Monday, May 7, 2012

Super Fly

This post took a little longer than normal, because it involved a fair bit more research than I'm normally used to (that, and I just recently began a new job as a Starbucks barista, which is every bit as green and coffee-scented as it sounds).

So, why are we here this week? I'm hoping we can talk about a little piece of pop culture that's on everybody's mind right now. A certain little movie that opened May 4th, went on to gross unfathomable amounts of money worldwide, and shattered opening-weekend box office records previously held by the likes of Harry Potter and The Dark Knight. The little movie in question has become something of a phenomenon, the fruits of labors that began way back in 2007 with five whole other movies to back it up. The film that's sure to go down in history as one of the most successful big-budget endeavors ever made by the industry. I'm referring, of course, to The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. No, wait, it's the other one, the one where the superheroes punch things.

The Avengers is a shining example of how to do something ballsy, fun, and RIGHT. It's a culmination of almost a decade of work from some of the best Hollywood has to offer. Most people said it couldn't be done, and -in all honesty -they could very well have been proven right, had less capable hands been at work here. But instead, we've been treated to six solid movies that break the mold in terms of what the current film industry is capable of. It was a huge risk, and they pulled it off with A+s across the board on their very first attempt. Long story short, if you haven't seen The Avengers yet, please don't waste your time reading this rubbish. Go. Now. Enjoy.

I'm not going to write any detailed review or analysis of The Avengers, because I'm sure it's been articulated in much better ways already. Instead, I'd like to ruminate on how this is going to affect the movie world from now on. Namely, are long-term, multiple-movie crossovers going to become a new thing? Well, now that the numbers are rolling in for opening weekend (and I needn't remind you, these are some hefty numbers we're talking about here), I'm sure studio execs are coming to the slow realization of what everybody else has already always known: FAN SERVICE + BIG, GROUNDBREAKING CROSSOVER SERIES + QUALITY = MONEY! Wow! Who knew, right?! Once the whole "D-uh!" aspect of that kicks in, maybe producers will start being more open to adaptation ideas that are a little more comfortable with their source material.

Here's some dialogue from a pitch meeting. I'm fairly certain this is how it went, word-for-word:

EXECUTIVE #1: Let's make a movie called Wolverine.

EXECUTIVE #2: Sure! Should we add in some of the other famous Marvel superhero characters in there, too?

EXECUTIVE #1: Only one or two. Make the majority of them a bunch of unimportant, throwaway characters that absolutely nobody cares about. THAT'S what comic book fans are looking for!

EXECUTIVE #2: Okay! Should we make all of the characters look, act, and dress exactly like they do in the comics?

EXECUTIVE #1: No, that's for amateurs. We're Hollywood. We're the BIG boys. Comic book characters shouldn't look, act, or dress like comic book characters. That's not what all those legions of comic book fans want to see! The characters should be completely different, unrelatable, unlikable, and just wear black trenchcoats, because black trenchcoats are cool. THAT'S what'll put butts in the seats!

EXECUTIVE #2: That's such a good idea!

EXECUTIVE #1: I know, right?! I make $250,000 a year!

Now here's another pitch meeting. Let's spot the differences!

EXECUTIVE #1: Let's make a movie based off of the Avengers. But first, all of the individual characters will have their own solo movie series so they can grow on audiences and be more fleshed out, so that when the time comes for The Avengers we can focus on more action and plot development. Plus, the first five movies will make a TON of money, which we can use to fund The Avengers and make it one big, solid action blockbuster!

EXECUTIVE #2: Great idea! Should we add a bunch of other famous Marvel superhero characters in there, too?

EXECUTIVE #1: Yes, absolutely. As many big name heroes and villains as we can. The ones people love & remember from the comics.

EXECUTIVE #2: Speaking of the comics, should the characters dress like they do in the comics, too? Because we have about 3,000 black trenchcoats left over from the Wolverine set.

EXECUTIVE #1: No thanks. Let's get them in their genuine, colourful costumes. Fans will love that.

Wolverine's total box office gross? Approximately $180 million. Reviews range from poor to mediocre to poorly mediocre. The Avengers total box office gross? $207 million and counting. Reviews range from "two thumbs way up" to "that was so good I think I pooped my pants".

I really don't think there's anything else to say except let's hope and pray that Marvel Studios makes more of these (which they are, according to news websites everywhere). Also, to all of the people involved: to the talented actors and screenwriters, to the producers who believed in the project and took the chance, to the directors who brought it all to life on anamorphic wide screen: thank you. From all of us crazy comic book fans. Thank you very, very much.

Next week: let's take what we learned here, and see if we can put it to good use somewhere else. Namely, the flip side of the comic book world. I'm going to theorize and (if you'll indulge me) geek out a little bit on where I think a certain company should take their film projects next. I'll be looking at it through the eyes of a writer, an actor, and (most importantly) a fan who just wants to go out and have a good time at the movies. So if any of you out there happen to have some pull over at the offices of Warner Brothers Studios...this next song's for you, baby. ;)