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 Two: The Fellowship of the Ring
There’s a word that has been bandied about regarding many properties over the years. Granted, attempts have been made to achieve such grandeur but more often than not they sunk under the weight of their own ambition. Or a lack of resources to achieve the vision. David Lynch’s Dune, for example. The Avengers was unfilmable. Unless you consider a lame 80’s Hasselhoff-fueled Nick Fury quality approach actual filmmaking. There are two other films more directly affiliated with big budget comic book filmmaking on this list but Peter Jackson’s amazing gamechanger was a pivotal step forward in bringing the fringe to the mainstream. Adults, children, country club types, the urban community, readers and nonreaders like found a sweet spot here and thanks in no small part to this epic tale of unlikely heroes other films once considered impossible now represent the norm.
What it brought: Confidence. You can tell these kind of stories on a large scale without fear of the audience rebelling. Stories of ragtag misfits has long been a staple (The Seven Samurai, The Dirty Dozen, Star Wars) but more often than not films of the modern age were just assemblages of archetypes. Everyone had their favorite Lord of the Rings character. They each served a purpose and had their own life. Apart from the effectiveness of the filmmaking it was the characters that held the center.
Its legacy: Though a different genre, the marriage of tech, material, and creative team helped usher in a ballsier and smarter way of thinking in Hollywood. The keys to the kingdom, once reserved for Lucas, Spielberg, & Cameron found a new holder and less than a decade later named like Abrams and Whedon were in the mix.
Remnants in The Avengers: It’s very easy to be taken out of a film by silly looking dwarves, hobbits, and elves. In many ways, a group of dissimilar costumed heroes is a lot easier of a pill to swallow thanks to the good work done here.
Does it hold up today: As if no time has passed. Seeing the trailer for the upcoming Hobbit only makes this film seem richer by comparison.
Buy it from CHUD’s Amazon link: HERE.