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Film: A Surfeit of Superheroes

By Henry P. Raleigh
ART TIMES Sept/ Oct 2012


We all know that “The Avengers” set box office records at its opening last Spring and is, most likely, still going strong somewhere on the planet.  Well sir, that beat the pants off two former record holders, “The Dark Knight” and “Spider-Man 3” and maybe that’s why Batman and Spiderman didn’t make the cut when auditions were held for a new big budget “Avengers.”  You see, of the movie’s six superheroes, four have had highly profitable solo runs: Iron Man grossed $585 million world-wide, the sequel hit $624 million; Thor checked in with $450 million; Captain America $368 million (and we’ll forget about his 1990 flop); the Hulk $245 million first time around, $263 million for the follow-up.  So it’s pretty clear that here were the boys to bank on, put them all together and you’ve got a super winner, all right.  I don’t know how Black Widow made the gang, never having a feature by herself but figure diversity concerns required a woman and how many choices have you got?  Wonder Woman’s costume looks too much like Captain America’s outfits, the Wasp must be difficult to photograph when she’s the size of an insect, and I guess the Invisible Woman doesn’t photograph at all.  The mystery to me is how Hawkeye joined the group— no solo work, a bow and arrow for goodness sake and light in the muscle department it seems to me.  Maybe he was there so Robert Downey, Jr. wouldn’t feel he was the shortest man on the team.

Aside from a superhero’s proven bankability I’d like to know if serious consideration was ever given to other worthy Avenger candidates?  OK, Superman has had a good run and after all he is so super he can do anything and so hardly needs any help from an assortment of less talented superheroes.  He took a turn once in a group called the Justice League but found it boring and quit.  But why was the Fantastic Four ignored?  Was it Ant-Man’s stature, that problem with the Invisible Woman and no one remembers what Mr. Fantastic looks like?  The Torch and the Thing aren’t exactly small potatoes are they?  And what about Aquaman? The Flash? And can the Green Lantern be forgiven for his 2011 box office embarrassment?  Are they to be shoved aside because they lack an earnings history?  I find it personally disappointing that Captain Marvel never got an Avenger shot.  Why, Justin Bieber could play Billy Batson and just imagine the F/X when he shouts ‘Shazam’ and bursts into the Captain. 

Other than a gaggle of superheroes stumbling over one another the “Avengers” wasn’t much of an advance over its predecessors— you know, a supervillain bent on destroying everything in sight and a superhero (or as many as you care to stuff in this tried and true plot) the only hope of saving us.  No wonder film reviewers were lukewarm about the movie, though backing off after hearing Samuel L. Jackson’s menacing response to a N.Y. Times critic.   I suppose I’m taking chances here myself but by the time anyone happens to read this those summer runs of “Prometheus” and the courtesy appearances of Batman and Spiderman will make of the “Avengers” a dim memory—until the sequel comes out as it surely will, cramming in a couple more superheroes and I hope this time around they’ll give some attention to all those other superheroes who have been waiting in the wings with nothing to do.  Maybe the government could toss some of that stimulus money their way or how about hiring them as stunt men in movies? —they’d be good at that, right?  It’s the fair thing to do, I think.