Mostly I’m holed up at home these days, pounding out paragraph after paragraph about the LHC and the Higgs boson. But even the most dedicated author needs a sanity break, and mine is coming tonight, in the form of The Avengers. I won’t bore you with an explanation of what the movie is about, as 99% of the potential audience has pre-decided on geeky enthusiasm and/or hipster disdain (or both!). But I will take the opportunity to post a clip featuring everybody’s favorite Marvel character: Agent Phil Coulson of SHIELD. (And one of those leather-clad superheroes people seem to like so much.)
In case you can’t get enough, Clark Gregg has collected all his favorite Agent Coulson moments. (Just ask the professional screenwriters: “I’m sure avengers is great, but the only marvel movie i’d truly kill or die to see is “AGENT COULSON – THE MOTION PICTURE.”)
As you remember, I did a bit of consulting on Thor, and my Caltech colleague Mark Wise helped out with Iron Man II. (Let’s just say Tony Stark’s basement particle accelerator could have looked even a lot less realistic.) I was asked to consult on The Avengers, but the production was so frantic that I don’t think I had a noticeable impact — basically I read the script and emailed some suggestions, but I don’t think any of them affected the final product. I did, however, manage not to give away any spoilers, despite impassioned pleas from people who heard I had read the thing.
Kevin Feige, president of Marvel Studios, has always liked to bring scientists in on the planning for their movies, in part precisely because of event films like The Avengers. It’s one thing to make a bunch of superhero films, but another to take seriously the idea of a shared universe. There have to be some laws of nature, even if they’re not the one’s we are used to, and you can’t just reboot them from movie to movie. (Just wait for my favorite upcoming project, Doctor Strange: Master of the Mystic Arts.) You have a guy in a flying metal suit teaming up with a Norse demigod, and that has to work, or at least seem to. Thus, the conceit that the Asgardians from Thor are really technologically-advanced aliens that seemed godlike to our ancestors.
These aren’t movies about science, by any stretch. But they are stories, and stories need to make sense and follow rules, otherwise there is no drama. Science is just the search for the underlying architecture of reality, whatever kind of reality we may be talking about. io9 agrees.