Grigory Ryzhakov – Russian Writer

What is the POWER of the Mankind? The Avengers Deconstructed

I think I overdosed you lately with existential topics. What did you expect? We had the worst April and most of May weather in English history (N.B., subject to mild exaggeration).

Now the sun is up and Grisha (yep, that’s me) is ready 4 fun and frolics. Silly happiness overwhelmed me so much, I even became immune to stress connected with the upcoming grant submission deadlines, failing experiments, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the London Olympics.

But what’s the best thing about summer? Yes, right on the money! It’s summer movie blockbusters! I can see you are disappointed and leaving the page. STOP!

Who knows maybe its divine providence that led you here, but more likely it was a link on Twitter. :p

As a scientist, nerd and possibly even extra-terrestrial intelligence, I’ve been anticipating  The Avengers.

The Avengers (2012) film poster (© Walt Disney Studios)

I like all the previous Marvel efforts. Iron Man, Hulk, Thor and Captain America-First Avenger all seemed to me as superhero films with a genuine human touch. Maybe because the characters were created with love, rather than just calculation. The scripts are great too, the acting is solid. They felt to me as real as comic book adaptations can ever be. They suspended my disbelief completely. They are good stories. But maybe not exceptionally good.

And then The Avengers promo campaign started.

At first, I thought it’s a disaster. It’s full of action and there’s a complete overdose of characters. How can you have so many protagonists in a story and make it work? Even the X-men suffered from that problem.

Yet I’ve forgotten about a scenario when a multi-character story is bound to succeed. It’s a TEAM story. In a way, when the characters are teaming up, the group becomes a super-character. And in case of The Avengers it’s a very troubled one.

My apprehension was that the Avengers are just going to be slaying tons of aliens, who can’t even put up a fight properly. Indeed, that was the case and is the only criticism of mine, – in the movie the aliens are as abundant as locusts in Africa but they are still a bunch of pansies. And they are so dumb that even a tiny colony of Salmonella would have caused more trouble to the Avengers.

So why did the film work so well? It’s about to become the third highest grossing film in the history this week, just behind Avatar and Titanic. What is the secret ingredient?

In my very subjective opinion, it is the conflict within The Avengers. Loki, the major antagonist, only inflames it further by being Thor’s brother.

The Avengers are summoned to save the world. What do they do first? They start fighting each other in a highly entertaining battle of egos and also insecurities. I don’t know which one is bigger.

Apart from extremely well crafted characters and thoroughly plotted action scenes with impressive camera work, the whole picture is further cemented together with humor. Seriously, The Avengers contain some of the best and original cracking jokes. It’s just worth seeing it for the sake of humor.

On a different level, I think the film worked because it showed a real power of the mankind. It’s not just about being a team, or a bacterial colony or a beehive.

It’s about being a community consisting of individuals with diverse skills. Each of the Avengers contributes to the team in their own unique way. Each of them has special skills and weaknesses. They all need each other, no one is dispensable.

I would even generalise and say that our success as a mankind was at least partially achieved because of us evolving as a social animal species with many individuals having distinct duties. It sounds obvious, but the question is why have we been evolving like this and what is the biological, psychological, you name it, basis of our differences?

Interestingly, the psychologist Carl Jung and his followers came up with a psychological type theory describing why people have different preferences in their in the love lives, in the social conduct or in the choice of profession. The theory defined several psychic functions, the combination of which confers a specific personality. More recently, Jung’s theory transformed into socionics, and it’s still an active field of psychology to date.

Practically, Myers-Briggs tests (MBT), which are based on Jungian personalities, are now often used as a part of the recruitment process to select appropriate candidates for a job.

I say – Teamwork and Specialisation. It worked for the Avengers and it will work for you.

What do you think? Have you ever worked as a team? Have you ever tried to put a team together? Did you think the knowledge of people’s professional aptitudes was important? Share your thoughts with the world, we want to know.

And please comment or criticise me if you have other ideas or disagreements. Blogging is all about interaction and communication. It’s about sharing the information, thoughts and moving forward. Happy summer!

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  • http://courseofmirrors.wordpress.com/ Ashen

    I don’t know about tests to evaluate players. What comes immediately to mind is the humility to learn, self-knowledge. I worked with many teams all my life, therapy groups, film teams. Intense engagement with high stakes brings out the true colour of people. I learned about my inner crowd 🙂

    • GrigoryRyzhakov

      I agree with you completely, you’re talking about the already existing teams though. As for creating a team –  you won’t  build a strong group, in which everyone has the same skill and leadership. Even the army has specialization. The point of the group is to make it stronger than a disconnected bunch of individuals via complementing the individual weaknesses of the team players. But you’re right – the humility to learn is a universal trait we should all have to be team-players; in addition, we have to respect other people in the team, listen to others, etc. 

  • http://twitter.com/jen_loves_books Jennifer A. Vargas

    I can’t say I’m surprised this film had a human touch because Joss Whedon wrote it. He really goes to the truth of things and knows how to write compelling characters. And I haven’t seen this one yet. I know, I must soon :D. I have seen most of the previous Marvel  films though, except for Thor.

    Using the MBTI to create a team is a a good way to go. I think that for teams to be functional, you need to balance out the personalities in the group and assign to each person a task that is suited to their strength (some people are great with math, some others are more logical, some are really creative etc).

    The time in which I had to do teamwork the most was in college (University) and I am of the opinion that it is not for everyone. Some people really just work better solo and like to work things on their own. But teamwork does have its merits. It teaches you patience and it can teach you what your strengths are and it teaches a person to trust their teamplayers. All good things to learn.

    • GrigoryRyzhakov

      thank you for your feedback, Jennifer. Of course, they’re plenty of solo activities where a team work is not needed or even harmful. And some people are more loners than social butterflies.
      But I think even in the most solo work you need to have communication skills to share your work or outcome with others. Unless you are Grigory Perelman,  a genius maths hermit.
      MBTI is useful in team building if you know how to use it; if you don’t understand it well, it’ll most certainly harm you. I think a lot of companies go wrong in applying it automatically. A team building is not formulaic, you need to use MBTI wisely and only as one of the factors for consideration.
      You should definitely see Thor before The Avengers because it’s important to understand the relationship between the two Asgardian brothers.