With six superheroes, one villain, and a single-eyed super administrator crammed into two hours and twelve minutes of The Avengers, it's only natural that a few cast members had to get shorter shrift than others. Director Joss Whedon pulls off an impressive juggling act to fit all those stars into the same movie, but who comes out on top when it comes to screen time? To satisfy your curiosity and ours, Vulture went and timed how long each of the Avengers superheroes — Iron Man, Captain America, Bruce Banner/the Hulk, Thor, Black Widow, and Hawkeye — were in the film for. Here are our findings, with some minor spoilers below.
Methodology: Using the stopwatch setting on the iPhone’s clock function, we timed the entire film (opening scene to beginning of end credits, about 2:12:56), marking off when characters came on- and off-screen. Rather than time each and every tiny cut, we took note of the length of scenes in which characters were prominently featured (scenes in which multiple Avengers were present, like the group conversations on the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier, counted toward each character’s tally) as well as multi-second insert shots (nine seconds of Black Widow and Bruce Banner lying injured after the ship is attacked, for example).
We saw the film at two weekend screenings — a 4:50 p.m. Friday afternoon screening at a Battery Park theater and a 10:20 a.m. Sunday morning screening at a Brooklyn multiplex — in order to maximize the chance that we could get a two-seat row near the front to ourselves. (Despite putting the iPhone at the lowest brightness possible and draping a jacket over it, we doubted any other moviegoer would have put up with sitting next to a scribbling, phone-wielding neighbor.) The two screenings allowed us to fact-check timing on particularly quick-cutting scenes and to confirm the moments that got the biggest audience reaction both times: Hulk punching Thor and Hulk slamming Loki. Pure uproarious laughter. Now, to the tally!
Hawkeye: 12:44. It’s no surprise that Jeremy Renner’s assassin was the recipient of the least screen time. His talent involves being a really good archer with a really awesome collapsible bow and really explosive arrows. His longest scene (2:40) is a conversation with Black Widow following a brawl between the two of them.
Thor: 25:52. Chris Hemsworth gets more than his share of hitting people moments, yet is limited to only one extended dialogue scene — a 2:13-long conversation with brother Loki atop a mountain at night. (Though his perfectly timed “He’s adopted” line got maybe the third or fourth biggest laugh of the film.)
Bruce Banner: 28:03 ... if you're combining the double-duty Mark Ruffalo pulls as both Banner and the Hulk (and you really ought to, since the actor donned a motion-capture suit to play the latter). Still, Ruffalo's unchanged mug gets 20:29 minutes of screen time, which is more than is afforded Renner.
Black Widow: 33:35. The most surprising thing to emerge from our little experiment was the fact that Scarlett Johansson’s three-point landing super-assassin got the third-most screen time of all the superheroes. In fact, she got the most unbroken dialogue scenes of any of the six: her introductory interrogation scene (3:14); recruiting Banner in the slums (2:49); a face-off on the Helicarrier with Loki (3:30); and a conversation with Hawkeye following their fight (2:40). Looks like Whedon realized he needed to give one of the film’s two strong female characters lots of talk time.
Iron Man: 37:01. Not surprising, given the manner in which the Downey Jr. one-liner has become the most reliable part of a Marvel movie. His Tony Stark also gets several extended dialogue scenes: particularly one with Pepper Potts and Agent Coulson (4:48), and another with Loki right before the film’s third-act battle scene (3:52).
Captain America: 37:42. He squeaks by Iron Man, which makes sense, since much of the film’s internal debate about selfishness versus selflessness occurs between Chris Evans’s Cap and Downey’s Stark. He shares substantial scenes with almost every character and is one of the last faces we see on screen, as he rides off on his motorcycle.
And that’s it. As we’ve fulfilled this month’s data geek quotient, we’re off to find that shwarma place by Grand Central.