Avengers assemble a world

The opening weekend box office for Marvel’s The Avengers (yes, Marvel is a part of the title both for branding purposes and to differentiate it from poorly received The Avengers film of 1998, which was based on a popular British television series – which ultimately leads to the current film’s being titled Avengers Assemble in Europe…) pretty much means that a review is of absolutely no value to anyone. Everyone who wanted to see the film has already seen or plans to see it soon, and everyone who did not want to see the film really did not care. A review about the film is not beneficial because everyone’s mind was made up well in advance of the film’s actual release. Plus the film has so little in substance going for it aside from the action that there really isn’t much to mention.

Which is great because the circumstances of the film’s immediate success is incredibly interesting to me. None of the films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe come close to the gross profit of The Avengers‘ opening weekend in their opening weekends. Truth be told, aside from the spike in the almost miserable Iron Man 2‘s profits due to the popularity and accessibility of the first, each Marvel movie has done worse than the one preceding it. So it is clear that The Avengers is an amazing gestault film that truly is greater than all of the films before it.

Some might suggest that the popularity of Robert Downey, Jr.’s, Tony Stark/Iron Man pulled everyone in, but that is too small a way to look at it. It is not because most of these actors truly bring to life these fictional characters in both aesthetics and performance. It isn’t because the story looked amazing, mostly because it did not. And before the Whedonites come out of the woodwork to say that it was all his magical witchcraft (which clearly did not make the superior Cabin in the Woods the hit it should have been), Joss Whedon’s involvement as writer and director did not make the movie the spectacle it was before anyone went and saw it.

It’s the realization of an entire world that is not our own.

What fantasy and science fiction fans have known for decades, and some fans of literature have appreciated before that, is the joy of world building. In fantasy, more often than not the world is the biggest, most important character of all. In science fiction that doesn’t go too far in the direction of hard sf and does not overindulge on tech porn, there are rich examinations of worlds that are not our own. Movie fans almost never get that. Films are rarely reach 3 hours in length, for extremely good reason, which means most of the focus needs to be on the characters. Lord of the Rings is an exception of a movie that builds a living, breathing world, but it had to do so, given the source material. It is up to the viewer to decide if the focus on the scenery really did add to the film or bog it down.

The Avengers appropriately took the comic book route, which had previously been explored in the films of Kevin Smith. Smith’s View Askewniverse, consisting of Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy, Dogma, and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, primarily took place in New Jersey and featured characters who knew of each other (and mutual acquaintances who might have died while swimming) but did not interact with one another on screen. The only characters featured in all films were Jay and Silent Bob, and the world came into full (albeit overly goofy) realization in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. While most viewers were disappointed that Jason Lee’s Brody Bruce never interacted with his Banky Edwards, it was rewarding to see New Jersey, and God, tied together in one film. It was the button that made the whole outfit come together.

That is exactly the same approach Marvel took with their comic book films, except a bit more direct, more accessible, and with characters that have lived longer than most of the viewers. While it is extremely likely that not everyone who flocked to the theater to see The Avengers saw every movie building up to it, it didn’t matter. Everyone was curious to see the world come together. If a viewer had seen even two or three of the different characters’ movies, they were presented with two different points of view of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. That’s all it takes to want to find the central point of focus thatThe Avengers provided.

And as hard as I am on the movie, which by all accounts is good, all I wanted to see was this window to another world – a world in which all of these character actually do exist together. It was amazing. And it’s a shame that Marvel, the brand with which so many other characters are associated, cannot bring together all of the characters that people want to see. We got to see the intellectual juggernaut of the combined Stark/Banner brain, but we will never see them take Reed Richards out for coffee. We’ll never see SHIELD take on Magneto’s Brotherhood of Mutants and see Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch defect to the Avengers against their father. We’ll never see Wolverine reminisce about World War II with Captain America. And we’ll never see Spider-Man barely escape a fight against the Hulk.

One scene made me forget all of that, though. A faux single take tracking shot that followed the action from one Avenger to the next during the climactic battle. It was a splash page come to life. That right there was the window.

The Marvel Universe has been realized. We got what we paid for and will gladly pay to see it again.

About Gospel X

Media commentator who tries not to waste time - and often fails

Posted on May 12, 2012, in Bechdel failure, comics, Marvel, movies, review, science fiction, The Avengers and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I was going to ask if you actually did like the film, but you answered that question. My only substantial comment is that I believe the rights to the Fantastic Four has reverted back to Marvel, which means Reed Richards could potentially interact with Tony Stark/Bruce Banner in the future. And like you, I want to see as much of the Marvel Universe interact in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as possible.

    • If only that were true… To the best of my knowledge, 20th Century Fox still retains the rights to the characters in film, and there’s a planned reboot that will be directed by the guy who directed Chronicle. If the film is not completed by 2015, they will lose the rights. So…as much as I liked Chronicle and want that director to do well, I hope the film never happens.

  2. I was not interested in seeing this film at all prior to the Rotten Tomatoes score of 93%. It sounded like it would be Hollywood trash. It’s easy to combine too many elements from so many different characters, but difficult for any writer or director to manage and be evenhanded.

    That said, I was very impressed by JW ability to turn each superhero/star into part of an ensemble cast. Additionally, there were three or four scenes where I felt he was able to please the core audience of geeks, nerds, and tech enthusiasts.

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