So, at this point it’s probably news to no one that “The Avengers,” a film centered around Marvel Comic’s own team of A-List superheroes, just had the best opening weekend of all time and followed up by breaking the billion dollar mark overseas.
But this raises an obvious question: what was it “The Avengers” did right and what does it mean for comic book (and specifically superhero) movies going forward?
For anyone who hasn’t seen it, here’s the basic plot: a team of remarkable individuals is put together after the appearance of the Norse god Loki at an American military base. This team is made up of various marvel superheroes that have either had movies centered around them or made cameos in said movies. Of these, the big names are Captain America, Thor, the Hulk, and—of course—Tony Stark, otherwise known as Iron Man. They are joined by Hawkeye, Black Widow, and Director Nick Fury, all of who are members of the intelligence agency SHIELD. The team comes together over the course of the movie to combat Loki, mostly after picking fights with each other and generally being difficult to work with. For the most part, the various plot threads in “The Avengers” follow from developments in the five previous Marvel films: Captain America is still trying to acclimate to being more than half a decade in the future, Dr. Banner is still hiding out while struggling to control his inner Hulk, and Stark is finding new ways to put his mind and his money to use helping people instead of selling weapons. Thor, whose own film left him stranded on Asgard, takes a while, but finally returns following the Captain and Stark’s first run in with Loki.
Well, the main thing
is that “Avengers” is a movie that basks in being what it is. The ridiculous parts of the movie work in its favor. It’s silly, with everything from exploding arrows to giant interdimensional space-whales, but it never denies that it’s such. If anything, the movie seems to be taking lessons from the original Kirby-Lee Avengers comics, but throwing in a postmodern twist. In that way, it’s a lot like Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight.” Only, instead of amping up the cynicism and taking that to its logical conclusion, “Avengers” goes in the opposite direction: it takes the spectacle aspect of superhero stories and just puts it on full tilt. And this is a movie that has great fights and explosions in spades. Michael Bay wishes he could do insane full-scale action like this and still have a coherent story going on.
With the success that the “Avengers” film has seen so far, it’s doubtless that there will be another surge of superhero comics in the future. If anything, the comic book industry has become something of a storyboard engine for Hollywood. Mark Millar, whose run on the Ultimates (an alternate universe take on the Avengers that informed much of the film, including the look and personalities of many of the characters) has gotten to point where his miniseries are getting optioned before they’re even over, with results so far being “Wanted” and “Kick-Ass.” Marvel already has sequels lined up for “Iron Man” and “Captain America” and they are rumors of lesser-known properties making the move to cinema. Of course, those may be more than rumors at this point.
However it plays out, superhero movies are no fad. The Capes are here to stay.