I’m a little behind the times, but I watched Iron man tonight for the first time tonight. My friend Pat lent it to me after a discussion about Captain America (she didn’t like it as much as I did) before I went to see The Avengers. In trypical writer mode, my brain was half watching the movie and half trying to see the man behind the curtain.
Most of the recent Marvel movie franchises have launched with an origin story, which is probably as it should be. Starting a new franchise, or rebooting it, you want to clarify right from the beginning who the character is, what their limitations are, and how they become who they are. There was absolutely none of that in The Avengers. It was expected that you, the viewer, had at least a passing familiarity with the characters on the screen. More to the point, it was expected that you’d seen the previous movies so that you knew about the various threads that The Avengers was tying into a unified whole, though some of that comes down to knowing the characters as well. You weren’t lost if you hadn’t seen them, but some things made more sense if you had.
I’m starting to see the Marvel movie series less as an attempt to bring in money by dragging out everybody whose ever worn spandex on the page (though it still is), and more a creation of a new serial form similar to what they’ve been doing on paper for 70 years or so. Instead of banging out a bunch of comic issues every month, they seem to be making a sort of movie serial where two or three titles release every year and they get tied up in a sort of an arc. At least, that’s what I’m hoping for. To my knowledge it’s never been done before, but that’s not surprising since it would take a stable of characters the size of Marvel’s to even attempt it (DC could also do it if they stopped making second-rate movies. Batman excepted.) I would love to see more crossover action over the coming years, and not just in the occasional group movie.
I haven’t seen The Avengers a second time yet, but will do so soon, probably with the kids in tow. My oldest definitely wants to see it, and I’m starting to sense another shift in his interests. Where he started with trains and then dinosaurs and most recently the Star Wars franchise, he now seems to be more and more interested in superheroes. This parallels so closely my own progression as a youth that it’s scary. If the trend continues, it’ll be about three years before he gets hooked on epic fantasy and role playing, and then I will be well and truly cloned.