The Avengers part 16
Now that the Avengers have “cleared the red from their ledgers,” the real battle for New York, and the world, begins. Capt America, the living anachronism, is suddenly made commander. Why is unclear: he’s shown no flair for either strategy or tactics up to this point, and he’s eternally baffled by technology. He is, however, the group’s resident idealist, and Coulson’s favorite, which gives him the moral edge. Nick Fury, it’s worth mentioning, is absent from the battle. He is, I hesitate to say, the “real power” at this point, governmental power the way we mortals understand it: sneaky, underhanded and secretive, no matter how high his ideals.
Capt America sends Iron Man and Hawkeye up top to call the game and take out aerial threats. He sends Thor to bottleneck the portal and keeps Black Widow at his side for hand-to-hand combat. Hulk he sends to “smash.” That is to say, Hawkeye will act as a lookout (his forte), Iron Man will act as a weapon (his heritage) Thor will act as thunder-god (his very name), he and Black Widow will work the fight on the ground (turning their limitation into a strength) and Hulk will wreak havoc (his secret thrill). (Bruce, after enduring an act of Tony Stark’s ribbing about his lack of self-control, now has the last laugh: he enjoys hulking out.)
Thor (somehow) uses his hammer to turn the Chrysler Building into a lightning rod (to the surprise, I’m sure, of the thousands of people currently in the Chrysler Building) and then (somehow) uses the ensuing lightning as a kind of lightning-sphincter on the Tesseract portal.
Meanwhile, up in the helicarrier, Fury is called to The Council. The Council, as Councils will, wishes Fury to annihilate Manhattan with a nuclear strike. (The Councils two speaking members are Powers Boothe and Jenny Agutter. Powers Boothe came to fame playing the Rev Jim Jones in a TV movie about Jonestown, Ms. Agutter is known for being “the girlfriend” in Logan’s Run and American Werewolf, but came to prominence as “The Girl” in Nick Roeg’s Walkabout. If there is a specific movie-movie Whedonverse joke in their casting, it escapes me.)
In the streets, Hawkeye directs Iron Man to exploit the Chitauri glider’s weakness in turning skills (a purely mechanical flaw) while Black Widow learns where the Chitauri armor is vulnerable. Again, the fighting style is suited to the character. The Chitauri, it should be noted, remain utterly without ideology. They don’t even reflect Loki’s megalomania, they’re merely an anonymous “threat” of the “Crush, Kill, Destroy” variety. Nor, it should be said, do they have a mind-bending or confounding technology, like the Martians in War of the Worlds. They have machines and armor, but their machines have understandable limitations and their armor is not magical. They are, all in all, an easily understood, easily hated enemy, without metaphor, the better to flex against for the good of humankind.
Black Widow now steps out of her comfort zone to manipulate the Chitauris in ways she hasn’t yet manipulated men: at high speeds over city streets. She hijacks a glider and “pilots” the pilot with knives to his ribs. In the ensuing incredible shot, we see a virtual tag-team of heroics as Black Widow pilots, Iron Man teams up with Capt America to zap, Hawkeye pierces (100 internet dollars to those who understand that as a MASH reference), Hulk pulverizes and Thor hammers. Hulk, just to keep things lively, also punches Thor out of frame: Bruce in complete control is no longer Bruce.
In the street, the US Army arrives to help out. Depending on your view, this either helps or hurts the cause.
Meanwhile, atop Stark Tower, Dr. Selvig, although he has not been conked on the head by Black Widow, nevertheless comes out of his Loki trance.
In a nearby bank, the Chitauri have cornered a number of civilians, causing Capt America to come rescue them. Is there a metaphor at work, that Capt America must save citizens trapped in a bank? Are the Chitauri now predatory lenders, and their blinking blue grenade a low-interest Adjustable Rate Mortgage? Whatever the metaphorical import, the encounter in the bank leaves Capt America shaken, to the point where civilian passers-by look at him with pity.
Up in the sky, Black Widow is in over her head, so to speak. Loki is after her on his own glider, but Hawkeye, watching her back, knocks him out of the air with a well-placed arrow, depositing him right where we began, on Tony Stark’s porch, where the Hulk, having the last word, shows up to make short work of the god who would be king.