This guy is a massive tool.
Does anyone remember The Fantastic Four? Or it’s sequel Fantastic Four: Rise Of The Silver Surfer? This pair of films from 2005 and 2007 are probably best forgotten. They represent a real low point in Marvel Studios patchy history. After punching high in the early 2000’s with coproductions like Spider-Man, X-Men and Blade the studio seemed to be flailing wildly by the middle of the decade with films like Ang Lee’s confused Hulk and underwhelming turkeys like Ghost Rider and The Punisher. For me though, the Fantastic Four movies really were the worst. The original Kirby/Lee run (which the movies follow in the loosest possible sense) represents one of the greatest collaborations of the golden age of Marvel Comics. The films sucked ass. I mean seriously, the script was hollow, the effects were shoddy and the acting was 100% wooden.
It was also released in Korea.
Fast forward to 2012. The biggest US opening weekend in cinema history. The perfect Marvel superhero film. Starring, among others, Chris Evans. The same Chris Evans who had made me cringe all the way through two Fantastic Four movies. That, to me, is the whole thing in a nutshell. The success of Avengers Assemble, of Marvel Studios, rests on its ability to reinvent itself. So many aspects of this film are incongruous with earlier Marvel films but all the elements sing harmoniously with each other. The cinematic Marvel Universe has reshuffled before: the changing face of the Hulk, the changes to supporting actors in Jon Faverou’s Iron Man films, not to mention the constant upgrading of costumes, effects and locations as the production values of these films have soared. And why have the production values soared? Because these films, good or bad, make a shit-ton of money.
Meanwhile back at Marvel HQ…
The Fantastic Four movies grossed over six hundred million dollars between them. Hulk smashed through two hundred and fourty million, even Ghost Rider grossed over two hundred million dollars. And these are the ones that are considered flops. It seems like Marvel Studios had gained a license to print money. All of this stepped up a notch in 2008 with the release of Iron Man, directed by Jon Faverou and staring Robert Downey Junior (an actor who himself is a master of reinvention). The movie was big, bombastic and cheerful. As well as filling Marvel’s coffers though, it managed to gain respect from critics and fanboys alike. Those who stayed in the cinema until the end of the movie were treated to something else though. Samuel L Jackson with an eye patch on talking about a new initiative he is putting together. The Avengers.
Planning for this had actually started as long ago as 2005 when Marvel Studios first declared their independence and set about making a slate of interconnected superhero films to be distributed by Paramount. Iron Man was soon followed by The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor and Captain America: First Avenger (which is where Chris Evens re-enters our story) the films range from awesome (Iron Man) to terrible (Captain America) but what Marvel Studios were doing here was more ambitious than any other project in the history of cinema: creating a cohesive cinematic universe based on the much loved world of Marvel comics. Not only that but creating this world through the medium of blockbuster cinema: usually high risk, usually subject to massive changes from hot headed studio bosses. And yeah, there was a lot of that. It might have been nice to see Ed Norton’s Hulk again, it would have been cool to see Terrence Howard back in Iron Man 2 but for the most part everyone was excited to see things moving towards the Avengers. Fanboys across the world punched the air in unison when it was announced that uber-geek Joss Whedon (Buffy, Angel, Firefly, Dollhouse) would write and direct The Avengers. Cast appearances at Comic Cons in 2011 and 2012 only helped to push things into a fever pitch.