It’s obvious that The Avengers has struck a chord with me, and with movie audiences generally. Only three weeks after its release, it has racked up an impressive $1 billion in box-office receipts.
Imagine — $1 billion. Even by today’s standards, that is a huge amount of money. What is it about this movie that has made it so appealing to so many people? (Russell, who is here for an all-too-brief short visit, is going to see it tonight, and I’m betting he’ll enjoy himself, too.)
It’s important not to overthink these things. The Avengers is a very good summer movie. There will always be an audience for movies that feature good-looking women and men in skin-tight suits. There are worse things than watching Scarlett Johannson fight bad guys in a sleek black outfit. And there also will always be people who want to see bad guys beaten by heroes, and do so through some impressive explosions and serious ass-kicking. When the Hulk gets to throw around a stuffed shirt evil god like a rag doll, you can’t help but cheer.
I also think, though, that the success of escapist fare — which is what The Avengers is — often turns on the mood of the general populace. Things are tough right now. In Europe, governments are toppling and currencies are failing. In America, the recession lingers, and lingers. Unresolved threats can be found on just about every continent. In short, the world is especially fertile territory for an escapist film right now. We’d all rather watch Iron Man save the world through one selfless act than focus on those long-term problems that never seem to get solved.