So I saw “The Avengers,” and I feel my last column on the film was justified. It was great, and I’ve seen it twice. My only complaint is odd food cravings, but if you’ve seen the film, you understand those.
If you haven’t seen the film, stop now, because this post is filled with spoilers.
Now I could gush on it, but I’d like to actually analyze why it worked, and what it tells us about geek/nerd culture adaptions. There are a few rules we can derive from The Avengers and other recent superhero efforts.
Trust Your Actors/Actors You Can Trust: Good casting is paramount in superhero films because they are about iconic characters. That may seem obvious, but you need actors that will truly inhabit the rule and let them go for it. Not every actor fits this – even very good ones.
The Avengers? Great cast doing their best and going for it shamelessly. It’s hard to figure out who was the most fun to watch in the Avengers (but I think Ruffalo takes it just barely over the rest of the spectacular cast).
Superheroes Need To Play In Their Genre: The first Dark Knight was noir. Captain America was a modernized period piece. Thor was cheesy-fun sci-fantasy with heart. Iron Man was a pure character story. These work because the superhero played in a known genre, a common language or approach that enhanced and communicated the experience.
The Avengers was a classic “get-the-team together” sci-fi story to take on alien invaders. Strong on character pieces and chemistry, but ultimately an identifiable genre.
Superheroes Need Character: One reason we love superheroes is the identifiable, iconic characters. They have catchphrases, habits, looks, even their heroic titles are iconic and show characterization. The best films doing superheroes had strong characterization.
The Avengers . . . well, that’s a given. It was in many ways a kind of superhero soap opera/character piece. Characters grew, evolved, bantered, interacted, and were themselves. You could have removed the action and still had a fun picture.
Superheroes Are More Than The Sum Of Their Parts: Any good film is more than the sum of its parts, and superhero stories are no exception. In fact if the parts doint become more, the story falls flat. When it’s a tale of superhumans and aliens, it is perhaps tempting to assume you can throwparts at the screen and make it work.
The Avengers didn’t do that. The various characters and elements and plot lines interacted to create something far more than a pile of ideas. The reason for things, the character interactions, plot elements, all came together to make something more.
Good FIlm Making Is Good Film Making: I don’t need to really go into that. This was well-shot and well-acted and well-written. Enough said.
So The Avengers worked. There’s alot of lessons to be derived – and I hope Marvel and others learn them. Certainy we can learn alot, and perhaps even apply it in our careers.
On the other hand, the Marketing wasn’t too hot (and I think that David’s writing on the subject was noteable), and I plan to address that next . . .