Geek Cinema: The Movie That Shouldn’t Exist
Apr 28, 2012 by     19 Comments    Posted In: Columns, Geek Cinema

Avengers Movie LogoWe 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.

Howard the Duck Movie PosterAnd 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.)

Avengers Movie PosterThis 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:


19 Comments Add Comment

  • Chip Reece April 28, 2012 at 3:19 pm

    Uber pumped!

  • Jason Newcomb April 28, 2012 at 4:55 pm

    I’m glad risk and ambition is getting rewarded in Hollywood. WB is like Russia, they got Sputnik and Laika as firsts but Marvel landed on the moon. Have fun playing second fiddle for a decade or so, DC.

  • Kraig April 29, 2012 at 2:04 am

    I saw a long clip of the final action scene from the movie – it’s good, really good! All the pieces seem to work.

    That being said, Tom, you missed two important Marvel fiascoes from the 90’s to support your argument: Captain America with Matt Salinger – direct to video, and Hasslehoff as Nick Fury, made for TV. I’ve seen Lundgren’s Punisher more times than I’d like to admit, but these other two were truly horrific to a point that I thought Marvel could never be taken seriously.

    To end: Howard the Duck had Jeffrey Jones, although a classic 80’s actor, also a pedophile, and could be argued (by me only) that George Lucas was so distraught afterwards he was never able to make a good movie again…

  • Tim Morse April 29, 2012 at 10:17 am

    Tom, great article and I totally agree with nearly everything you’ve got up there. I am so pumped for Avengers, it’s not even funny! My wife won’t let us see it in 2-D either, and got a little offended when I even offered it, lol. That being said, my wife is similar to yours in the aspect that she is not a comic fan, save for what I’ve shown her in my collection and the movies we’ve watched together. She’s as, if not more, excited than I am about the awesomeness that is Avengers. Can’t wait!

  • Shawn April 29, 2012 at 11:33 am

    I am extremely looking forward to The Avengers, but one could argue that Avengers Eve is really just The Dark Knight Rises Eve Eve, if that makes any sense.

  • Tom Hoefner April 29, 2012 at 12:20 pm

    @Shawn – I have a sneaking suspicion that in two weeks we’ll all be turning our attention to Dark Knight’s Eve… or, you know, New Years Eve (keeping with the whole holiday season metaphor.)

    I guess Amazing Spider-Man would be, like, President’s Day?

  • Tom Hoefner April 29, 2012 at 12:41 pm

    @Kraig – Sadly, there are more crappy Marvel movie adaptations out there than I could possibly ever cite in one article.

  • Danny D April 29, 2012 at 1:55 pm

    While I agree with most of what you wrote here, I must protest SOMEWHAT on your point about Marvel’s television output. Yes, DC put out the now-cult-favorite-but-not-successful “The Flash” tv series, and Marvel DID put out clunkers like the “Generation X” telemovie, but don’t forget that back in the 70s, Marvel did somehow manage to get the “Incredible Hulk” tv series on air for FIVE SEASONS. Yes, liberties were taken, and it did produce a series of rather terrible TV movies (the one with Thor comes to mind), but “Hulk” series with Bixby and Ferrigno had a lasting impact on pop culture as a whole. So, you can’t really debate that. Of course, these are also the guys who put out god-awful “Spider-Man” live action series with the Von Trapp kid. So, you win some, you lose A LOT.

    Is it amazing that the Avengers movie got off the ground at all? Absolutely, most specifically because of the rights issues Tom mentioned in the article. Did I ever think a Thor movie would get off the ground, let alone that I would enjoy it? No, not really. Did I think “Green Lantern” would suck as much as I did? No. But also, let’s keep in mind, for all the success that Marvel had in the past decade with their movies, throughout the 80s and 90s their output was NOTHING. And what they did put out was generally terrible, “Blade” being the anomaly. Superhero movies were mostly represented during the time period of the 70s to the 90s by the Superman and Batman franchises. Yes, the final two of the four movies of each of those franchises were crap on a crap cracker, but the first two were ground breaking. Why couldn’t Marvel have followed suit? And don’t tell me the technology wasn’t there. Richard Donner and “Superman” practically INVENTED modern cinematic techniques to make a man fly. So there.

    And not everything in the 2000s from Marvel was gold. “Ghost Rider” looked so terrible, you couldn’t pay me to see it. And can you believe they produced a “Man-Thing” movie before the “Thor” movie?

    Also, let’s be fair for a second… yes, Marvel fixed the Ang Lee debacle with “The Hulk” with 2008’s “Incredible Hulk”, but it took five years. Yes, “Superman Returns” wasn’t good, but by 2008 that movie was only 2 years old, unlike the five that passed with “Hulk”. And a new “Superman” movie is on the horizon, so the gap isn’t that large. It’s more about even.

    Good article, Tom. Can’t wait for your article about “Dark Knight Rises”. Well, okay, I can wait, I was just being nice. Okay? Okay.

  • Tom Hoefner April 29, 2012 at 9:11 pm

    @Danny D(ong) – Good call about the Hulk TV show; didn’t mention that one. Can I counter it with the Wonder Woman TV show, and even the earlier 60’s Batman? And you know, I almost CAN believe Man-Thing got a movie before Thor. And you caught me; I fudged the timelines on the Ang Lee “Hulk” and “Superman Returns”, but my amazement with the mistreatment of “Superman” is that he’s the worlds premiere superhero, and the number of times DC and friends gets him wrong flat out dumbfounds me. Although, in fairness, “Smallville” was pretty dope and uber-successful… even if they NEVER LET YOU SEE CLARK AS FREAKIN’ SUPERMAN!

    Also, which was worse: “Catwoman” or “Elektra”? Discuss!

  • Tim Morse April 29, 2012 at 9:25 pm

    Catwoman, hands down. I like to call in an Elseworlds DC movie. What was the only real relation it had to the character herself… Name alone? Ugh. You know, come to think of it, the same can nearly be said or Elektra.

  • Danny D April 29, 2012 at 11:20 pm

    @Tom – My point about “The Incredible Hulk” TV series wasn’t to say that it was the only successful output Marvel had in TV in the 70s, nor that it was beating DC. Yeah, absolutely, “Batman” with Adam West and “Wonder Woman” with Lynda Carter were bona fide successes (even though the former was campy as all hell, and the latter might as well have been camp) as far as ratings went. Say what you will about that 60s “Batman” show, but it started a huge wave of Batmania that was the biggest fad of 1966. Granted, once the novelty faded, it almost killed Batman as a character and a comic, but for a while… biggest thing ever. WW was huge too. And keep in mind, while DC had a good deal of successes in the realm of TV with the 50s “The Adventures of Superman” series and the Batman and WW shows, Marvel, with the exception of “Hulk”, had caca. Anybody remember the Captain America TV movies in the 70s starring Reb Hill? Don’t worry, nobody does.

    Generally, as much as Marvelites try to deny it, DC has had a much bigger successful output in mainstream media than Marvel had, at least until the 2000s. For every Hulk, there was a Superboy, Batman and Wonder Woman. For every Generation X or Nick Fury, DC had “Lois And Clark”. Granted, much of it involved DC’s biggest two characters, but Marvel couldn’t even get a decent live-action Spider-Man until 2002. The only successful live action Spider-Man before that was in the Electric Company. Yes, Frederich Von Trapp, the mute Spidey was better than yours.

    I’m gonna say this, though… I’ve grown to LOATHE “Smallville”. The first few seasons were terrific, then it became poop on moldy bread. Horrible melodrama, mediocre acting from Tom Welling, ridiculous soap opera subplots (Lana being whiny and falling for Lex? Really?). As I’ve said for years, if Superman was as really as whiny as Tom Welling was in “Smallville”, the world woulda been destroyed ages ago. Yeesh.

    Superman has had pretty decent adaptations. “Superman Returns” was disappointing, and “Superman” III & IV sucked. But the original is fantastic, and II is pretty good. You should check out the Richard Donner cut on DVD. While choppy, it’s much better than the released version of Superman II. That’s hardly what I would call getting the premiere superhero wrong. And just thank goodness Tim Burton wasn’t allowed to make his Superman movie. Then, maybe you’d have an argument.

    I can’t really tell you which was worse, “Catwoman” or “Elektra”. But Daredevil was pretty horrible.

  • Tom Hoefner April 30, 2012 at 1:06 am

    Dude, I don’t think ANYONE can deny that, until the past decade or so, Marvel has had absolutely NOTHING on DC when it comes to other media adaptations.

  • Chip Reece April 30, 2012 at 9:16 am

    @Tom: Did you see the last episode of Smallville? Better watch that so you can get some closure on the outfit! 🙂

  • Jason Newcomb April 30, 2012 at 9:36 am

    No one’s mentioning the Dr. Strange TV show?


  • Chip Reece April 30, 2012 at 11:45 am

    No, way! Dr. Strange TV show? Never even heard of it!

  • Jason Martin April 30, 2012 at 1:55 pm

    @Tom – As far as the 60’s Batman show goes, as well received and popular as it was, it hurt Batman as a character. It took years for people to take Batman seriously, just because of that show.

    And let’s not forget all of the animated stuff both sides have pumped out. Batman: TAS is one of the most well written and voiced shows you’ll ever find. Marvel was so big into animated series they had a Spider-Man, X-Men, Fantastic Four, heck they even had a Silver Surfer.

    I’d argue those animated shows had a great impact into bringing the characters more into the public consciousness and helped get a lot of these films off the ground.

  • Tom Hoefner April 30, 2012 at 7:05 pm

    @Jason – I actually glossed over that aspect of the old Batman show in an earlier column; I think in my X-Men column. And I’ve purposely avoided the animated stuff here for two reasons: 1.) Cartoons are viewed as “kids stuff” by the same people who view comics as “kids stuff”. 2.) I needed to stop writing SOMEtime.

  • Tim Morse April 30, 2012 at 9:23 pm

    @Jason Newcomb: I actually have a copy of the T.V. movie for Doctor Strange. 🙂

  • Vicky B., MSW (@DocSabia) May 3, 2012 at 10:32 pm

    I <3 Thor.