I’ve always been wary of an Avengers movie, but I never could put my finger on exactly why. Then, last week, LeBron James took his “talents to South Beach” to form an unprecedented basketball superteam, and I now totally understand my original misgivings. James shouldn’t be in the same uniform as new teammates Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh, soaring past, through, and over mere basketball mortals from New York, Cleveland, or Toronto. In sports, as in physics, heavenly bodies like superstars are supposed to attract their own satellites. Instead, James’ Jupiter is about to collide with Wade’s Saturn. It’s simply unnatural.
Ditto The Avengers. Can you really imagine a world where Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, and possibly the Hulk work out at the same gym? Isn’t it the rare comic-book movie that manages to craft a believable universe that explains even one superhero? Even Joss Whedon, who confirmed yesterday during EW’s Visonaries panel at Comic-Con that he’ll direct The Avengers, conceded the challenge: “It makes no sense. These people shouldn’t be in the same room, let alone on the same team.” Whedon is a smart choice to create a challenging storyline that juggles multiple superhero mythologies. But it’s a tall order — if his film fails to connect, it could sink all of the individual franchises as well.
Yes, X-Men did it successfully. I guess. And I’m sure that’s what Paramount is thinking. But as huge as Wolverine is now as a result of the films, he and his fellow mutants were never as famous with mainstream audiences (i.e., non-comicbook readers) as some of the Avengers, and thus had less to lose. As Batman once quipped, “This is why Superman works alone” (though that mere mention of a rival superhero nearly gave me vertigo). To me, shoe-horning the Avengers into one supersized spectacle risks diminishes them each, just as the brightness of LeBron and Wade will inevitably be dimmed when they take the court together. I hope The Avengers is a slam-dunk, but I have my concerns.
Will The Avengers be greater than the sum of its parts? What can Whedon learn from X-Men, Watchmen, or The Incredibles to create a credible universe? Can you envision an Avengers universe where Robert Downey is not the alpha-male?