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Thursday, 10 May 2012

The costumes and characters of The Avengers. Part 2: Tony Stark, Pepper Potts, and Bruce Banner.

Previously: The costumes and characters of The Avengers. Part 1: SHIELD.
 
From my limited knowledge of Avengers comics canon I was expecting the movie to focus more on the clash of personalities between Steve Rogers and Tony Stark, but the genius of The Avengers was that it explored all these different permutations of the Avengers team that I'd never considered before. The best example of this was the unexpectedly perfect combination of Bruce Banner and Tony Stark. The most poorly-handled character of the Marvel universe thus far -- the Hulk's human alter-ego -- ended up with the most engaging hero's journey in the film.
With two Iron Man movies already under his belt (plus the fact that Robert Downey Jr's media presence is practically indistinguishable from Tony Stark in real life) Tony is the most established character in The Avengers. Audiences are guaranteed to recognise him, and unlike the rest of the Avengers team he's both familiar with SHIELD and with the business of dealing with major, public threats as a superhero. To me it seemed like Tony was the most grounded of the heroes, which was quite a turnaround from the myriad of self-sabotaging insecurities he displayed in the Iron Man movies. And that's partly down to the fact that this time round, the "public" Tony Stark is almost entirely absent.

Tony grew up with fame. He might seem careless about his public image, but that's a carelessness borne of long experience with being in the public eye. We know that Tony is a vulnerable, isolated person, but during the scenes in the Iron Man movies when he's either in public or speaking to the press, you can tell that he's just a little more over-the-top than usual. Not to the extent of Bruce Wayne's idiot playboy persona in Batman Begins, but the Tony Stark who we see drinking alone in a lab full of half-finished robots (because Tony Stark has to build friends for himself) is significantly different from the Tony Stark people would read about in the tabloids of the Marvel universe.

The quantity of luxury product placement in the Iron Man movies is testament to the Tony Stark image. Cars, watches, drinks, suits... Tony, like James Bond, is an advertiser's dream character. There was far less of that in The Avengers, though. Mostly we see Tony at home in worn t-shirts (including a Black Sabbath shirt, a nod to the character's love of classic rock) or dressed in a slouchy, non-traditional suit (pictured above) when he's visiting SHIELD in his role as a consultant, the closest we ever see to him being dressed "like an engineer". He's relaxed, he's grounded, and a lot of that is thanks to his relationship with Pepper.
The Tony & Pepper Show is a delightful screwball comedy back-and-forth, and I would happily watch ten more scenes of them flirting around Tony's hideously expensive and uncomfortable-looking cavern of a house. So for me, the Tony-and-Pepper sections of The Avengers were perfect. Without stepping on the toes of any hypothetical post-Iron Man 2, pre-Iron Man 3 Tony/Pepper details, we know immediately that they've finally made the step towards something like a real, adult relationship, and they are both clearly so happy about it. I've already written at length about why Pepper Potts is such a great character and why costuming is a big part of that, so when she first showed up in Avengers my reaction was basically: LEAVE ME TO DIE BECAUSE PEPPER IS RELAXED AND HAPPY AND IS WANDERING AROUND TONY'S BACHELOR PAD WITH HER SHOES OFF. Note to my family: I would prefer an ocean burial.
I've actually seen quite a few fan reviews that commented on the fact that Pepper's not wearing shoes in her scenes with Tony. Theories include: Joss Whedon's foot fetish; the product placement deal with Louboutin fell through and Pepper simply couldn't wear anything else; Gwyneth Paltrow was injured; they were sick of making Robert Downey Jr stand on a box in every single scene. For me that last theory is a no-go because he's clearly wearing lifts all the time anyway, as you can tell from the mysteriously inflexible hidden-heel sneakers he wears in every scene. Of course, most people aren't on RDJ height-watch like I am. (It's just that once you notice you just can't stop. Because seriously, he's like 5'8" at most and there are multiple scenes where he is supposedly nose-to-nose with Chris Evans, who is definitely over six feet tall in his Captain America booties.)
I think that Pepper's shoelessness is purely a character choice. Up until now she's been the one insisting on professional boundaries between Tony and herself, not just because they both have huge, messy feelings for each other but also because Tony used to be such a relentlessly irresponsible man-child that if you gave him an inch, he'd take a mile. The 4-inch stilettos she wears throughout the Iron Man prequels are part of her business armour, the clothes that force people to look up to her both figuratively and literally. (Which must have been annoying for the filmmakers who had to create the illusion that RDJ was now six inches taller, as opposed to just two or three.) The fact that she feels comfortable enough to slob around his house in jeans-shorts is proof that Tony's finally grown up enough to receive Pepper's stamp of approval. Oh, and she's CEO now so he's totally not even her boss any more.
Bruce and Tony are the only two Avengers who, upon first meeting, actually like each other or have anything in common. Tony is a man so desperate for people to talk to on his own intellectual level that he built himself a sentient house for company. Bruce is an academic who had to abandon his research and go on the run, alone. Everyone who meets either them has already pre-judged them from prior knowledge of their mistakes and disasters. And even after they've got to know each other, Tony is still the only character in the movie who doesn't treat Bruce with trepidation and distance -- partly because Tony is still kind of self-destructive and enjoys poking at things and/or people until they blow up, but also because Tony is the only one who really understands Bruce as a person (as opposed to "that guy who sometimes turns into an unstoppable killing machine"). And he's the only one who trusts that Bruce will show up to help the other Avengers fight, the result being the Hulk's first moment of altruism: saving Tony's life.
Unlike the rest of the Avengers, Bruce Banner's costumes are not really showy or flattering. He doesn't even get a superhero outfit. Bruce is middle-aged, he's kind of a mess, and Mark Ruffalo is the only actor in the main cast who wasn't on a strict diet and workout regime. So physically, Bruce is not a fighter or an athlete, and in terms of his everyday look the costume designers were intentionally avoiding the alpha male appearance of, say, Steve Rogers. When Bruce first appears he's in a wrinkled, dirty suit, and after that we get the purple button-down shirt -- a reference to the Hulk's famous purple shorts. I'm rather forlorn about the shorts thing because I was SO HOPING for a scene where Tony engineers him a pair of stretchy polymer-whatever panties for when he Hulks out. Maybe in Avengers 2?
SCIENCE BROS!
Looking at Tony and Bruce's outfits at the end of the movie, I'm just gonna put this out there: Bruce is wearing Tony's clothes. They're about the same size and build, Bruce' outfit is way snazzier than his usual style, and we already know that Tony practically asked Bruce to move in with him the day they met. Tony loaned him an outfit from his no-doubt gargantuan Stark closet because they're Science Bros now, plus Bruce's only other clothes were reduced to a pair of torn short-shorts when he Hulked out. Also, Tony knows that this is Bruce's first (positive) interaction with the press, and if there's anything Tony Stark's good at, it's putting on a show.

Now, I know we don't see any paparazzi or TV crews in that final scene, but a) the Avengers are now world-famous for saving New York from certain doom, and b) for the first time in the movie, Tony is wearing his Billionaire Playboy Philanthropist duds. The only possible explanation I can think of for this scene is that it takes place specifically for the public. I mean, they're transporting an alien war criminal to another planet from Central Park. If they'd wanted to keep things safe and secret then they'd have done it from somewhere in the bowels of one a SHIELD base. My guess is that the (weirdly deserted) place where the Avengers stand to bid farewell to Thor and Loki is in fact a carefully guarded area with the press roped off somewhere in the direction of us/the audience/the camera. We view the scene from the perspective of "the crowds", who are there to verify and report on the fact that Loki is definitively gone for good. Because there is just no other way I can interpret the decision to film that scene in such an incredibly public area.

Part 3: Steve Rogers, Captain America.

Links

Product Placement in The Avengers.

This photo of Robert Downey Jr in shoe lifts (I think for one of the Iron Man movies).

My weird fixation with the relative heights of the Avengers cast was already pretty awful, but while I was writing this post I got stuck in a google-vortex and ended up at this actor-height related review of Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, which is more or less diamond-hard proof that every single actor in Hollywood is standing on a box and/or in a trench at some point during every movie.

44 comments:

  1. In the second photo above, RDJ is wearing a very interesting jacket. It's cut like a blazer, but it appears to be made of a nylon or Gore-tex type material. The other pockets have horizontal zippers on them, and the collar has a large zipper across the back, almost as if there's a rolled-up rain hood in there.

    I've looked all over the web, but I can't find anything about this jacket. Would you have any idea who made it, and if it is for sale?

    (Here's another picture of the jacket; the zippers are more obvious here.

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  2. I know which one you mean, but I'm afraid I don't know who the designer is or anything like that. In fact, when you google it you just end up with more people asking the same question. I thought it was pretty odd-looking when I was watching the film and suspect that it's probably some quite specific item, but seeing as the film's only been out for a couple of weeks there isn't much behind-the-scenes info available as of yet. Possibly there'll be a costume design featurette on the DVD or something? Chances are it WILL be for sale, though.

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  3. I kind of wish we would be allowed to just have everyone be their own height in movies like this. It took me a long time to be comfortable wearing heels because I'm tallish already and it was just WRONG to be taller than most men. It would make sense for Avengers: the Chrises (what is the plural of 'Chris'?) are actually tall, which is appropriate for an alien/god and super soldier, while Iron Man and Hulk both have fighting abilities that have nothing to do with their actual size. And part of wearing 4" heels as Pepper does is that it makes you taller than half the men. That's probably the point, in a professional setting.

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  4. If I understood correctly, they had to go to Central Park to get rid of Loki because that was the nearest point with one of those wiggly-line patterns in the ground that mark connection point to the Bifröst/Einstein-Rosen-bridge-thingy (as seen in Thor). I completely undrstand your obsession with relative heights btw, because I got confused by it all the time, plus the fact that I rewatched Iron Man the other day and Business!Pepper in 4-5 inch heels is the same few inches smaller than Tony than Avengers!Pepper barefoot.

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  5. This is really fantastic me i have got inspired while came across to visit your site

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  6. Looking forward to Loki's wardrobe. The evil villain is so sassy he deserves an article of his own.

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  7. Yeah, I liked the inversion of Tony's character and how that impacted on the dynamic of the group. He was, as you say, the only one of them with real, 21st century experience of dealing not only with the villains, but also with the press. Which sort of made him the honorary adult to the rest, which is not something I expected.

    And, I am not completely sold on Banner borrowing Tony's clothes. I was surprised in the cinema by the costuming in that scene, but that was more a reaction to the yellow of the shirt, I didn't even think to question where it had come from. But, yep, you speak sense. They even almost match. Best friend co-ordination! It's like the billionaire playboy philanthropist scientist version of friendship bracelets. I will now start questioning all my friends as to why, exactly, they don't dress to match me. It's obviously because they don't love me. Sigh...

    On a more general Bruce note, I thought the dilapidated quality to his clothes perfectly reflected his own long-suffering and worn down circumstances. But, I thought it was also telling that in the middle of the Indian heat he was still wearing a suit. I get that he was a sort of an unlicensed doctor, but it would still have been pretty hot and restrictive, which, I suppose, is also reflective.

    Pepper was so lovely. I would have to agree with you that her lack of shoes was more a signifier of being relaxed and at home in Stark Tower, than any height thing, though it was obviously a bonus to the DP. And seriously, don't even start me on the whole height modification stuff, it properly confuses me, MI4 case in point. No, but really, how tall actually is Jeremy Renner?

    (P.S. I watched that video you recommended. Absolutely perfect song choice!)

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  8. I loved everything about this post! I'm not so great at connecting costumes to personality traits so this kinda stuff is always fascinating to read.

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  9. Maybe it's just me, but I found something significant in the way Banner is usually wearing his shirt with the sleeves rolled up and collar open, like in that second picture above. It makes him look like he's about to Hulk out and start kicking ass any moment (which, of course, he is).

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  10. I love your articles, they are well written, informative, and very funny. You are not alone in your height fixation, I am with you.

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  11. thanks, glad you like them! :) there's a new part now: captain america.

    re: heights, when i was writing this post i found a site dedicated to actor heights. i had to click away very fast to avoid getting hideously absorbed.

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  12. maybe the significance is that buttoned-down sleeves look kind of dorky, and he's doing stuff with his hands? or that someone just decided that mark ruffalo had nice forearms?

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  13. thank you! :) glad you enjoyed it. there's a captain america post up now!

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  14. i didn't immediately think that bruce was wearing tony's clothes, but once i started writing this post i decided he was. i mean, bruce has no time or money to dress up, so even if he isn't wearing "tony's" clothes then i'd hazard a guess that tony got someone to buy them for him.

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  15. :DD i did actually do a post about him just before the movie came out! http://hellotailor.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/pre-movie-avengers-post-lokis-costumes.html

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  16. yeah.... but they still must have had to keep the press back. i mean, that lot are FAMOUS now. plus, thor's bifrost zone in new mexico seemed to have been just temporarily etched onto the ground? it's all pretty unclear TBH.

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  17. i think partially it's a practicality issue -- ie, like scarjo is LITERALLY a foot shorter than thor so you couldn't have a close face-to-face conversation between the two of them. i saw a cute set pic recently of the two leads from Pushing Daisies where the girl had to stand on a box in order to kiss the guy, for example. although of course more often this stuff is tied up in gender roles wherein the man CANNOT be shorter than the female lead.

    i'd love it if tony stark really WAS allowed to be short, though, yes. like, short and with zero problem with it, as opposed to being a napoleon complex type dude like tom cruise appears to be.

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  18. I know the site, it is addicting :)

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  19. Do you know who made the slouchy black polyester suit that tony stark is wearing with Bruce Banner?

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  20. I'm sorry I didn't read the first comment that was posted on the thread. Disregard, but great article though!

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  21. Find the clothing line of that black jacket! I want it!

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  22. i love this post klsdfjlsadflkds

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  23. THANKS GURL

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  24. The extra thing about Tony's Black Sabbath t-shirt, of course, isn't just a general love of classic rock (the main examples of him actually playing classic rock are both AC/DC tunes), but of course, the fact that an early Black Sabbath hit is "Iron Man", which played as an instrumental over the end credits of the first movie.

    Sometimes I get bugged by movies that are set in the "real" world, or what's supposed to be like our real world except it has whatever -- superheroes, aliens, etc. -- and yet there are pop-cultural things that are real to all of us, that aren't real for the characters. Like, obviously, I get that Marvel comics can't necessarily be "real" in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (although IIRC they did a nifty job of showing that in WWII, there were Captain America comics analogous to those that existed in our world; I think they used an actual cover from one?), but it would please me if DC comics existed in the Avengers' world. (Who didn't love that Tony has clearly seen "The Lord of the Rings" movies?)

    To make a long story short, then, it delights me to think that instead of trying to pretend that the classic Black Sabbath song "Iron Man" doesn't exist in the world of Iron Man, they're instead showing Tony co-opting it, because duh, if you were Tony, and you'd been dubbed Iron Man by the press, and you knew that a totally kick-ass classic rock song existed about "Iron Man" already, it WOULD become your own personal soundtrack.

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  25. Also can I just say, I share your fascination with actor heights and relative character heights. I love things like set pictures because you often get to see the height differences more clearly than in the actual movie where trickery is being employed. For these movies, I thought it was really neat that Hiddleston as Loki is -- by all appearances and reporting -- nearly as tall as Hemsworth, and how well that works to establish the otherwordlyness of the two Asgardians. Especially on set with them towering over everyone else.

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  26. oh yeah, i know about the iron man song! in fact, didn't it feature in one of the iron man movies or movie trailers?

    eh, pop-culture is such a big part of day-to-day life and speech that i think it's perfectly reasonable to keep in as many as possible. butterfly-effect wise, how different would the world be without lord of the rings? even if the red skull and elrond are played by the same person IRL. i doubt they'd have DC comics in marvel world, though.

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  28. CAN SOMEONE PLEASE TELL ME THE SHOES THAT TONY IS WEARING IN THE PICTURE ABOVE???

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  29. Can anyone tell me the first shirt Robert Downey Jr is pictured with above, the black and gray one during the scenes with Gwyneth Paltrow?

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  30. The appear to be Lanvin high top sneakers.

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  31. This was a very fascinating read. I'm not really able to do this sort of thing so to see others do it and read everything is awesome. Thank you for doing it!

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  32. Nice blog!.
    Also here is my blog: http://fullsoftwarebox.blogspot.com/2012/09/the-avengers-2012-bluray-720p-brrip.html

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  33. Any update on this? I just saw the film and that blazer jumped out at me immediately.

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  34. I've been looking for new shoes recently, and I'm totally digging Stark's kicks in that last pic, oh my god. If anyone could find those....

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  35. First time i saw your blog and it's amazing, i've seen here lots of things i've never thought about before. And that made me curious: How tall is Jeremy Renner?

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  36. about 5'7", same as RDJ and ruffalo.

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  37. Me and my friends watch it, the cgi was cool.




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  38. This jacket has been killing me for months. Maybe it will surface on someones blog...cough*cough

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  39. Does anyone know what is the brand of Tony Stark's pants in that scene with Pepper at the Stark Tower?

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  40. I would be willing to bet the jacket is made by J. Lindberg. that's totally the kind of stuff they make

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  41. I am waiting for part 2 of this movie impatiently, I like the frist part of this movie is was awesome i had enjoyed during wating this action and entertaining movies i like this movie and one character of this movie is looking very hot in Chris Evans Steve Rogers Captain America Avenger Jacket he is the one of in very good looking Hollywood actors ....

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  44. I really like your content, they are well crafted, useful, and very crazy. You are not alone in your size fixation, I am with you. copy of popular movie jackets

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