Dave Coates: The Marvellous Plan

The Marvellous Plan: Three Years til the Avengers?

Most regular cinema-goers will recognise the ever-growing market for superhero genre-movies, particularly between May and August. This week, Marvel announced plans for an interwoven series of films, culminating in the enticing team-up of “The Avengers”, three years down the line.

Iron Man’s $200m worldwide box-office receipt in its first weekend is evidence enough of the lingering appeal of the Marvel stable, and with even the national dailies giving positive reviews, it seems like the quality of these blockbusters is rising to match its popularity. Considering little more than half the overall takings have come stateside, it also seems like Tony Stark and his metallic one-piece have pulling power worldwide.

But Marvel’s bigger picture will depend heavily on the success of his team-mates: The Incredible Hulk, Captain America, and, no kidding, Thor, the Norse god of thunder. Hulk is already on thin ice after an ambitious but misfiring original, and the deity-turned-superhero will suffer all the character issues Superman faced, without half the ink-and-paper popularity that character enjoyed.

Captain America is something of a wild card. His film will be the last in the build-up series – the Hulk arrives next month, Iron Man 2 and Thor in summer 2010, and the Captain débuts two months prior to The Avengers the following year – and will feature the catalysing episodes that ignite the big finale. His fans cover both extremes of the political spectrum, and expectations of the character run the gamut from staging anti-war demonstrations to punching out Osama bin Laden.

Little surprise, then, that Steve Rogers’ alter-ego has been appropriated, to a degree, as Marvel’s answer to what is ‘American’. In the Marvel universe, he opposed the federally imposed ‘Super-Power Registration Act’, in which all individuals with superpowers are coerced into making their identities public. Considering Iron Man’s foray into Afghanistan and the arms trade, it will be fascinating to see how brave the filmmakers will be on the subject of armed conflict personal liberty.

Strength in depth is Marvel’s blessing; tortured plot convolutions are Marvel’s curse. The grand, three-year story is an impressive undertaking, and could really change the face of the industry, so long as the movies maintain the standard of quality set by Downey Jr. et al. Here’s hoping.

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