In May, I got really mad at Marvel Studios and Paramount Pictures for the dreadful Thor. Of that movie’s several “accomplishments,” its greatest was proving correct A.O. Scott’s theory that the recent crop Marvel films—Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor, and Captain America: The First Avenger—are a great Ponzi scheme leading up to The Avengers in 2012.
In that Thor post, I compared the Marvel series to one of the guiding principles of the multiple-choice portion of the Law School Admissions Test. On the LSAT, test-takers are advised to evaluate scenarios and determine if certain conditions are necessary, sufficient, neither, or both. For example, in defining the paramaters of, say, an omelette, eggs are a necessary component. But the presence of eggs alone is not sufficient. To become an omelette, the eggs must be cracked open, have their contents whipped and blended, fried in an open skillet, and folded in half before serving.
Likewise, Thor is a necessary component of The Avengers, but the movie was not sufficient entertainment in its own right. However, Marvel is banking that it was. Based on the trailer for The Avengers released today, the primary villain appears to be Loki, the Norse god of mischief and—in the Marvel Universe—adopted brother of Thor. This suggests that even with the presence of Iron Man, Captain America, the Hulk, Hawkeye, Black Widow, and Nick Fury, the plot of The Avengers will be driven largely by Thor, who in his own feature was a bland character played by a fairly dull actor (Chris Hemsworth).
For those overwhelmed by the requirement of seeing five prerequisite films, I promised cheat sheets ahead of The Avengers. Here is the first set of tips:
- Played by Robert Downey Jr., Tony Stark is actually entertaining to watch.
- Gwyneth Paltrow was in Iron Man and Iron Man 2, she appears to be missing now.
- Mark Ruffalo is the third actor in as many films to play the Hulk/Bruce Banner. Don’t worry about it, no one liked the first two anyway.
- Thor is that guy who was blown up at the beginning of Star Trek.
- Hawkeye didn’t get his own movie. He was just there in Thor with his compound bow and deadly arrows. By the way, why is a special forces operative using a bow and arrow and not, you know, a gun?
- Captain America and Iron Man won’t get along at first.
- Scarlett Johannson wears a catsuit.
- Something called the Cosmic Cube is the MacGuffin.
- Chumps like me actually paid nearly $60 to see each of these films at least once and we’ll probably shell out another $12 to $15 (3D!) to see The Avengers.