A Pictorial History of the Movies: 2012 – The Avengers
At this point, pretty much any movie that cracks the top five all-time box office upon initial release is most likely going to be considered the film that defines its year. Though, in this particular case, it actually represents a larger trend that I’ve been discussing, which is superhero movies (Spider-Man, then The Dark Knight).
Starting with Harry Potter, franchises became the major form of big budget movie for Hollywood, and they haven’t turned back since. The trend has only taken even more of a stranglehold on the marketplace since then. Now, everything that comes out has a subtitle, designed to spawn a series of films. Movies can’t be one-offs anymore.
But The Avengers actually represents a very specific twist in the superhero genre, one that will define the next ten years of Hollywood, which is the trend of world building. And that’s what we’re going to talk about today.
I, for one, am already sick of this crap and will be very happy when the trend ends. But because of what Marvel chose to do with their “cinematic universe,” now all the other studios are attempting to do the same. They’re trying to create “worlds,” where everything is connected, and all the characters pop up in each other’s movies. It’s annoying as hell.
But there’s no denying just how important this film was to the year 2012, and how huge it was at the time. The first Iron Man was lightning in a bottle, and if it weren’t for The Dark Knight, that probably would have made a play for the film of 2008. And after that, Marvel decided to deliberately start building their world, introducing one character at a time, using already-introduced characters as through lines, and having old faces pop up to make it seem like things are more connected than they are. Samuel L. Jackson shows up in the post-credits of Iron Man. Downey shows up at the end of Incredible Hulk. Hawkeye shows up in Thor. Colson and Fury show up in all of these movies. They bring Captain America to the present to meet with Fury at the end of his movie. And then, now that all of those characters have had their movies, they do The Avengers. And people go fucking ape shit.
But because Marvel struck at the right time, they made $500 million with this movie. People got to see all of the superheroes together on the same screen. A series of movies were interconnected (albeit barely). So now, world building is what all of these studios are trying to do. Sony is attempting to do it with Spider-Man. Warner Bros. is doing some weird version of it with Batman v. Superman. Hell, Fox is putting out Ridley Scott’s Exodus movie and renamed it Exodus: Gods and Kings. They’re world building the fucking Bible!
But, either way, I think we can all understand why this is really the only film we can call the “definitive” film of 2012. As much as I tried to find another one, there really was no film that collectively took over the consciousness of the American film landscape and the American public as much as this one did. To the point where we’re all now suffering the consequences of it for the next decade.