One of the main appeals of an ensemble team-up like The Avengers, whether on the big screen or in the comic pages, is the choice of characters. I read The Avengers regularly as a kid in spite of not enjoying the solo adventures of Captain America, Iron Man, the Hulk and many others on the roster of "Earth's Mightiest Heroes," because collectively they compliment each other and also because like in an extended family you can get along with the whole clan by favoring just one or a few select members while potentially disfavoring others.
I had a special bond with Hawkeye. Maybe it started just because his last name, Barton, is my mother's maiden name (and also my middle name), but I loved the rare miniseries spotlighting him alone as well as the titles Solo Avengers and West Coast Avengers primarily as a fan of this master archer. So of course his inclusion in The Avengers movie was a big draw for me. So imagine my disappointment with how under-developed he was as a character. Regardless of whether or not Jeremy Renner authentically held his bow and displayed proper form, I would have liked more from both actor and hero, especially after he was reduced to a treasonous zombie for most of the movie.
On the other hand, I had little to no expectation of Black Widow, the sexy operative portrayed by Scarlett Johansson. She'd been a bore in most of Iron Man 2 up until she was given one small but terrific moment to kick ass. In this movie, though, she's more fascinating when not in a physical fight. Her power appears to be in the mind, a vital talent for persuasion and interrogation in which she's willing to sacrifice herself in body and psychological health for the sake of getting the information or teammate she and the rest of the Avengers need. Her cerebral scene with the imprisoned Loki, a Silence of the Lambs-like battle of wits in which she endures a momentary emotional surrender and comes out on top is my favorite part of the entire Avengers series so far.
Of course, Mark Ruffalo's incarnation of Bruce Banner and the Hulk were satisfying as well (enough for a solo film?), and Thor was largely forgettable (I didn't like his solo film at all, either). Robert Downey Jr.'s devoted fans might have still favored his Tony Stark and, well, a number of despicably racist moviegoers have protested Samuel L. Jackson's portrayal of Nick Fury. Does everyone have best-loved and least-loved character in The Avengers? I've rounded up opinions from the blogosphere and twittersphere to find out.
Who are people naming as most satisfying and most disappointing hero in The Avengers? Here's The Conversation heard around the Internet:
My favorite character from the Marvel Movie Universe is a suit. [...] Agent Phil Coulson became even more alive and dimensional with his turn in The Avengers. With S.H.I.E.L.D. as a living, breathing entity instead of a set-up after-credits scene cameo, Coulson finally stepped into the action. More importantly, he was our audience proxy, standing shoulder to shoulder with a team of superheroes, even admitting to Captain America that he grew up collecting his trading cards. Coulson was a fan favorite before Avengers, but quick and sharp characterization in Avengers turned him into a fight, a team player, a true friend, and a fan, just like us. - Matt Patches, Hollywood.com
In the previous Marvel movies, both Black Widow and Agent Coulson have been minor presences on the sidelines-- depending on how much you liked Scarlett Johansson and Clark Gregg in their roles, they were either agreeable diversions from the main story or irritating distractions. But The Avengers is time for everybody to step up to the plate and take a major role in the story, and in one swift scene at the beginning of the film, Joss Whedon develops both characters further than any previous movie had. We see Natasha in a precarious position, tied to a chair and dangled over a precipice-- not just being tortured, but dolled up to look hot while she's a victim. But one phone call from Coulson is enough to turn the entire scenario on its head, Natasha revealing she's been in control the entire time and proceeding to kick ass, and Coulson listening, hilariously, to the entire beatdown over the phone. - Katey Rich, Cinema Blend
Romanov blossoms when she’s given meaningful dialog and decent interpersonal communication. Also, her friendship with Hawkeye saves his life. Although he was actively trying to kill her (his mind was subsumed by Loki), she’s determined to take him alive instead. She tells Loki outright that her association with Hawkeye isn’t love, and she doesn’t even admit to friendship, but she does insist that she owes him. She doesn’t like unpaid debts. Also, she has a secret power that’s unique to all other superheroes: Black Widow is an awesome listener. - Carol Pinchefsky, Forbes
Black Widow feels like an entirely different person than the blank scenery she proved to be in her previous appearance. [...] The fact that we've never been that invested in [Hawkeye] in the first place means that his return doesn't serve as some grand victory. It's presumably been done to give Black Widow some emotional investment in the whole thing, but it's hard not to feel that sidelining him is a waste of Renner's talents, just as it was in "Mission: Impossible -- Ghost Protocol." Attention movie franchises: if you hire a double Oscar-nominee like Renner, try and give him something to do. - Oliver Lyttelton, The Playlist
In Iron Man 2, Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow had a problematic introduction: Little was required of her but standing around all poutylike and occasionally flipping a man over on his back. Oddly enough, she's better served in the much deeper ensemble of The Avengers, where she gets the backstory and smart dialogue that went missing before — so much so that we'd actually be keen on a stand-alone movie now [...] when Thor actually was onscreen, he was either alone in a random field, wrestling with his faulty hammer, or getting punched back off the screen by Hulk. This maybe explains why Hemsworth spent most of the movie looking a little lost, like he didn't quite understand when the camera was on him, or how he ended up in this bang-em-up space alien movie. Too many universes for one Thunder God. - Kyle Buchanan and Amanda Dobbins, Vulture
Given short appearances, the HULK managed to emote a simplistic but effective range of emotions - from bewilderment, to anger & rage, to mischievousness (his grin after Cap said: "Hulk, Smash"), to being a buddy-bully (that punch that fell Thor off-screen after taking down an alien craft), to this particular scene before he uttered "Puny God" = BEST SCENE EVAH! [...] And oh yeah, actor Mark Ruffalo did a pretty decent bang-up job too! Sorry Edward Norton, but Mark took the role and MADE it his! - TOYSREVIL
Twitter Poll: Which Avenger in the movie was your favorite (or the most satisfying), and which was the biggest disappointment?
Fave: Black Widow Disappointment: Cap - Kristopher Tapley, @kristapley
Hulk had the most "f*ck yeah" money shots, but Cap as a character was most spot on. Would've liked to see more done with Thor. - Brandon Rohwer, @brandonRohwer
Without saying The Hulk, I'll say Captain America makes a fantastic leader. Hawkeye could've used backstory and screen time. - Rudie Obias, @Rudie_Obias
Captain America for favorite, Hawkeye for disappointment-- though really I don't even know what I was expecting from him. - Peter S. Hall, @PeterSHall
Fav: Thor Least: Hawkeye - Kristian Odland, @kreshjun
Most satisfying/favorite was Hulk. Most disappointing was Hawkeye. Why cast a big name and strand him? RDJ [as Tony Stark/Iron Man] is much better in Avengers than in Iron Man 2. Whedon captured the character/RDJ's voice very well. - Josh Spiegel, @mousterpiece
Favorite: Hulk. Disappointing: Hawkeye, not much meat to his story. - Tyler Mager, @tylermager
The Hulk was satisfying, especially after two previous attempts. Hawkeye was a disappointment. I expected to care about him. - Alex Spivey, @alexspivey
Surprisingly, I felt the Hulk was hands down the stand out character. - Paul Smith, @Haunt1013
Best- Ruffalo is among my fav actors so Hulk. Worst- Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury is still better in theory than practice. - Scott Mendelson, @ScottMendelson
1. Hulk. 2. Thor and Cap. - Milan Matejka, @milanmatejka
Favorite: Hulk. Disappointment: Hard to say. Cap was weak but had a couple good moments. Thor was a non-entity. And I can't say I had any expectations for Hawkeye, but the movie didn't do anything to enhance or expand his character. - Tyler Foster, @droidguy1119
Thor seemed different, more deflated, but it makes sense in the context of the story. I just missed seeing smiling Thor. Black Widow wins "most improved." She's like a real character now, not a plot device like she was in Iron Man 2. I'm a big Hulk fan, so Banner's late-stage line of dialogue on anger gave me literal goosebumps. THAT was the Hulk I know. And finally, as a long-time Hawkeye defender, I'm so glad people got to see how a guy with a bow could stand beside Thor. - John Gholson, @gholson
I've avoided the other Hulks because they didn't feel right. RuffHulk knocked my socks off immediately. - Monika Bartyzel, @MBartzel
I think all the characters benefited from not having to carry the whole film themselves - Craig Kennedy, @LivingInCinema
Follow Christopher Campbell on Twitter (@thefilmcynic) to join The Conversation.