Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Movie Crossovers Part 1 - Marvel

Should more films follow Marvel’s example?

The current plan from Marvel, as I understand it, is to create the ultimate movie cross-over in the Avengers film, due out in a couple of years. The Avengers is a long-term Marvel title that brings together a team of heroes, many of whom have their own stand-alone comics. It was founded by notables like Iron Man, Thor and the Incredible Hulk. All of whom, you’ll note, have had or soon will have films of their own in recent years. AND, Iron Man’s Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) had a cameo in the latest Hulk film, just as SHIELD head-honcho Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) appeared briefly at the end of Iron Man. Captain America has also been a long-time member of the Avengers, and Marvel’s putting out a Captain America movie sometime next year. So just as with the comics, we’ve got a series of stand-alone superhero films, with a plan to bring the leads together to make one (or more) films about them working as a team. This is potentially great news. It’s also potentially a disaster.

The problems with this sort of film are many. For instance, while the different superheroes will have been fleshed out in their own individual movies, they still have to be introduced in the Avengers in a meaningful way. It’s not fair to expect the audience to go out and see two Iron Man films, an Incredible Hulk film, Thor, and Captain America before they can set foot in the Avengers. If the film doesn’t re-explain those characters for the poor girlfriend who gets dragged along unwillingly to this geekfest, it’s going to fail. At the same time, the target audience is probably those very same geeks (like me) who WILL have seen all five of those prior movies, and it’s not fair to them to spend the first hour of the movie explaining how Iron Man got his armor and how Captain America got so strong. THEN, on top of explaining each of these main characters (and there’s no firm word yet on how many will actually appear – I’ve read that the Hulk, at minimum, is very much up in the air), the movie has to serve as the origin story for the Avengers team. There has to be an explanation for how/why they’ve decided to get together, and (presumably) a little bit of depth on how each of them feels about it, how they get along, etc.

All of that is in addition to explaining the bad guy(s), his agenda, his powers (if any), and why anybody should care. THEN, finally, you get to the part where the Avengers (again presumably) kick some ass. Whew! It sure took a while to get there. Now, granted, skillful writers may choose to mix that all up – showing one or two heroes battling the villain(s), then working together, then bringing in another hero and fighting some more, then brining in the remaining heroes for the climactic battle, but that only changes the order of what needs to happen, not the fact that it all has to be in there. You end up with probably an hour of the backstory and the origin of the team and then you’ve only got an hour left for them to actually do stuff. Or maybe two hours if they go for the mega-movie like Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films. Still, it’s a big chunk of time and there’s lots of room to screw it up by making it too boring or too confusing or leaving too many plot holes. When you’ve got all of these super-powered heroes, every one of them has to use their talents and super-powers or there needs to be a reason why they wouldn’t. It’s bad enough with a single hero, but adding more of them makes it worse.

On the plus-side, nothing like this has ever really been attempted before that I’m aware of. And the first two X Men movies certainly demonstrate that an ensemble team of superheroes can be very entertaining and exciting, even if the filmmakers need to spend a chunk of time setting up the premise.

So you could say that I’m in agreement with Marvel: An avengers movie that ties in other key characters from the Marvel universe is a good idea. And, since Marvel’s been so good at turning their characters into hit movies, there’s really no end to the potential to bring in other known entities. For instance, Spider-Man lives in New York City, which isn’t far from X-Men founder Dr. Xavier’s mansion headquarters. Likewise, the Avengers are usually based in New York as well. You’ve technically also got Blade running around, as well as all of the bad guys from Magneto to Doctor Octopus. The Marvel universe is uniquely well-positioned for massive crossovers if they can manage it all properly. Tomorrow, I’ll consider whether DC Comics could do the same.

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