On the surface, comic books and the movies based on them seem simple. Take a good looking person, put them in spandex, to extenuate their naughty bits and give them some sort of super power. Or take Robert Downey Jr. put him in an elaborate metal suit of armor and sell the hell out of merchandise. Well, what if I told you there’s a little bit more to Marvel’s addition to seventh art-form? Here are Marvel’s secrets to blockbuster movie making:
Audiences Respond to them on a Much Deeper Level
Ok, so I apologize for killing your nerd-erection with politics, but stick with me it’ll get better. The first Avengers movie was released in 2012, right after what is known today as the Great Recession. People were losing their jobs, homes and investments all over the nation, and there seemed no end in sight. People needed heroes in a world of villainous bankers that used bail-out money to take excessive vacations and pay themselves bonuses. Marvel’s first Avenger’s film completely synced with the public’s deeper needs (a reflection of what they wanted from their own countries).
You can even argue that some of the films popularity was based on a post 9/11 mentality, but let me explain. At the end of the movie a huge battle takes place in the heart of New York resulting in massive wide-spread destruction. The heroes staved off Loki and his alien minions, though, and saved the world. In an almost formulaic ending, soothing, slightly sad music plays as the camera does a fly-over of the city, and although the city is destroyed the threat is eliminated; we are now safe and we can move on. Oh, just a little wedged in theme here, the war criminal responsible for everything is brought to justice. Real world parallels? You decide!
It Goes Deeper
Beyond the primary characters of the Avengers, Nick Fury, the shadowy leader of the even more shadowy, international and all-powerful defense organization S.H.I.E.L.D. makes a repeated cameo. He isn’t exactly an ally to the Avengers, but more of a regulator. This is a little more evident in the events of “Captain America, The Winter Soldier” when Cap is sent to rescue S.H.I.E.L.D. operatives from a pirated ship. However, the actual clandestine intent of the operation is to extract information from the vessel’s computer. Fury reveals to the Cap that S.H.I.E.L.D. is working on a privacy infringing NSA type of surveillance system to “protect” the public against further terrorist attacks and that the information taken from the vessel was necessary to do this.
However, Fury is betrayed, by his own infiltrated and corrupt organization. The movie culminates in a revelation that involves a traitor trying to use technology intended for good, to harm the public. Although the plot was conceived earlier, it heavily alludes to the Edward Snowden and NSA controversy. The movie managed to express the public’s mistrust of an agency that is supposed to protect them. There was also a little Cold War stuff thrown in just to make sure that the tensions between the U.S./Europe on one side and Russia on the other wasn’t a lost screenwriting opportunity.
Dumbing it Down is (finally) Dead
These aren’t the first Superhero movies made; there are some ridiculous videos below to prove that. The thing that the Avengers movies and most blockbuster Superhero movies made in the last decade have done is not undermined the viewer’s intelligence. Art imitates life, a point that wasn’t lost on these movies. They touch on the topics of terrorism, totalitarianism, personal freedom, privacy of personal information and the question of sacrificing freedom for safety. All of these being hot button topics in today’s political and social spheres. The next Avengers movie that will be coming out deals with rogue A.I. that goes on a warpath to annihilate all human life. I’m looking at you Google.
Just for a bit of contrast I added their contemporary counterparts.
Are there any other reasons you can think of for the success of the Avenger movies? Let me know in the comment section below.