enough especially considering Fury's role in Marvel and Avenger's continuity in general.

    Now that you mention the first meeting, I am reminded Fury was the first to "greet" Loki as he came through the portal. I guess nothing really stuck for me in terms of conflict for those two other than: "That's it!! I've HAD it with these mothaf'n Gods in my mothaf'n Cube!"

    Yeah, it's just weird that they would abandon that potential dynamic completely.
    I don't know. Everything Loki did was on a more cosmic scale, as if he viewed Fury as far beneath him. And since he could take control of people and was more concerned about battling Thor, it didn't shock me that Loki and Fury were mostly apart.

    But still, did either of you find the plot jarring at times? It felt as though watching the movies wasn't enough to fully grasp a lot of what was going on. Maybe too much time had gone by since seeing them in theaters last summer, but would re-watching Cap, Thor, Iron Man 1 & 2 have made things any clearer?

    Ironically, the only one that I should maybe re-watch is Thor since I couldn't quite remember how the Loki / Thor relationship had resolved itself by the end of that movie (and I've seen it twice, somehow). What did you feel like you were missing out on, Anth?

    Maybe nothing I'm searching for is in the movies. The sci fi fan in me wants to know about the guys pulling Loki's strings. Who are the henchmen pouring through the gate on those sweet hover bikes and why are they so damn easy to kill? Hulk controls rage while he's at ground level but goes completely berserk when he's at altitude? It may be difficult to separate your knowledge of the Avengers comics from what you've seen in the movies, but where you guys may have been able to subconsciously fill in gaps, Joe/Jane Casual is armed only with the abbreviated experiences shown to him/her via prior films.

    The back story isn't that necessary in the first place. Cap is the man out of his time, Thor is the demigod trying to set things right and Iron Man is the rogue tech genius with questionable motivations. The movie establishes that very early on. The details of the plot harkens back to prior movies but nothing that can't be surmised on your own. The cube is a weapon of incredible power, as the movie shows, but you really don't need to remember that the Red Skull did this and that with it because it has no impact on the movie at all.

    But... I want to. It's the same problem I had watching Lord of the Rings without having read the books, or currently face watching Game of Thrones. I thirst for detail, but those tidbits are left on the cutting room floor. A simplified plot helps this, but if I want more I guess I have some reading to do!

    Fair enough, Anth, but weren't you just complaining that the movie was too long? Ultimately, I think moments like when Iron Man flies through that portal, or Hulk finally smashes, or when Cap exclaims that he actually gets a reference, double as great bits of character development. You may not have seen (or recall) the previous movies or the comics, but the movie does a convincing job of conveying who these people are and why you should care about them.

    OK my last gripe -- and it really doesn't impact the awesomeness of the film --

    More gripes?!

    The pseudo-invincibility of all the heroes and villains! Hulk seemed just as strong as Thor, but neither were capable of inflicting or receiving damage to each other. Thor manages to break out of Hulk's impenetrable prison with that hammer, so does that mean Thor is stronger than Hulk? Iron Man in his suit was just as indestructible as Thor or Cap (who really if shot should go down right)? If Black Widow would have been stapled to the bulkhead by Hulk, she would be dead, I understand that, but the frailty of the average mortal was not given much weight. I don't get it, and sorry for that rant.

    Anth, I have some battleboard forums that I think you would enjoy. Come with me...

    Heh, can we just put health bars and damage numbers in the movies for me, please?

    The frailty of the average mortal? But think of poor Agent Phil Coulson. He died doing what he loved: spouting pithy one-liners. God speed Agent Coulson. And thanks guys for talking Avengers with me and not once bringing up Thanos. See you all next month!