This weekend opened the Summer Blockbuster movie season with a bang. The Avengers was the culmination of about 5 years of hard work from the Marvel Film Studios resulting in a film that is not only overly popular with movie goers of different varieties, but also a record breaker amassing over $200 Million in the US in just 3 days. This film now sits at $650 Million Worldwide and has room to grow. While most hardcore comic fans may realize it, general goers may not know the type of impact a film like this will have on the industry, as well as the way studios approach films of this genre going forward. I am here to take the time to explain just what this means to Comic Book Films and most importantly YOU!
Hollywood is familiar with sequels, series if films building to an ultimate climax such as the Harry Potter series, Lord of the Rings, the list goes on and on. No one however has developed a series of films (in this case 5) as building and developing towards the goal of taking all these individual heroes and teaming them up for one ultimate threat. Just think about the mentality of Hollywood, from the egos of big time stars, to studios hesitant demeanor to want to invest in 5 years of story telling. Lets not forget the commitment these people will have to make signing deals that pretty much state you live and breathe this character for the foreseeable future. It’s all a tough pill to swallow and something that if not done by the house of ideas themselves, would of floundered and died at the first sign of panic or lack of interest. For years studios have developed films of the comic book genre as their own self contained stories. In the X-Men these characters know nothing of the existence of Spider-Man, The Fantastic Four, Daredevil, or any other hero I can think of. Bruce Wayne will never run into Clark Kent in any Nolan film, nor will he have any knowledge that superheroes even exist outside of his defense for Gotham. There was never an idea or an interest to make these films flow together in any way.
With Marvel’s venture into a new realm it is now entirely possible to think that while Iron Man is off travelling the globe to stop his latest nemesis, that Thor is across the universe tied up in Asgardian business with his father and Loki and not only do these two separate characters know each other exist, but they could have the complete possibility of walking into one another’s world and interacting at any given time. Any character put out in film by Marvel Studios directly will have a full sense of who else is out there, what they stand for, and if they can call on them for assistance. Marvel has taken their huge world off of the pages and slapped it onto the big screen to where it can only be expanded by the introduction of new heroes. With this film working and being as huge as it is so far this can easily be the heavy influence for Warner Bros. to green light studios to come up with ways to form a Justice League film. Before this the only way you would of gotten a JL film is if WB just green lighted that film in particular, there would of been no individual films to introduce each member so that when Justice League hit theaters you would identify each hero/heroine. The film would of needed to spend time telling you who each character is before they could even come to the idea of working together and could very well have climaxed to a battle in a much shorter window than The Avengers final act (which was around the 30-40 minute mark depending on where you say it began).
You would of went into a film needing to be brought up to speed on who Wonder Woman is, Aquaman, Green Arrow. These are all characters who never would of seen their own film yet the producers of this film would have to bank on you identifying them in a short amount of time, and caring for their survival in the span of about 90 minutes. Now DC can take their characters and find a path to craft their stories into one unifying picture of a team up that is just as big as the Avengers have been to the comic world. That is.. if DC even wants to, but given The Avengers now has a shot at being the highest grossing movie of all time (it’s no guarantee.. but $600 Million in a week is a damn good first shot) DC better sure as hell be wondering what they need to do to make the League a reality on the big screen.
This can also span outside of the comic book realm as this work shows that if you take the time to develop characters and allow people to care about them, they can become overly excited to see all of them band together for a large threat, or whatever the topic may be given what Hollywood could create. This truly opens the doors for creativity and for writers, studios, directors, to want to make a flowing world where this film knows about that films and these characters have the opportunity to meet if they want to develop it. Films are no longer required to stay within their on universe and pound at the invisible barrier that keeps them from interacting with other characters.
It all started with an idea, a small scene at the end of Iron Man where a gentleman by the name of Nick Fury stood waiting in the home of Tony Stark. He then turned and uttered words that caused a gasp and a scream of excitement among those who knew what it meant. “The Avengers Initiative”, words that had fans looking at each other and saying “No… really!?” as if it was a goal that could not be achieved. Our first dose of reality came when Robert Downey Jr. came waltzing into a bar at the conclusion of The Incredible Hulk, donned in Tony Stark flash and suave, informing General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross that he was putting a team together. Iron Man was in Hulk! He knew he existed! and he wanted him for something! It only grew from there with Thor’s Hammer at the end of Iron Man II, the Tesseract at the end of Thor being shown as a S.H.I.E.L.D. experiment that Loki was a little more than interested in, and then the final culmination.. at the end of Captain America.. the first real Avengers trailer. This minute long clip showing each and everyone of these characters coming together for something that Nick Fury knew normal enforcement alone was not enough to send this threat packing.
With these ideas set forth, as well as plot points here and there scattered in the films themselves (or in Iron Man 2′s case… a 150 minute “HEY THE AVENGERS ARE COMING” advertisement) Marvel was saying “this is our world, it’s living, it’s breathing, it’s real yet fantastical, and it all exists under one roof”. Say what you will about some of the paths taken to get there, from character recasting, to re-writes to reflect the coming events, to the nit picky way Marvel was handling some of their negotiations, when you add all the pieces together they fit perfectly into a world that has amassed almost $3 Billion Dollars in worldwide gross… and GROWING.
How long Marvel can keep people invested in this universe remains to be seen, a chunk of their roster is off with other studios making certain storylines out of their reach when it comes to taking them from the comics. Those heroes that remain as available may be dear and beloved to fans of their respective books, but may not be seen as ones to give as much investment into as the ones who are already established. For now though, it works and Marvel can breathe a sigh of relief and they can smile and sit on top of the world. 5 years of building has made what most are calling the greatest super hero film ever made, surpassing even what people consider the holy grail of the Dark Knight. This culmination however is not the end, it’s only the conclusion of Act I for Marvel’s lofty goals. For those of you who stuck around for the bonus scene know.. this is only just beginning and it is only going to get bigger, and badder from here.