Tuesday, 11 October 2011

The Avengers: “If we can’t protect the Earth, You can be damn sure we’ll avenge it!” The Trailer has landed...

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In 1963 Stan Lee and Marvel comics put a collection of their biggest solo characters into one team and called them The Avengers. 49 years of comics and 5 years of movie making later and we will finally have a big budget film featuring these characters on the big screen. Marvel Studios have been very brave in the way they have gone about getting these characters together. Rather than bringing them out, in the usual fashion as a readymade team, as with X-Men, Marvel studios have introduced a series of characters, not well known to general populace of planet Earth (Iron Man, Thor / or with diminished credibility (Hulk) or stature (Captain America), individually in their own movies. Or they have been introduced as minor / secondary characters in the Solo-Avenger films. (Nick Fury & S.H.I.E.L.D in all 5 films; Black Widow in Iron Man 2; Hawkeye in Thor.) This eliminates the need to bog down the beginning of the film with numerous strands of exposition and origin stories and allows it get straight into the drama and action, with only that which feels necessary to tell the story in the film.

What’s more the individual films have also added concepts and ideas that may have been difficult to explain in a timely manner in a single film. Thor has showed us that the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) is not confined merely to our planet or even to the present. With that story beginning over 1,00 years ago and covering at least 2 alien species and ‘planets’ we now know that the inhabitants of that Earth are likely to come under threat from Alien individuals and powers and this won’t come as a jolt after the very “real world” feel of the Iron Man and Incredible Hulk films. Captain America and, ironically, to a lesser extent, the Iron Man films, have opened up the idea that the Earth we see in these films is mostly the same as ours but a small number of, pretty major, advances in technology have happened over the past 70 years. This will make some of the technology that S.H.I.E.L.D will have in the film, such as the infamous Helicarrier, fit easily into the film.

All of this leads us to an event that, withal due respect to ‘The Expendables’ we don’t really see so much in cinema anymore. A collection of major characters and actors, in one film that shapes them all. It won’t and can’t be pretended that the Avengers never existed and if the film is appalling it weakens the prospects of for existing film characters with sequels set or planned, not to mention kills the potential Nick Fury 0 S.H.I.E.L.D film and the Hawkeye & Widow film also in the works. It isn’t just a ‘Mash Up’ as many are calling it, either. That attitude took a concept that was expertly applied in the comic book world and made the two Aliens VS Predator films. Both the Alien and Predator series were considered close to dead or in a kind of Limbo . Those films have effectively been wiped from existence with Fox instead retorting the Predator films with Predators and renewing the Alien Universe with Prometheus. Here we have something very different to either the Alien & Predator series or the Freddy & Jason films. Here we have a series of character whose films are new, fresh and popular. Even The Incredible Hulk is viewed as having successfully revved general interest in the Hulk Character, after the 2003 Ang Lee film ‘Hulk’ effectively made the character very unpalatable for the masses. This is more akin to taking Daniel Craig as Bond, Matt Damon as Bourne, Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt, Bruce Willis as John McClane and Vin Diesel as XXX and putting them into one film, to stop the mother of all ‘take over the world’ plots.

It’s a scenario that is hoping to prove greater than its not inconsiderable parts. Taking a set of films that you’d hope would gross in the $350m - $550m + range and putting them together to hit the $700m - $900m+ range. More even than that the massive bumps in licensing revenue that the individual films command 100s of millions of dollars (exclusive of cinema takings or DVD / Blu-Ray sales) could reach levels to rival the likes of Toy Story or Cars. So just who / what are these parts?

Iron Man:-
Tony Stark – Iron Man is played by Robert Downey Jr. and Iron Man kick started both Marvel Studios’ own entry into movie production and finally made Robert Downey Jr. a box office draw. The character appealed as much, if not more, to older viewers as to younger ones (In North America more viewers over 25 turned out for the film than those under 25).

The Incredible Hulk:-
Bruce Banner – Hulk is played by Mark Ruffalo. There have been 2 movie Hulks. The First was film in 2003 wasn’t a Marvel Studios’ production. It was a Universal film and the Hulk / Banner were played by Eric Bana; with some of the Hulk’s actions with relatively primitive motion capture. The film was not very well received (although it received high praise from some quarters for its artistic approach). Fortunately for Marvel Studios this allowed them to get the character for their own films and they made a much better received film; ‘The Incredible Hulk’ in 2008, was played by Edward Norton and the Hulk was changed to become more of a hybrid of the famous TV show character and the comic book  character. Thus smaller and weaker (for now) and a better special effect that was easier to digest, for the mainstream. Unfortunately fan favourite Norton could not be retained for sequels and The Avengers and the mantle of “The strongest there is” has now been taken up by Ruffalo. Significant advances in Mo-Cap tech (as seen in Avatar, Planet of The Apes & Real Steel) have allowed Ruffalo to play both Banner and Hulk 100%, Physically.

Played by Chris Hemsworth; the Norse god of Thunder is actually an alien from and extremely advanced race of humanoids, sworn to protect the ‘Nine Realms’ which includes Earth. Considered the trickiest of The Avengers to bring to the big screen Thor surprised many by becoming a big hit around the world  bucking the Superhero norm by earning more internationally than in North America (not in a sequel). It made an instant star of Chris Hemsworth and being, generally, well liked by the public. All despite the funny costumes, mythology, aliens et al. Not to mention such Universe ending horrors as tere being Black and other Non-White aliens! (The horror!)

Captain America:-
Played by Chris Evans, this film has proven even more of a surprise by taking more in the international market than in North America, despite the very ‘American’ nature of the character. Of course Captain America himself isn’t an overly jingoistic character, being more concerned with the American Dream and values, than American politics or interests. (He has in fact given up being Captain America when pressured into working for the government and their policies.)

Black Widow:-
Played by Scarlett Johansson to stunning effect in an extended cameo in Iron Man 2,The Black Widow is a spy and one of S.H.I.E.L.D’s extra special agents. Enhanced (although that has not yet been made explicit in the films) she is considered formidable enough to be promoted to the Avengers, despite being, essentially, a normal human being.

Played by Jeremy Renner and first seen, as a standard agent in a scene stealing cameo in Thor. Like Widow he has been enhanced (his vision, although again this has not been made explicit in the films) he is an unmatched marksman and his assortment of technologically enhanced arrows contain the only weapon (with the possible exception of Thor & his Hammer) capable of stopping the Hulk. This allows him to be te other ‘Human’ promoted to the super Hero team.

Nick Fury:-
Played by Samuel L Jackson in all but The Incredible Hulk (although he is mentioned). There’s a big degree of life imitating art here. When the Avengers were updated as “The Ultimates” in Marvel’s Ultimate comics line, the character of Nick Fury was redesigned to resemble, exactly, Samuel L Jackson. What’s more the character explicitly states that he could only be played by Samuel L Jackson in a film. 6 years later Jackson made his first appearance in the post credits scene of Iron Man. There Marvel made it clear to the world that not only were they planning to make their characters exist in the same Universe, but that the Avengers were coming.

The Solo-Avengers...
North American Gross
International Gross
Iron Man

The Incredible Hulk
Iron Man 2
Captain America: The First Avenger*
*Still in release with major markets to come and probably over $200m  int total.
“Marvel Studios presents in association with Paramount Pictures "Marvel's The Avengers"--the Super Hero team up of a lifetime, featuring iconic Marvel Super Heroes Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Thor, Captain America, Hawkeye and Black Widow. When an unexpected enemy emerges that threatens global safety and security, Nick Fury, Director of the international peacekeeping agency known as S.H.I.E.L.D., finds himself in need of a team to pull the world back from the brink of disaster. Spanning the globe, a daring recruitment effort begins. Starring Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner and Samuel L. Jackson, and directed by Joss Whedon, "Marvel's The Avengers" is based on the ever-popular Marvel comic book series "The Avengers," first published in 1963 and a comics institution ever since. Prepare yourself for an exciting event movie, packed with action and spectacular special effects, when "Marvel's The Avengers" assemble in summer 2012. In "Marvel's The Avengers," superheroes team up to pull the world back from the brink of disaster when an unexpected enemy threatens global security.”

The Avengers has been directed by Joss Whedon (Buffy The Vampire Slayer TV, Serenity) and hits the world’s cinema screens from the end of April 2012...

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