10 Lessons Learned From the $1.5 Billion AVENGERS Movie

<i>By <a href=http://www.twitter.com/Newsarama>Newsarama Staff</a></i> <p>Now on DVD and Blu-ray, <b>Marvel's The Avengers</b> made more than $1.5 billion in its theatrical release, making it the third highest-grossing movie of all time. And that's not even mentioning the positive reviews and generally glowing reputation among hardcore fans. <p>So clearly, the movie should serve as an example for both future comic book films, and maybe even the comic books themselves. So with the hype machine for 2013's <i>Iron Man 3</i> now in motion (with more solo sequels following), a long-awaited release date official for <i>Ant-Man</i>, a <i>S.H.I.E.L.D.</i> pilot currently in development at ABC, and several Avengers titles relaunching as part of the Marvel NOW! comic book revamp, here are our picks for the 10 biggest lessons learned from the overwhelming commercial and critical success of <b>Avengers</b>. <p><i>Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's <a href=http://www.facebook.com/Newsarama><b>FACEBOOK</b></a> and <a href=http://twitter.com/newsarama><b>TWITTER</b></a>!</i> <p>


In the <b>Avengers</b> movie, Marvel's long-time spy organization almost comes off as part of the problem Earth's Mightiest Heroes have to overcome, rather than the solution, a dynamic not unnoticed by <i>all</i> of the movie's main stars. <p>The relevancy of S.H.I.E.L.D. in future Avengers-verse movies gets called into serious question during the course of the film, particularly now that the previous solo movies no longer require a narrative bridging device in their sequels that Nick Fury and Agent Coulson provided. <p>But it might not matter how big of a role S.H.I.E.L.D. will have on the big screen, since they might have a very bright future on the small one: A <i>S.H.I.E.L.D.</i> television pilot is in development at ABC, headed by <b>Avengers</b> writer/director Joss Whedon and some of his frequent collaborators, and headlined as revealed earlier this month at New York Comic Con by Clark Gregg's Agent Phil Coulson. <p>And speaking of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents...


While he's matured in recent years, and finally graduated to long-sought leader-status in the Avengers hierarchy over in <i>Secret Avengers</i>, the comic book Hawkeye at the end of the day is still a guy who justifies his presence among the Earth's Mightiest Heroes by shooting a bow and arrow real good, along with a hodgepodge of other abilities, like the times he's ditched the quiver and taken over as Goliath. <p>Director/screenwriter writer Joss Whedon did in the opening minutes of <b>The Avengers</b> what Marvel Comics hasn't done in 48 years given him a unique role within the team that actually befits his code name better than it ever did. It's sort of a "how-could-they-not-have-thought-of-this-before?" kind of thing. <p>The boost Clint Barton got from the movie is already paying dividends: Hawkeye is now starring in a self-titled solo series by writer Matt Fraction and artist David Aja, one of the most critically acclaimed launches this year from Marvel, and defining the character away from his time with the Avengers as a (mostly) average guy having colorful adventures in the name of trying to do the right thing.


One concern going into <b>The Avengers</b> was whether Chris Evans had the age and gravitas to <i>not</i> get overwhelmed by the imposing physicality of Chris Hemsworth as Thor and/or the rockstar charisma of a clearly older Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man. <p>In the comic books we buy into the earnest, commanding presence of Captain America and how two infinitely more powerful, and no-less intelligent heroes, would defer to Cap. But would that work in cinematic "real" life? Would Evans as an anachronistic Boy Scout work alongside a hyper-smooth and sarcastic Downing Jr.? Would he be swallowed whole trying to compete on-screen with more dynamic characters and actors? <p>Answer: He and it worked. Evans may not be the mind's eye Cap, but Whedon and co. did <i>not</i> shy away from the core Avengers-dynamic. He in fact embraced it, and Evans conjures up the needed weight to pull it off. <p>It may be a quiet, unsuspecting one but The Avengers real star turn may have come from Evans, announcing his presence as an actor not just limited to young, brash wise-ass.


It's a natural question: After delivering Captain America, Thor, Iron Man and Hulk (and more!) all in one film, how is Marvel Studios going to get people excited about future solo films like 2013's <i>Iron Man 3</i> and <i>Thor: The Dark World</i>? <p>This is where Marvel Studios needs to take a cue from their publishing side, and make these movies more personal to each hero, focusing on what makes these characters unique the same logic that's applied to their solo comic book series. <b>Avengers</b> did a great job of giving a character a moment (or two or three) to shine, but there's still plenty of room to show what makes these characters work on an individual level. <p>So in future films, let's expand their worlds even more for Thor, that means both on Asgard and on Earth with Jane Foster. <b>Avengers</b> shows a bit of Captain America adjusting to the modern world, but there's still plenty of territory to explore there. And while Iron Man gets plenty of screentime in <b>Avengers</b> and has two solo films already under his belt, more of an introspective examination of what makes Tony Stark tick think stories from "Demon In A Bottle" to Matt Fraction's current run on the series. <p>It looks like Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige has similar thoughts: "He basically loses all of his toys and is forced to just use his mind to rebuild and to face his biggest enemy," Feige told <a href=http://www.usatoday.com/story/life/movies/2012/10/22/iron-man-3-first-look-robert-downey-jr/1639465/>USA Today</a> of the <i>Iron Man 3</i> plot. <p>But that doesn't mean these movies need to be quiet, reserved affairs...


Along with stories grounded with emphasis on the personal plights of each hero, <b>The Avengers</b> has also now changed the expectations for how <i>big</i> a Marvel Universe movie should be. Gods, Aliens, far-flung science fiction, and the mid-credits tease of Thanos Marvel Studios has painted themselves into a corner of very high concept. <p>Simply expanding the scale (and budget) of the earlier films will go a long way to avoid making them seem small and irrelevant compared to <b>The Avengers</b>. <p><i>Captain America: The Winter Soldier</i>'s likely spy-espionage-war slant would benefit from on-location global back-drops, ala the Bourne, MI and Bond franchises. <p><i>Thor: The Dark World</i> needs time on Earth <i>and</i> a much grander Asgard than the first film offered (maybe a few weeks filming in New Zealand a la <i>Lord of the Rings</i>?). <p><i>Iron Man 3</i> is partially based on the "Extremis" arc by Warren Ellis and Adi Granov, and that's the right idea: Take Tony Stark into the latter half of the 21st Century <i>today</i>. Stark should be the man who invents the airplane in 1850, or the personal computer in 1930. Time spent in some of the world's more modern urban landscapes would be very cool. <p>As for <b>The Avengers</b> itself, well the teaser scene did hint at an even bigger threat looming out there, and the team certainly has its share of global, galactic, and even universal class enemies. Bigger, badder, more out-of-this-world is now not just a bonus, it's the expectation, and Marvel Studios needs to keep that in mind for their next films.


Prior to <b>Avengers</b>, Joss Whedon's only big-screen directorial effort was <i>Serenity</i>, based on his beloved TV series <i>Firefly</i>. <p>So, despite the obvious cool factor of having a guy who was not only a known Marvel fan (<i>Buffy the Vampire Slayer</i> is basically a female Spider-Man tale, right?) but an actual Marvel writer with <i>Astonishing X-Men</i> and a <i>Runaways</i> stints to his credit writing and directing the biggest Marvel Studios movie yet, there were still a lot of questions. Though Whedon's TV reputation spoke for itself, did he have another movie in him, let alone one this big? <p>Well, yes in fact, he succeeds so thoroughly in both the writing and directing departments, that, as the man behind the third highest-grossing film of all time, he certainly seems destined for future big things in the world of film starting with the 2015 <b>Avengers</b> sequel (though if he also wants to keep making smaller movies, like his upcoming version of <i>Much Ado About Nothing</i>, that's cool, too).


"Puny god." That and several more moments in <b>The Avengers</b> lead the viewer to realize how very wrong Marvel and the writers and the directors of his two solo "adventures" had the big-screen Hulk all along. <p>Steeped in somber pathos (an homage to the moody '70s TV series) and portrayed more like a completely thoughtless wounded animal than a pure manifestation of all-too <i>human</i> rage, the previous Hulks were simply no fun. Not fun at all. <p>The Hulk's rampages were what movie audiences went to see they wanted Hulk SMASH but the Hulk-outs were treated like Greek tragedies, which is a losing formula for popcorn movie events. <p><i>Iron Man</i> worked because Tony Stark <i>wanted</i> to be Iron Man. Ditto for <i>Thor</i> and <i<Captain America: The First Avenger</i>. Power fantasy is reliant on the protagonist actually enjoying the power. And that's all it took to make </i>this</i> Hulk work and what The Avengers got right ... just a <i>hint</i> that exercising your inner rage with your fists can be a just a <i>little</i> bit fun, something that writer Mark Waid seems to be exploring in the November-debuting <i>Indestructible Hulk</I> comic book series.


Not too long ago there was a time when even the notion of seeing various costumed superheroes sharing a big-screen together seemed ludicrous, with images of the notorious failed <i>Justice League</i> TV pilot seared into the brains of fans who <i>wanted</i> it to work but still had their doubts. Heck, even Fox hedged their bets in the X-Men films by putting them in matching black leather. <p>Sure, you could suspend disbelief for <i>one</i> superhero imprinted onto the real world you could believe <i>a</i> man could really fly ... or one nutty guy would dress up like a bat and stalk a city at night. And you could even make a bunch of people with various genetic mutations fly. But try to put heroes of various looks and origins together in the same headspace and the brain would simply reject the juxtaposition. <p>Now whether it's movies like <i>Watchmen</I> slowly eroding at the mental resistance or whether it was an imagined problem to begin with, <b>The Avengers</b> proved it's a problem no longer and DC/Warner Bros. should be doing every in their power to finally realize a <i>Justice League</i> movie, which based on <a href=http://www.newsarama.com/film/justice-league-movie-2015.html>recent news</a> looks like it could be in theaters as early as 2015. <p>It won't be easy to pull-off (nothing worthwhile usually is) but not only does a guy in a high-tech suit of armor, a green monster, a soldier (in a still sorry cheesy costume) and a god in elaborate duds work in crisp, cinematic 3-D (no less) it works gangbusters. <p>Warner Bros. needs to stop over-thinking this one and stop prioritizing the obstacles over the opportunity. If <b>The Avengers</b> is a potential global billion-dollar property, <i>Justice League</i> could have an even greater ceiling. It's finally time to get the world's finest minds on this. It can be super... friends.


And while we're on the subject, not only does <b>The Avengers</b> prove a <i>Justice League</i> movie can work, it also proves pretty much any Marvel property can not only work in a feature film, it can work in pretty much any combination with any other. <p>Suspension of disbelief is now forever expulsion of disbelief. <b>The Avengers</b> proves you no longer have to be just one step removed from the real world. What we thought were the old rules don't matter any more. Audiences will buy any Marvel character as an Avenger or as a resident of the Marvel movie universe after this after all, a <i>Guardians of the Galaxy</i> film is official for 2014, a concept known for grand cosmic adventures and a team that counts a heavily armed talking raccoon among its members. <p>The Marvel Universe has officially been freed from constraints to the printed page or animated frame, and a <i>Guardians</i> movie, given their diverse membership and far-out core concept, is a prime example of that. What once made the MU so exciting to comic book readers that any character could meet any other character at any time is now a tool Hollywood can fully exploit. <p><i>Actually</i> one that <i>Disney</i> could probably best exploit, which brings us to...


The Marvel Universe's newly boosted credibility as a movie factory presents both an opportunity and a problem for Disney and Marvel Studios. <p>Opportunity: Make a true Marvel Cinematic Universe featuring <i>all</i> their popular characters. <p>Problem: Half of those characters are farmed out to other studios. <p>Marvel's already showing a desire to present a sprawling, unified Universe of heroes in their <i>Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes</i> (and presumably, the upcoming subsequent <i>Avengers Assemble</i>) and <i>Ultimate Spider-Man</i> animated series Universes where Spider-Man, Cap, Wolverine, Invisible Woman and Daredevil can all hang together. <p>Just imagine Hugh Jackman's Wolverine clashing with Downey Jr.'s Tony Stark. Or a high-school aged Peter Parker being star-struck by Captain America and recruited by Nick Fury. And who doesn't want to see The Thing and The Hulk slug it out in all their glory on a ten-story IMAX screen? <p>Blade and the Punisher reverted back to Marvel last year, so they're not out of the question. But with a second Wolverine film and an <i>X-Men First Class</i> sequel on the way, it doesn't look like Fox will be abandoning the mutants any time soon, probably with an eye towards eventually rebooting the contemporary X-Men universe. And they likewise still hold the rights to films with Daredevil and the Fantastic Four, which Fox exec Tom Rothman said in January 2012 they have plans to reboot. <p>Sony has <i>The Amazing Spider-Man</i> hitting theaters next week, with hopes of not only a rebooted hit, but multiple sequels in the future. <p>So how can it happen? Well, one way would be for the non-Disney films to bomb and for the studio to pay a very pretty penny to recover the rights (see: both Punisher films). But that's not really ideal, especially for us fans, now is it? <p>The other way is for these behemoth Hollywood studios to realize a good thing when they see it and to try to pursue some rare mutual productions and distribution deals to allow the franchises to co-exist narratively. It would probably take a super-team of the Earth's Mightiest Lawyers to get any deals done, but with billions of dollars at stake, shouldn't they at least try?

10 Lessons Learned From the $1.5 Billion AVENGERS Movie

Date: 02 May 2012 Time: 08:31 PM ET