We now stand on the cusp of Summer Movie Season 2012. Oh, heck. Let’s call it what it is around these parts: Avengers Eve. Time to tuck yourselves snug in your beds (hey, it’s unseasonably cold in some parts of the country; three cheers for global warming!) while visions of Hawkeye and Loki and Frost Giants and Quinjets dance in your heads. But not the actual Vision. Maybe he’ll pop up in the sequel.
According to strict scientific research, i.e. a couple of Internet polls I think I’ve seen, The Avengers is by far the most anticipated flick of the summer, and with good reason: history has shown the masses will come from thousands of miles around, travel for days, weeks even, wait in endless lines… all for the privilege of catching glimpse of a miracle.
Let’s be real here: the very fact that The Avengers exists is kinda miraculous. Try and think back into the foggy mists of time, all the way to 2008 when Jon Favreau’s Iron Man first launched. No, go even further back, to when it was first announced. Was your reaction like mine? Because mine was something along the lines of, “An Iron Man movie? Who the hell wants to see an Iron Man movie?” The rumor mill started churning, of course. The buzz on the message boards was that Iron Man was just a prelude to Marvel Studio’s attempt to assemble a dream-project Avengers film. I only half believed it. We’d heard similar things before, revolving primarily around the years of rumors that Warner Bros. was THIS CLOSE to getting a Justice League of America movie off the ground.
And it was easier to believe that the JLA movie was coming. DC’s heroes, until very recently, have had a MUCH better cinematic track record than Marvel’s. The on-screen legacy of Batman and Superman had been irrefutably successful, while Marvel properties like Dolph Lundgren’s The Punisher, George Lucas’ Howard the Duck, and Roger Corman’s Fantastic Four had been embarrassments to not only movies everywhere but to the entire human race. Hell, DC had even managed the pretty respectable live-action series The Flash back in the day, while Marvel had only contributed the pretty awful Generation X to that milieu. (We’ll try to pretend the live-action Justice League pilot was only a bad episode of Power Rangers, which it pretty much was.)
So when Iron Man hit the multiplexes, the first pleasant surprise was that, hey, not only was it pretty good, but it was probably the best Iron Man thing ever. And then, of course, Sam Jackson showed up in the credits and uttered the word “Avengers” and… well, I still didn’t believe it.
Because to make an Avengers movie worth seeing, Marvel Studios first had to establish the characters that made up the team roster in their own string of flicks, because the idea of meeting these characters for the first time in one movie is, well, kind of lame. What really makes The Avengers special is that we’ve met all these characters before in their own movies, and all the actors from those flicks have shown up for this party. I know this is cool because that’s the only thing that’s impressed my non-comics fan wife about the whole Avengers she-bang; when I made her watch the trailer she was very impressed that the heroes were (almost) all still being played by the actors who had established those roles in a bunch of movies that were essentially made to be prequels to The Avengers. (She has a uniquely clear view of such things, uncluttered as she is by fandom and years of continuity. After we saw Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man back in the day I tried to explain why fans were mad about organic webshooters, because in the comics Peter BUILT his webshooters, and she replied with disappointment: “That sucks; making webs is the coolest thing he does.” I hated to admit it, but she had a point.)
This is why I’m stunned the Avengers will make movie magic before the Justice League. The primary JLA members (Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash) are far more recognizable than the primary Avengers (Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Hawkeye… Ant-Man.) Also, WB owns DC. WB has ALWAYS controlled the exclusive rights to the DC stable of characters, while Marvel characters have found themselves embroiled in all sorts of cinematic rights imbroglios over the years. So not only was it more important that Marvel establish their cinematic super-team as heroes on their own terms prior to the big dance, it would be far more difficult, one would think, for them to accomplish this task than it would be for DC. It’s conceivable that a JLA movie could launch without being preceded by all the solo flicks. This was never a plausible option for The Avengers.
All said, though, can you believe that Marvel got a Thor movie off the ground before DC could manage one for the Flash? That Captain America hit before Wonder Woman? That the Hulk got a decent reboot from his Ang Lee debacle before Superman got another go-around after his unfortunate experience as a dead-beat dad fighting a giant rock? And moreso: can you believe all these Marvel movies were GOOD, while Green Lantern was… well, that’s an article for another day.
So now we’re here. Avengers Eve. We all thought that one day we’d wake up and rub the sleep out of our eyes, run down to the living room and find Superman and friends in our stocking. Instead sitting under the tree is a shiny but unexpected collection of Iron Men, Thors, Black Widows, and Captain Americas. No more assembly required. It’s a summer movie miracle!
Tom Hoefner (@TomHoefner on Twitter) is a playwright, theatre director, college professor, and would-be novelist living in Brooklyn with his wife and daughter. Yes, he knows Mark Ruffalo wasn’t in The Incredible Hulk, but everything you read about Ed Norton is that he’s kind of a dick, so we’ll let this one slide.
Check out “From the Casefiles of Race and Cookie McCloud”, a blog of super-short stories chronicling the adventures of Race McCloud, Private Eye, and his 15-year old former-secret-agent-in-training niece Cookie: http://raceandcookie.blogspot.com