By Comic Relief
When the quality of the feature films we receive improves are we required to respond differently to our entertainment? How do we know there has been an improvement? It’s a sign of the times that all action films, especially those of the Super hero genre, are now at least partially animation films. This new reality requires viewers to at least partially reevaluate the entertainment they are receiving.
INNOVATION IN PRODUCTION TECHNOLOGY:
The Avengers started filming during the summer, and still expects to be finished with all parts of the production by May 4th 2012. This is full movie production within one year. It is phenomenal that a potentially two-hour film, likely filled with animation sequences, will be completed in that short period of time. In terms of feature film production, I would dare even say this is rocket science. Is this the only standard for innovation in feature films? No; surely it is unlikely that one can innovate a feature film genre without demonstrating innovations in production technology, the quality of protagonists, antagonists, story structure and content.
Will the industry tell us when these innovation occur; maybe not? Unfortunately by way of the marketing departments of many studios (including Marvel Entertainment) an acknowledgement of this accomplishment has lagged in regard to many current sales campaigns. Is this an expression of modesty? Some how we should doubt it. Since when does business schools teach restraint? This self-composure has not be seen in history, and in fact when things are going well, it more common that we see the opposite. Instead it is more likely that this self-control is actually a product of the art department leadership. Which is also shocking because even in Hollywood, rarely do the art departments receive this much respect. So we can’t expect marketing to inform us of improvements, does this let us off the hook?
That viewers might receive a fully finished and possibly successful film in the turnaround proposed by Marvel is almost unbelievable. Do we really gain more by not knowing how the product is created? Despite what we may gain as a result of this wizardry, we should know what benefits we’re receiving. We should understand the innovation so that way we might know how to better support it; should it be successful. These are some other ways production “Marvels” (pun intended) are being hidden or withheld from us. To make sure we stay on the same page we have to explore the leadership of the art department, but first let’s review.
Again retaining the illusion that nothing unusual is happening, this movie studio essentially hides how fantastic their proposed production accomplishment is. They do this by performing a whole range of stunts to keep audiences engaged yet blissfully ignorant of what they are receiving. But should this surprise us? No, Marvel has been sending signs that they intended to turn Hollywood on its ear for some time. Here is the creative evidence for that last statement.
INNOVATION IN PROTAGONISTS:
First we have to remember that Marvel’s pedigree was earned in the comic book industry. And this was an excellent place to begin from because of the essential nature of the storyboard, a central schematic building block of the feature film production. Yet even in the comic book industry there were a few clichés that needed to be extinguished to allow that industry to flourish. How was Marvel going to take Hollywood if they weren’t willing to master and manage all of the kinks in their prior industry? Though this happened in the comic as well as later at Fox studios, Marvel decided it would first undermine the bedrock of the super hero comic; the secret identity. Marvel has continuously unmasked their super heroes and both horrified and excited many fans. Fans are horrified because dismantling this trope has been an essential building block of the super hero formula expressed from the very beginning. Beginning as a sacrificial commitment, characters like Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman had secret identities primarily to protect themselves and loved ones who could be targeted if these relationships were known by the general public. Narrative wise, this character definition also guaranteed that these heroic individuals could be situated amongst us, not on mount Olympus as the Greek gods were stationed. Possibly relying on the Biblical example, we were instructed that because of proximity, super heroes could be loved not just worshipped as powerful personalities were previously presented.
Fans are excited by the decline of secret identities for an altogether different reason. Many comics’ fans are literary fans, so the dispensing with of needless narrative traditions excites a progressive mindset. Despite previous precedent, unmasking proposes that super heroes can live 24 hour lives that were not diminished by less intimate relationships with the individuals they protect. Does this make the average person more vulnerable. We should wait for the comic industry or DC comics to determine that and present it to us in a provocative manner.
Where have we seen this unmasking occur at Marvel entertainment; basically in every Marvel movie to date. Though Wolverine wears a mask in the comic this was never presented as essential on the silver screen. In Ironman one Tony Stark organized a press conference where he notified the public about his secret identity. Though prone to alternative identities, Black widow who was introduced in Ironman two, was never introduced in feature films as having an essential identity other than her Super Hero guise. Thor was originally presented as having a secret identity yet it was presented as unnecessary in his movie. He is purely Thor Odinson, not Donald Blake as he was originally presented in the comic. Hawkeye was also presented in the Thor movie and he unlike his comic book incarnation was never introduced with a mask. In Captain America, his traditional comic book mask or cowl is presented as more of a protective helmet and no attempt to hide his identity was ever attempted. Likewise Bruce Banner is presented as the true identity of the Hulk in the comic. You will notice in the new Avengers posters that were presented last week that a green cast on Banner’s face is supposed to be a subtle reminder of his more volatile though not secret identity.
Look for your self, in their latest poster Bruce Banner (played by Mark Ruffalo, second from the left on the top row) is presented as the 7th Avenger).
Yeah the new posters look great but you may be asking what real difference does the poster make? Doesn’t the trailer sale the movie better? You would be right, but oddly as we said before the goal is to create stunts that don’t reveal that any innovation is really occurring. This way it’s possible to take audiences by surprise, only the creative departments would care about this.
INNOVATION IN ANTAGONISTS:
Look at the posters; the only visible villain visible is Loki (Thor’s adopted brother), played by Tom Hiddleston (second from the left on the bottom row). Thor proved to be too strong an opponent for Loki in a previous film; so what gives. How could Loki be a decent antagonist for the whole group? What we have heard in minimal press suggestion and seen from the trailer is that the Avengers will likely be fending off an alien invasion but no visuals of this threat have been seen (again because they are likely being produced in CGI studios as we speak). Also lets not forget marketing and the studio tends to under sale innovation. Again they believe surprise will better enhance their product.
Who will these other antagonists likely to be or what aliens are these likely to be? Those familiar with Avengers history speculate on these group and individual threats: the Skrulls, the Kree, Thanos, Annihilus, etc., . It is fair to assume that we may not find out the identity of the extra antagonists until the end. The studio understands these clues would certainly empower audiences to imagine an ending or development progress that would certainly jeopardize the surprises that Marvel wants to save for audiences.
Though there is reason to fear that computer generated adversaries may prove to be dramatically unpersuasive, we have to hope that Loki’s inclusion signals that acting wise he will likely be doing all of the heavy lifting dramatically.
As long as this information is withheld fans will always wait expectantly. To improve the entertainment experience, this mystery certainly isn’t a unique marketing strategy, yet it does illustrate how seriously Marvel is taking this film. If they are this serious about withholding surprises we can nearly assume that the antagonist is intended to be as innovative as other aspects of the film.
We can continue to speculate about the story structure and content. We need the actual film to discern how effective these elements are. With all of these hidden and obscured aspects of the film we have every little reason to believe we may get a spectacular narrative. But only time and viewing will tell.
Please join us for a discussion Tuesday, 11/22/2011@7pE/12UTC