August 7, 2013

Is ‘Avengers Assemble’ the first step in the death of the reign of the comic book film?

This week saw ‘Avengers Assemble’ take the number one spot in the UK box office charts for a second week in a row. The film has taken over $1,008,295,900 worldwide since its release.  ‘Avengers Assemble’ has had the most sucessful release than any other film to date, beating ‘The Dark Night’ which previously held this tittle. The fact that both these films have held such lucrative receptions worldwide suggests that the general public are still enchanted by the classic formula of the Hollywood blockbuster comic book movie.

This is something that is more straight forward than most other mainstream cinema narratives that each comic book  film rarely drifts away from: There is a main plot of a dysfunctional human being without purpose gaining a positive super human power through something out of their control. An unattainable love interest becomes more interested in them as their power develops and they change into the hero. A sub plot  develops of a over ambitious person (usually a scientist) who nominates himself/herself for the first of human testing for the greater good of science. An experiment takes place with this person and it goes wrong and they develop negative anti social superhuman power, therefore are hero and villain are born. The hero and villain are forced to fight at least twice before the final showdown at the end where there are huge explosions and carefully choreographed action sequences. There is a resolution from good vs evil where good wins and evil experiences a terrible fate, usually a painful death or incarceration. The love interest becomes the lover. The world is restored to its natural balance and the credits roll.

This formula was something that developed slowly throughout the late 1980’s and 1990’s but I had not noticed just how rigid the formula had become until watching ‘X-Men’ in 2000. It was here I realised that although this worked well in the films up until this point such a simple formula will soon become boring to mainstream audiences and a new emergence of films from another medium would begin. Twelve years later with ‘Avengers Assemble’ and ‘The Dark Night’ generating the most revenue to date over any other films, as well as a constant flow of comic book films since 2000 I realise how wrong I was to think that.

‘Avengers Assemble’ has had not just a proffitable reception but also a critical one with the film having an average of 8.7 out of 10 on imdb from 170,000 reviewers. One the main reasons the film has had such a great reception seems to be that fans of several past comic book films including ‘Thor’, ‘Iron Man’, ‘Hulk’ to name a few, are given the change to see a an ultimate collaboration of their favourite superheroes in one film.  However I wonder how the next few years will go for comic book film releases. As this breaks the formula of the comic book movie formula as there is not just one central protagonist but multiple. Now that cinema audiences have now received this standard of superhero’s film I am skeptical that they will be satisfied returning to the traditional formula of one central protagonist in each film, as this now seems quite limiting.  It would prove difficult to to top this latest instalment in the Marvel movie machine and even if they were trying to do this where would they go? What would be next in our cinemas Batman vs Superman?

‘Avengers Assemble is out in cinema’s nation wide now.

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About Shirish Agarwal

Shirish Agarwal is the founder of Flow20 and looks after the PPC and SEO side of things. Shirish also regularly contributes to leading digital marketing publications such as Hubspot, SEMRush, Wordstream and Outbrain. Connect with him on LinkedIn.