‘The Avengers’: Naming a Most Valuable Player of the final fight scene
The Avengers grossed over $200mm in the US during its weekend debut, making it the unquestioned biggest film opening of all time. But there is one question: Who was the MVP of the fight with the Avengers versus Loki and his space pals?
There’s no hard and fast criteria for which I’ll be selecting the MVP here but we’re loosely using advanced statistic concepts from basketball and baseball and a liberal dose of my gut feelings on the topic. There will be spoilers. Got it? Away we go!
8. The Chitauri (Alien Invaders)
Let’s get this out of the way up front: The Chitauri alien invaders couldn’t have been more worthless as a team. Wave after wave of them, each only as marginally effective as the last. These guys are the embodiment of a Replacement Player in the Value Over Replacement Player (VORP) concept. At best, they were a slightly more destructive version of the Washington Generals.
Verdict: When you have tens of thousands of soldiers and end up destroying like two blocks of New York for fifteen minutes before being vanquished, you might need to spend more time gameplanning.
7. Captain America
Captain America is the one character whose motives were never in question throughout the film. Chris Evans’ character is a soldier his primary concern is putting the lives of others ahead of his own. Other than his ornate jingoism, Captain America’s primary strengths are his hand-to-hand combat and leadership. Both were on display in the final battle.
But when you’re next to a Norse God conjuring thunder and another dude destroying alien spaceships with Robin Hood-era weaponry, it’s hard not to come across as just a more likable version of Chris Bosh on this superteam.
Verdict: If you’re being built up as the leader of the group, hitting three aliens in the head with a shield while working as a glorified traffic cop for the human survivors earns you a LEAST VALUABLE PLAYER award. Let’s hope they don’t test for performance enhancing drugs, too.
Hawkeye had to overcome a lot in this movie, what with the brainwashing and subsequent murder of a lot of innocent people. But he put in work during the final battle, taking out hordes of enemies with a slightly more advanced version of something you’d see in Game of Thrones. And Jeremy Renner got to practice his smashing-through-windows skills for his part in the upcoming Bourne movie reboot. A win-win for all involved parties.
Verdict: Hawkeye makes the most of a limited skillset and, though he doesn’t accomplish his goal of shooting Loki in the eye, he did get to blow him up. A delightfully destructive consolation prize, to be sure.
Is it possible to feel underwhelmed by a superpowered Norse warrior demigod with the ability to conjure bolts of lightning and take on armies of men without breaking a sweat? Because, if so, I’d say Thor accomplished it. Maybe Chris Hemsworth’s Thor didn’t have his heart in it since he was battling against his prodigal half-brother, but it felt like watching LeBron James unravel in last year’s NBA Finals. All the skills were there and the numbers weren’t awful, but in a fight in which so many other Avengers rose to the occasion, Thor just kind of phoned it in.
Verdict: A Norse god really should have been able to take over this match-up. Thor’s passiveness on the battlefield was obvious. His performance in the post-credit shawarma scene was a tour de force, though, for whatever that’s worth.
Loki’s the type of guy who talks a big game but just doesn’t have the abilities to back it up on the field. If you look at his actual performance, what did Tom Hiddleston’s character really accomplish? Failing to possess Tony Stark, pointlessly stabbing his adoptive brother Thor, riding an alien warcraft before getting blown up, and getting hilariously smashed by the Hulk is pretty much all he contributed to the fight.
Verdict: Though his swagger and foresight definitely made it seem like the alien forces had a shot at winning, Loki was just overmatched. There’s only so much clever monologues and unnecessary Shakespearean dialect can overcome a big talent disparity.
3. Black Widow
Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow had the same competitive disadvantage as Captain America. But she somehow fought off just as many alien invaders while also figuring out how to close the portal that all of the alien invaders were coming through. No Super Serum, no rage-induced shape shifting, just good ol’ fashioned Russian ingenuity.
And while it’s not a consideration in her ranking here, you’d have to imagine her elite ability to get the rest of the castmates to check her out on-set was good for the movie’s morale.
Verdict: I’m sure most of us weren’t expecting a lot from Black Widow but she closed an alien space portal, displayed top-notch striking skills, and had the sexiest outfit (non-Thor Division). Black Widow earns a nod for the Sixth (Wo)Man Award for coming off the bench to provide a big spark.
2. Iron Man
Say what you will about Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark and the arrogance he displays in every scene, but the man brings it every time he’s called on. While his offensive skills are omnipresent, what’s more impressive about Iron Man’s performance is how he’s willing to do the little things to win. Evasive tactics when his suit was near death, backdoor cuts to eliminate Chitauri soldiers without wasting laser ammo, guiding nuclear missiles into alien portals. You know, the little things.
Even better, Iron Man took to heart the criticism that Captain America laid at his feet earlier in the film and showed true grit and selflessness throughout the battle. While his personality may not necessarily scream “leader,” his contributions on the field did.
Verdict: The bottom line is that the Avengers wouldn’t have escaped with a win without Iron Man’s huge contributions all over the battlefield. While he may not win the big award today, the diversity of his skills had to have silenced a lot of Monday Morning Superhero Quarterbacks.
Next time though, you may want to let go of the nuclear missile once you’ve already aimed it at the alien warship rather than walking it up like a kid going to his first day of kindergarten.
1. The Hulk
Mark Ruffalo’s portrayal of the violent monster far surpassed previous Australian and former-neo-Nazi interpretations of the character. In the final fight scene, Hulk destroyed countless alien invaders, oversized alien snake spaceships (to the point they had to dectuple team Hulk with a firing squad just to mildly inconvenience him), and classic New York architecture. And he did it while missing half the fight — remember, he showed up halfway through on a moped. That’s the big green rage monster version of Willis Reed in the 1970 NBA Finals.
Throw in the facts that he single-handedly incapacitated the opposing team’s big bad with his hilarious smashing of Loki as well as saved Iron Man from becoming a billionaire playboy-sized hole in the ground and you’ve got an amazing performance unparalleled in superhero history.
Oh, and he contributed this moment with Thor, which deserves to be immediately inducted into the GIF Hall of Fame:
Verdict: Hulk has to be the unquestioned Most Valuable Player and, most importantly, he does it for the love. The love of violently destroying things while in tattered Salvation Army clothes. I’m not sure we’re emotionally ready for him to get another solo movie, but this Hulk is truly a pantheon superhero movie character by any metric.