Why The Avengers is the Best Superhero Movie Ever

Avengers copyright Marvel - fan art by Satria W.
Hmm, not much happening in the world of superhero movies this week, so it's tough finding a topic to write about. Yeaaah, right. Damn, what a week it's been! With the spectacular box office success of The Avengers and the near unanimous critical acclaim it's received, this is the highpoint in the history of cape movies.

So, this week has been a time to sit back and reflect on what it all means. Besides replaying the best scenes endlessly in my mind, I spent this week thinking about some of the larger implications of the success of The Avengers. The impact of this movie is so huge, it's going to be felt for years and I'm sure entire books will be devoted to explaining "The Avengers Era" (I just invented that term). I figured I'd get a head start on the rest of the movie writers and ponder one of the big questions that The Avengers raises.

Why the box office record and the enormous overall success? 

The Avengers set a U.S. record that many experts thought was impossible - earn $200 million dollars in three days. It also set records in other countries, where it's racked up many millions more. With no major competition at the box office in the next couple of months and being entertaining enough for multiple viewings, the movie is on the way to being the most successful superhero flick ever.

Why? The short answer - because for the first time somebody (Marvel and Joss Whedon) finally put all the puzzle pieces together and created a film that nearly everyone could like. Sure, there have been great superhero movies in the last decade or so, but none of them appeal to as wide an audience as The Avengers. It literally has something for everybody and I'm sure that even people who don't usually like "comic book movies" have been won over.

After spending several afternoons in Starbucks deep in thought, contemplating what contributed to The Avengers phenomenon, here's what I came up with -

The build-up - If I had to choose one reason why The Avengers is (I think) the greatest superhero movie ever, it's because of the long-range plan of Marvel Studios. If Marvel had decided a couple of years ago "Hey, let's make an Avengers movie!" with no solo movies, the movie would've flopped. Millions of non-comic book fans had to be educated about the origins of Captain America and his teammates and that five-year education process was critical. Even long-time fans had to be gradually introduced to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as it's now being called.  

No origin story - Marvel's brilliant strategy of introducing the four main characters in a solo movie meant less time having to explain how they came to be. For once, a cape movie didn't have to spend the first thirty minutes explaining how the character got his or her power and how they made their costume and blah, blah. This allowed the movie to start right in the middle of the action without a boring prologue.

Humor - I can't remember an action movie having as many laugh-out-loud moments as this one. The humor wasn't just corny jokes about costumes and the like - it was genuinely smart, clever dialogue that played off each character's back story. The perfect example being when someone made a Wizard of Oz joke, and Steve Rogers (who was frozen in ice since 1945) proudly says "I got that reference." For long-time Marvel fans like yours truly, the witty dialogue was also reminiscent of the classic Avengers comic books.

Villain - A basic rule of thumb for superhero movies - You must have a great villain - and Tom Hiddleston was perfect as Loki. Marvel also avoided the blunders that other cape movies have made - having a villain that's not enough of a threat as in Superman Returns' Lex Luthor, or having one that's too alien and weird, as in Green Lantern's Parallax.

Lack of romance - The Avengers is the rare Hollywood blockbuster that has no romantic plot thread at all. This was another brilliant decision on Whedon's part - cut out the mushy stuff and keep the accelerator at full throttle. Yes, there are a couple of scenes in which Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) and Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) flirt and their relationship is hinted at, but that only takes up about three minutes and doesn't qualify as a "romance". As The Dark Knight proved, a romantic relationship can be an important part of the plot in a superhero movie, but a full-on love story in The Avengers would've ruined the movie.

There you have it - a few reasons why The Avengers has set a new standard for superhero movies. I know there are a ton more, so drop yours in the comments, and while you're here, don't forget to like our Facebook page (link is on the right).