C'mon Hollywood: Learn from the success of The Avengers!
Typically, this column bitches about how f*cked up Hollywood is, but today I’m going to give some praise, albeit not without a warning. A hearty “thank you” is due to Hollywood for somehow managing to not only get THE AVENGERS made, but to have done it with such class and integrity. It’s not a perfect film, but the best superhero film made to date. Everyone has their favorite, but I think that THE AVENGERS is the encapsulation of all the key elements that make not only a great superhero film, but a great event film to boot.
So, the question is: How the f*ck did this happen? How did Hollywood grow a pair and actually allow a film with Gods, super-serum injected relics, a big, green monster, and other assorted comic book staples to be translated to film with almost no “retouching” at all? And the bigger question is: Does this mean that Hollywood will finally embrace the roots of a comic book property without subduing them to the point of being unrecognizable?
In 2000, Bryan Singer’s X-MEN reawakened the genre, which forever altered the course of superhero films as they’re made today. And although they were faithful to the comics in many ways, they were still too uneasy to fully embrace the transition from panel to screen. Exec’s scoffed at the idea of Wolverine wearing a costume and any other color than “black leather” was deemed as something that “just doesn’t translate to the big screen,” so we were left with the X-Men meets THE MATRIX. SPIDER-MAN fared better, but the Green Goblin’s “man-made” outfit left fans annoyed and Batman has been denied the blue and grey since 1966.
The creative teams behind each individual film starting with IRON MAN built towards THE AVENGERS from the get go. They didn’t have every facet and detail figured out, but they created a framework that followed the same formula as the comics. They slowly introduced characters that intertwined between films (just as comics do) and built their universe from the ground up, staying true to the material and to their plan.
Let’s focus on that word for a second; “plan.” That’s a rare thing these days, especially when many movies are just being tossed together (MIB III comes to mind, with production being started without a finished script). However, Marvel put their heads together and worked toward a specific goal. Not only would they introduce each of their key characters in their own respective films, but they would make it possible to put them all in one film together without having to retell an origin story for each. It was a gamble, because it would bank on the success of each individual film (which, thankfully paid off).
What Marvel did was embrace the characters that have been a staple of their brand for decades. Because they owned the rights they didn’t have to compromise and put their characters in black leather or make them different races, sexes, or “change it up” for the sake of a current trend. They stood by their brand. They gave a shit. Not only about the characters, but the fans who stood by them for so long. They recognized that the people going to see these films were going to see them for what they were, not for how different they could be. We, the fans, wanted to see superheroes brought to life, not have it sucked from them.
Since day one, Marvel was instrumental in selecting the creative teams for their films. Favreau on IRON MAN 1&2, Branagh on THOR, Johnston on CAPTAIN AMERICA, and finally, Joss Whedon on THE AVENGERS (Leterrier is probably the least inspired choice on THE INCREDIBLE HULK). They never went for big names or safe names, but for the RIGHT names. We’ve blown a lot of smoke up Whedon’s ass for what he did with THE AVENGERS already, so consider this another puff. Whedon was the perfect fit. He’s not the perfect fit for every film out there, but for THE AVENGERS he was, and Marvel had the insight to recognize that and the talent of each respective filmmaker before him to help lead the way.
Whedon poured soul, humor, wit, action, and meticulous care into THE AVENGERS. He didn’t shy from their roots, but embraced them. He never tried to explain away the comic book themes (cosmic cubes, super soldier serum, gamma rays, etc.) so that audiences would “believe” them. He let the world BE a superhero world, multi-colored costumes and all. For once, we were treated to an unabashed superhero film that owned its comic book roots and told its story without trying to cater to every demographic. It’s not a miracle that this film was made. It’s a miracle that those who made it cared enough to do it right.
Take note, Hollywood. Success is in your hands. Learn from it. Embrace it. At $1 billion and counting, the incentive to do it right just got sweeter.
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|Extra Tidbit:||While I think Marvel would make an error in not trying to lure Whedon back to The Avengers 2, I do believe that there are other contenders that could handle the job. What do you think?|