We are in an amazing place when it comes to the superhero and comic book genre onscreen. There’s nothing that cannot be realized through the magic of special effects and the imaginations being put in charge of the projects being pushed through production. Yes, we exist in a world of remakes, sequels, reboots, and marketing-fueled adaptations. But, if that’s the world that we exist in at least it is one that has the capacity to win us over.
Joss Whedon’s The Avengers is possibly the culmination of all that came before. Successes. Failures. Oddities. Classics that won’t be considered such for years. Massive hits that are massive shits. The Avengers is an excellent movie and one that defies the modern stigma of big summer movies that either numb us to death, dumb us to death, or lack the scope and spectacle to warrant the overused “tentpole” moniker.
How did we get here? What are the building blocks for this heyday in comic book and superhero movies? What “team” of movies, when banded together like Marvel’s litany of tough guys and gals when combined form the DNA of the modern superhero event film?
Here’s my perspective, a list of ten filled with good movies, bad movies, and surprisingly important movies paving the way for what now stands as the benchmark for the genre:
Day One: The Matrix
Love it or hate it, The Matrix is huge in the history of film. Yes, the sequels sucked and most of the peripheral attempts to mine the brand have been awful. Yes, the directors have yet to really do anything that comes even close to delivering on the promise started here. Yes, there is a lot to cringe about due to the saturation of “bullet time” and the spate of imposters and emulators. But flash back to March of 1999 and try to remember the exhilaration and jaw-dropping ambition and confidence. It’s hard to deny.
And it was an original IP. Yes, it riffed and ripped from many sources from both East and West. So did Star Wars. Does it matter?
What it brought: Massive ambition without a net. Superhuman feats made more believable. It primed audiences for the unknown. It introduced Eastern influences in a digestible (blue or red) pill. It showcased BIG IDEAS married with BIG SPECTACLE.
Its legacy: Though many of the special effects have suffered and/or been improved, there’s no denying the use of CGI dummies and how it has helped bring believable physicality to a place where it once was impossible.
Remnants in The Avengers: Not a terrible amount though it’s clear that the giant flying biomechanical creatures piloted/tamed/whateverred by the alien villains owe a debt to H.R. Giger, anime, and many of the same influences the Bros. Wachowski owe a debt to.
Does it hold up today: Absolutely. The massive backlash makes it sometimes easy to forget how special and important this film is. Sunglasses. Leather. Keanu. Gun porn. Yes, it’s very easy to slight the film based on so many now-familiar traits but the bottom line is that this film is a superhero film we are still benefiting from to this day. The DNA from The Matrix permeates The Avengers in big, small, and unique ways. The result is that we are lucky to be around as the genre really finds its legs.
Buy it from CHUD’s Amazon link: HERE.