I don’t remember where I originally read this but I saved it on my computer because it’s so brilliant.
"I’ve been reading this thread for a while, and thinking about this movie. I don’t think this movie is a cartoon. I think what this movie actually is, is Joss Whedon sitting in a sandbox playing with action figures.
For a while the kid in the sandbox has to make due with single ones, like an Iron Man figurine. But slowly as time went on, his mom (Marvel) gave him more action figures, and more action figures, and now? He has the entire set of the Avengers! It’s time to go outside on a Saturday, sit in the sandbox and make kid magic.
Kid’s don’t operate on movie logic. They operate on a impulse sort of logic. A desire sort of logic. On that front, Whedon delivers to the kid in all of us. We Want to see Iron Man and Thor punch each other. We want to see Hulk smash. But none of the characters ever really get hurt. None of the scenes end with good consequences. Some of you see this as cartoon logic, but cartoons do this because the kid doesn’t want to see his characters actually get hurt, just superficially. Consequences aren’t fun to kids. Instant gratification is. He wants them at full power for the next time he finds an excuse to smash them together. If he breaks one, he knows going to Mom will just end with Mom scolding him for being careless and not getting him another.
He does break one toy. He breaks Coulson, in another important fanboy moment: What do the guns do? We need to see what the guns do! OH SWEET THEY BLAST LOKI THROUGH SOME WALLS (But Loki is okay because he doesn’t want to break Loki). Coulson is an old toy. A holdover from the earliest movies, and since he’s just a dude, he’s boring. Good excuse to break a toy, he can find another agent toy later. Now it’s just one less toy he has to deal with, and he can go back to playing with the cool toys.
Now you think about a big criticism of the recent pages: The Helicarrier. It’s convenient that the Helicarrier is so big, because it has to hold all the characters. The helicarrier becomes the sandbox. So when the kid breaks back down into battle mode with his action figures we never see the carrier going down, it’s just told to us. Because that’s big crazy stuff the kid can’t actually do: he can’t pick up his sandbox and drop it, that would be hard and might break his sandbox! So he just has his Fury doll say “ARGH, GET THIS THING OVER WATER WE ARE GOING DOWN”. When you are a kid, playing with your toys, you can’t do these massive things, you just imagine them, and continue to play with your characters. Whedon knows the ship is going down, but he wants to play with his figures instead of dealing with that, so he just uses his imagination for the potential crash, and by extension asks us to use our imagination while watching the film, instead of actually showing us. Because it’s just fantasy fun, that doesn’t matter, Hulk punching Thor matters.
The carrier is never under true threat of falling, because the carrier is his playspace (The Sandbox). When Hulk ends up on the fighter jet and gets blown off, that’s Whedon throwing Hulk outside the sandbox, and subsequently leaving the playspace. We don’t see Hulk again until it’s over, when the movie slows down to show us where Hulk is. The movie slows down because Whedon had to get up and go pick up the toy he threw a while before.
In the last act, the battle, the sandbox stops being a Hellicarrier, and becomes a city. The battle never goes outside a certain square block radius…because that’s as far as the sandbox reaches and Whedon is too lazy and engrossed to bother getting up again, because he can only hold two characters at once so he has to make sure he can stay with them at all times.
The fact that Whedon only has two hands and can only play with two action figures at once is extremely prevalent in the action sequences. Think about it: When do you see more than 2 important characters fighting each other? We never have a three way battle: the only times more than 3 characters are together is for talky scenes when the characters aren’t actually fighting. Thor fights/talks to Loki when he shows up, then Loki gets forgotten about (Read: Dropped for a different action figure) and then Whedon is holding Iron Man and Thor, and smashing them together. Cap jumps out too, but doesn’t show up till the end, when you have a brief moment between Thor and Cap. Moving to the helicarrier scene, we always have exactly two characters together: First it’s Hulk and Black Widow. Then it’s Hulk and Thor. Black Widow and Hawkeye. Iron Man and Cap. Never more than 2 at once, because the kid in the sandbox only has two hands. He can switch between characters fast, but he can never hold more than two at once, so we never see more than 2 at once.
It comes into play for the final battle too, and this is where only having two hands ends up underselling the movie, because it removes true teamwork from the equation. Iron Man shoots off Cap’s Shield. Cap gives Black Widow a boost. Hulk and Thor take out a Leviathan. Iron Man goes inside one and blows it up. Thor and Loki confront each other. Hulk and Loki confront each other. But as good as all of these scenes are, they lack any glue behind it. The only characters that matter are the ones onscreen, the ones currently being held. You are never watching a scene without Iron Man going “Oh Man, is Iron Man okay? Is the plan working?”. Loki gets thrashed by Hulk, then completely vanishes from the film until the end. Loki trying to get up and watch his plan fall apart isn’t fun, Hawkeye falling off a building and grappling through a window is fun. Only what’s onscreen at any given time is what matters. What’s onscreen is cool, but everything offscreen stays the status quo until we see it, and it removes a ton on tension. It’s the same way that a kid operates on impulse. Kid’s don’t think in long term build up, they think in instant gratification. It makes what’s onscreen really goddamn fun to watch, but takes away anything underneath and remains completely superficial.
Lastly, my biggest complaint: Iron Man saves the city from the nuke by himself. For a movie about teamwork, this is absolute bullshit. The most anyone else does is Black Widow holding the door open for him a bit. We need to see Chitari attacking Black Widow, and Hawkeye shooting them to keep her safe. We need to see Hulk and Thor beating up Leviathans trying to go after Iron Man, clearing the way for him. We need to see Cap doing something for him, because the Cap/Stark relationship is one of the movie’s strongest. Instead they all just sit there. Why? Because at this point Kid Whedon has decided he likes Iron Man the best (after all, he’s had that action figure the longest, and already had two great Saturday battles with him). The end is Joss Whedon, literally running around his backyard, Iron Man action figure in hand, going “WOOOOOOOOSH”. Then he throws the pine needle at the stick fort and the stick fort goes kablooie! Hooray! The day is saved! Mom says it’s time for dinner now. Time to stuff yourself with delicious food (Money) Joss, a fitting end to a hard day of battle.
The movie did what it had to. For some of us, that’s enough. You will never treat it as more than a snack. For the others, we see a movie that is held together with duct tape and comes crashing apart at the seams with any critical thought because there’s nothing going on below the surface. It’s frustrating because the movie works, but could have been so much stronger with a few more re-writes and some insert shots. With a little more mature thought behind it we might have had a timeless superhero classic. Instead it’s just a fun bit of fluff.
TL/DR - Marvel gave Joss Whedon tons of money to play with toys”