Sunday, December 21, 2014

Earth’s Mightiest Friendships: Relationships in The Avengers and Beyond (Part 1)

“There was an idea, Stark knows this, called the Avengers Initiative. The idea was to bring together a group of of remarkable people to see if they could become something more. To see if they could work together when we needed them to, to fight the battles that we never could.” -- Nick Fury

One thing about The Avengers that makes it different from any other movie is that it’s six highly individual people coming together to face one event. We’ve had development for each character by the time we reach The Avengers, and because of that, we love them all the more. What makes The Avengers even more interesting is all the varied dynamics between the characters. Friendships (and some animosity) are formed all while our heroes are trying to defend the country from an alien attack.

Six very different heroes. One high-stress world crisis. Innumerable personality combinations. What could possibly go wrong?

1. Bruce Banner and Tony Stark

I’ll admit it, Bruce and Tony are one of my favorite friendships from The Avengers. From the very beginning, Tony sees how similar the two of them are, and he latches onto Bruce. (Example: their first meeting. Tony says, “Finally, someone who speaks English!”) It’s adorable because Tony almost has an insta-crush on Bruce. And Bruce, of course, being the adorable awkward person that he is, is baffled by this.

Tony: It's good to meet you, Dr. Banner. Your work on anti-electron collisions is unparalleled. And I'm a huge fan of the way you lose control and turn into an enormous green rage monster.
Bruce: … Thanks.

This begins a marvelous friendship. It also leads to one of my favorite scenes ever, the one where Tony and Bruce are working in the lab.

Tony Stark: You know, I've got a cluster of shrapnel, trying every second to crawl its way into my heart.
[Stark points at the mini-arc reactor in his chest]
Tony Stark: This stops it. This little circle of light. It's part of me now, not just armor. It's a... terrible privilege.
Bruce Banner: But you can control it.
Tony Stark: Because I learned how.
Bruce Banner: It's different.
[Banner tries to read the computer screen, but Stark slides the data aside with his finger so the two can see face-to-face]
Tony Stark: Hey, I've read all about your accident. That much gamma exposure should have killed you.
Bruce Banner: So you're saying that the Hulk... the other guy... saved my life? That's nice. It's a nice sentiment. Save it for what?
Tony Stark: I guess we'll find out.
[Banner and Stark get back to work at their respective computers]
Bruce Banner: You might not like that.
Tony Stark: You just might.

Ever since Bruce turned into The Hulk, he’s distanced himself from other people. Tony doesn’t give him that option. He immediately sees the potential in Bruce, and he gives Bruce no choice but to be friends with him. Not only that, but he sees Bruce as more than just the monster: as human. And due to the scene in the lab, that’s pretty much why we see Bruce Banner riding up on a motorcycle during the final battle.

Then, of course, this leads to them driving away in a fancy car into the sunset. Best BROTP ever.

2. Steve Rogers and Tony Stark

One of the relationships that gets the most screentime is the one between Steve Rogers and Tony Stark. More specifically speaking, we see a lot of friction between them. How could it not happen? We have Steve Rogers, who is a soldier who strives to take the moral and upright path. Then we have Tony who… doesn’t always. They were just begging for a conflict.

And conflict is what we get. We see a hint of this at their first meeting.

Steve Rogers: Stark, we need a plan of attack!
Tony Stark: I have a plan: attack!

Obviously they have very different ways of looking at the world. This manifests again, when Cap, Thor, and Tony are having their competition to see who’s better. While Thor and Tony are going at each other, Steve is trying to stop it.

Throughout the movie, the conflict builds even more until the scene where all the Avengers are pretty much at each other’s throats. Which leads to a memorable scene:

Steve Rogers: Big man in a suit of armour. Take that off, what are you?
Tony Stark: Genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist.
Steve Rogers: I know guys with none of that worth ten of you. I've seen the footage. The only thing you really fight for is yourself. You're not the guy to make the sacrifice play, to lay down on a wire and let the other guy crawl over you.
Tony Stark: I think I would just cut the wire.
Steve Rogers: Always a way out... You know, you may not be a threat, but you better stop pretending to be a hero.
Tony Stark: A hero? Like you? You're a lab rat, Rogers. Everything special about you came out of a bottle!
Steve Rogers: Put on the suit. Let's go a few rounds.

I’m a huge fan of this scene because it makes it even more poignant at the end when Tony sends the missile up the portal and nearly sacrifices himself. In fact, I would even argue that Steve made Tony a better person: perhaps in this conversation, the seed was planted, and later, Tony knew exactly what he had to do with that missile.

Once The Avengers have made up again, we get to see Steve Rogers and Tony Stark repairing the helicarrier: almost to best bros status. There’s also this bit of headcanon/meta that gives me a lot of feels.

I actually loved this moment, because I didn’t see this as Steve being incompetent and completely unaware of what was going on. This, I felt, was Steve being extremely sassy. “It seems to run on some form of electricity,” he says, with a huff of a sigh and a smile. What he means is, “Of course I don’t know what this shit means, I’ve never been exposed to this, are you serious right now” and that is not because he’s stupid or inept. Actually, Steve adapts very, very well and very quickly to new technology, evidenced in the Avengers with the ease and familiarity that he navigates his tablet with, but also in Captain America, where he takes everything Howard gives him (modified, highly advanced Hydra weapons) and uses them to full capacity.

It’s just that Steve’s never seen the inside of a control panel like this, so there’s no way in hell he’d know what to do with it, and he’s pointing that out to Tony with his dry sense of humor. And I think Tony gets it, because he doesn’t get angry or snark back at him; he returns with “Well, you’re not wrong” and a lopsided smile, which I read as his “duh, what was I thinking” moment.
I just have a lot of feelings about Steve and his sass and his dry sense of humor, and now I will crawl away to have feelings elsewhere.
-- compassionforweakness @ tumblr

Steve and Tony seem to be on pretty good standing by the end of the movie. However, the powers-that-be at Marvel seem to be following the Civil War comics storyline for Avengers 2, in which there’s a split and some heroes follow Tony and some follow Cap. If this is the case, I don’t think we’ve seen the last of them fighting.

But for now, we have this:

Tony Stark: In a few hours I'll know every dirty secret S.H.I.E.L.D. has been trying to hide. Blueberry?

3. Natasha Romanoff and Clint Barton

Switching gears a bit: let’s talk about the almost-newbies in the group. While almost everyone has had a movie about them up to this point, Black Widow and Hawkeye have had arguably the least development. (Second only to The Hulk, who changed faces and nobody noticed.) We saw a little of Black Widow in Iron Man 2, but this is really where she gets a chance to shine.

One way she shines in particular is in regards to Hawkeye. We see very clearly that they have a history between them.

Natasha Romanoff: I want to know what you've done to Agent Barton.
Loki: I would say I've expanded his mind.
Natasha Romanoff: And once you've won, once you're king of the mountain, what happens to his mind?
Loki: Oh. Is this love, Agent Romanoff?
Natasha Romanoff: Love is for children. I owe him a debt.
Loki: Tell me.
Natasha Romanoff: Before I worked for SHIELD, I, uh... Well, I made a name for myself. I have a very specific skill set. I didn't care who I used it for, or on. I got on SHIELD's radar in a bad way. Agent Barton was sent to kill me. He made a different call.

Because of this, the Hawkeye/Black Widow relationship seems highly developed, even if we don’t know any of the details. I’d say they did a very good job of developing a friendship we haven’t ever seen before and making us care about the characters.

One of the scenes that comes to mind is when Black Widow is fighting a brainwashed Hawkeye on the helicarrier. They know each other’s weaknesses and strengths. It’s like watching a tango.

Natasha is ultimately the one who frees Hawkeye from Loki’s mind control, saving him in the same way he saved her. After Hawkeye comes out of it, Natasha is the first person he talks to.

Clint Barton: [Natasha has freed him from his restraints] Tasha, how many agents did I-?
Natasha Romanoff: Don't. Don't do that to yourself, Clint. This is Loki. This is monsters and magic and nothing we were ever trained for.
Clint Barton: Loki, he got away?
Natasha Romanoff: Yeah. Don't suppose you know where?
Clint Barton: [Shakes head] Didn't need to know. Didn't ask. He's gonna make his play soon though. Today.
Natasha Romanoff: We gotta stop him.
Clint Barton: Yeah, who's "we"?
Natasha Romanoff: [Shrugs] I don't know. Whoever's left.
Clint Barton: Well, I... if I put an arrow through Loki's eye socket, I'd sleep better, I s'pose.
Natasha Romanoff: Now you sound like you.
Clint Barton: But you don't. You're a spy, not a soldier. Now you want to wade into a war. Why? What did Loki do to you?
Natasha Romanoff: He didn't, I just...
Clint Barton: Natasha.
Natasha Romanoff: I've been compromised. I got red in my ledger. I'd like to wipe it out.

In this scene, Natasha and Hawkeye commit to going into the battle together. They’re best friends, and dare I say it, maybe even a romantic item. While I know Black Widow/Hawkeye may not end up being canon in the MCU due to other possibilities, I still ship it.

And then there’s Budapest.

5. Natasha Romanoff and Steve Rogers

I have a lot to say about this relationship. While they don’t get a whole lot of screentime here, Natasha and Steve are practically BFFs in Captain America 2: The Winter Soldier. (I ship that too.)

I’ll admit, most of my feels for this ship in The Avengers come from headcanon. I once saw a headcanon on Tumblr talking about Steve and Natasha platonically snuggling while watching TV. Tell me that isn’t adorable.

But, in canon, we have some great scenes too. Natasha meets Coulson and Steve on the helicarrier, and cracks a joke about Coulson’s trading cards to make Rogers feel more comfortable. Later, we see them on the quinjet when they’re going after Thor and Loki in an iconic exchange.

Then we see them in Captain America 2, and it makes their first meeting all the more significant as a friendship between them forms. At their first meeting, Steve greets Natasha by calling her “ma’am.” Natasha has spent years fighting with the boys and taking on alternate identities and generally kicking butt. While I love her for that, I’m sure it’s been a long time since she’s been called “ma’am.”

I’m not sure what it is about the two that makes them work together, but there’s something. They’ve both been out of their element. They’ve both felt alone. And because of that, they’re friends to each other.

And occasionally kiss each other on escalators.

4. Natasha Romanoff and Bruce Banner

Natasha and Bruce are one of the first people we see interact, as she’s sent by Fury to bring him in and hopefully recruit him for the team.

Natasha Romanoff: Talk to Fury, he needs you on this.
Bruce Banner: He needs me in a cage?
Natasha Romanoff: No one's gonna put you in a...
Bruce Banner: STOP LYING TO ME!
Bruce Banner: I'm sorry, that was mean. I just wanted to see what you'd do. Why don't we do this the easy way, where you don't use that, and the other guy doesn't make a mess? Okay?

Later, Natasha is the first person to greet Bruce Banner when he arrives on the helicarrier, and, in my opinion, help him feel a little more comfortable, like she did with Steve.

Natasha Romanoff: Gentlemen, you might want to step inside in a minute. It's going to get a little hard to breathe. [as the Helicarrier starts to power up, Steve Rogers and Bruce Banner walk to the edge] Steve Rogers: Is this a submarine? Bruce Banner: Really? They want me submerged in a pressurized metal container? [Rogers and Banner stand at the edge and they look over as the Helicarrier starts to slowly rise out of the ocean to fly] Bruce Banner: [smiles] Oh, no, this is MUCH worse!

When everything is going haywire on the helicarrier, Natasha is with Bruce. Due to the stress, Bruce turns into the green guy. Even with her own leg injured, Natasha tries to calm him down (for her own safety as well as others, but it’s still a great moment). Then, when that fails, she proves herself one of the only people able to fight him and live. It’s overall really great. I hope we get to see more of them in the future.

6. Steve Rogers and Bruce Banner

Though we don't see a lot of them, I find their interactions fascinating because of what mutually runs in their blood.

Steve Rogers: So this Doctor Banner was trying to replicate the serum that was used on me? Agent Phil Coulson: A lot of people were. You were the world's first superhero. Banner thought gamma radiation might hold the key to unlocking Erskine's original formula. Steve Rogers: Didn't really go his way, did it? Agent Phil Coulson: Not so much.

Steve and Bruce kind of have a complicated relationship because the serum used on Steve is what Bruce tried to replicate, which then led to Bruce becoming the antithesis of a supersoldier--a monster. It should be an awkward meeting. But like Tony, Steve makes him feel at ease and pretty much doesn’t care what Bruce is hiding inside him.

Steve Rogers: Word is you can find the cube.
Bruce Banner: Is that the only word on me?
Steve Rogers: Only word I care about.

I’ll say it: I have a lot of Bruce Banner feels. The way all the Avengers make him feel at ease, and more than that, are his friends, is touching to me.

7. Steve Rogers and Phil Coulson

I’ll close with one of the most hilarious and heartbreaking parts of the movie: Agent Phil Coulson’s adoration of Captain Steve Rogers.

If you didn’t love Phil Coulson before now, his fangirling over Captain America will solve that problem.

Agent Phil Coulson: I gotta say, it's an honor to meet you, officially. I sort of met you, I mean, I watched you while you were sleeping. I mean, I was... I was present while you were unconscious from the ice. You know, it's really, it's just a... just a huge honor to have you on board.

According to Natasha, Coulson has vintage Captain America trading cards, and “he’s very proud.” It’s clear Coulson has been idolizing Steve for quite a while. Which brings me to this heartbreaking fan theory (click to enlarge):

We still don't know exactly how he survived. Your move, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Later we actually see Coulson’s trading cards, covered by Fury in Coulson’s fake blood. And I’m sure that once Coulson found out what Fury had done to his VINTAGE TRADING CARDS, he was the one turning into a giant rage monster.


In conclusion, the heart of The Avengers lies not just in the exciting plot of the movie, but in the characters themselves and the bonds they form with each other. In protecting humanity, they have found something else: friendship. And these friendships will hopefully be the driving force in many more Marvel movies to come.

What did you think? What's your favorite relationship in The Avengers or any other Marvel movie? Did I miss anything? Which relationships should I cover in Part 2?


  1. Mmm, I agree with all of this - stunning analysis of the relationships in the Avengers. Especially love your Loki gif usage after Budapest ;) AND THE COULSON HEADCANON. AAAAAH.

    As for other relationships, I think it'd be cool to examine Avengers & Fury. Not his flying monkeys (see blueberries), but there's still trust there. Or maybe re: Loki. Still, great post!

    1. Thank you! Alas, I cannot take credit for the Budapest reaction. If I do find the maker of that particular image, though, I'll let you know!

      Yes! What an awesome idea. I really wanted to look at both Nick Fury's and Loki's relationships in this post, but it got way too long, so I'm saving those for part 2. Thanks so much for that suggestion, and for reading!

  2. Yes! This is great, it makes me want to watch all of the other movies. I love all of the friendships, and it was so sad when Phil died. )-: He is exactly as I would imagine myself if I met one of my favorite celebrities.XD I just watched The Avengers for the first time last month, and I can't wait to watch more Marvel movies! (Yeah, I'm new to the fandom...) (-;

    1. You definitely must! They are highly worth it. (And I understand being new. I didn't watch until a couple of years ago, so I was late to the Marvel party as well. Now I'm in love. It's pretty serious.)

      It was extremely sad! Cooooulsooon!

      And ditto. XD I really hope you enjoy the Marvel movies whenever you get around to them! Thanks for reading and for commenting!

  3. Science bros. Tony/Steve, Steve/Natasha... I love how they all interact (can't pick just one)

    If you're sticking with the Avengers, maybe relationships with Thor? Thor/Loki... but also some of the team

    if you're branching out to others: maybe some of the Guardians of the Galaxy crew (Groot/Rocket.. squee) or Steve/Bucky (please break my heart), anybody else...? so many possibilities.

    This was fun to read! :)

    1. Same here. They were my favorites, as you can tell by the amount of time I gave them in my post. ;)

      Ah, yes. I'd love to cover Thor and his relationships with the others. That was one thing I wish I could've covered in this part, because I feel like I left him out. I'll definitely be covering at LEAST Thor/Loki in a future post. (Like Loki's brain, that relationship is going to be a bag of cats.)

      I'd love to do those as well! I haven't seen Guardians of the Galaxy yet (I know. For shame.), but as soon as I have seen it, I will cover the relationships in that movie. And Steve/Bucky is one of my FAVORITES. I would love to write about it (and sadly break your heart in the process).

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting! I'm glad you enjoyed it. :D